During periods of drought, what do we need to do to maintain our lawns health?
The key will be a proactive approach, if your not restricted by watering bans, start watering your lawn before it goes into drought stress. Water sufficiently from late April/May onwards, consider watering your lawn at least twice a week with a sprinkler, leaving it on long enough to saturate the soil to a depth of 6".
If you decide that you are not comfortable and/or unable to commit to this watering either financially or time then all is not lost. Follow these simple rules and quick links:
Raise the height of cut in dry weather to avoid weakening the grasses, we would recommend an ideal height be no shorter than 5-7cm.
Letting the clippings fall back onto the lawn rather than collecting them will act as mulch and slow down the evaporation of water from the soil surface. Make sure the clippings are small, or they will smother the grass and cause damage.
A light topping of the grass will be better than a severe "hacking",
Ornamental lawns of fine bent-type grasses are most likely to suffer first. General garden lawns containing fescue and rye grass mixes may have more resistance. For many the lawn will already be in stress before the symptoms are correctly recognised. Different grasses will do this at different times hence leaving the lawn looking patchy and not at its best, however, lawns that are properly cared for will retain their good looks for longer during a drought and recover quicker. A drought stressed lawn may brown and become weakened leaving it more susceptible to disease problems, insect damage and weed invasion.
A well-maintained lawn usually recovers rapidly with the onset of autumn rainfall, especially if appropriate autumn lawn care is given.
The first sign of a water deficit in the soil is wilting of the turf, at this stage footprints in the grass do not spring back. An additional sign is a colour change from its normal bright green to a dull blue.
It is more efficient to water your lawn at the first sign of drought, rather than wait until the lawn has become stressed or dormant.
It is better to apply two/three good waterings per week to the lawn rather than frequent lights watering. Your lawn will require moistening to a depth of 6" weekly, for a loam or clay soil this will be achieved by approximately by 1-1½" of water. A sandy soil will be moistened to a depth of approximately 6" by ½ -¼" of water. For those on a meter the cost of watering a small to medium size lawn is probably less than you think.
If you decide not to water, don't worry, the lawn is designed naturally designed to go into a dormant state which will protects it vital root system, visually, the top grasses will go dormant and dry out going brown. It will recover when sufficient rainfall occurs.
You can help the lawn recover by spiking your lawn so that when water is applied it can run down into the soil and not sit on the top.
Apply a balanced feed to the soil to encourage a grass plant with strong roots.
Spiking - Aerate or spike your lawn so that when water is applied it can run down into the soil and not sit on the top.
Wetting agents - Applying a wetting agent will allow an water to penetrate into the soil profile and down to the root. Wetting agents are used by groundsman to overcome dry patches caused by a build up of water repellent deposits in the soil. These deposits coat the soil particles and cause them to harden, making them repellent to water. Wetting agents allow available water to soak into the grass, down to its roots, and not just sit on the top. But don't be fooled, they all require sufficient water to work.
Overseeding- Plan your autumn cultural activity for recovery which could include aeration and over seeding.
Mulching - Letting the clippings fall back onto the lawn rather than collecting them will act as mulch and slow down the evaporation of water from the soil surface. Make sure the clippings are small, or they will smother the grass and cause damage.
Feeding - Despite the dry conditions, applying a balanced feed to the soil to encourage a grass plant with strong roots, this could be applied as either a granular or liquid feed.
Remineralisation of soil - this application with 100% natural ingredients will increase micro biological and worm activity.
Why are these brown patches occurring?
On close inspection of your lawn you will find its normally the finer grasses that go into dormancy first.
Why is it happening?
Simply, it's down to lack of moisture content in the soil. Low winter and spring rainfall may also have been compounded by high levels of evapotranspiration rates due to the strong winds and high daytime temperatures.
Will it recover?
Yes, as soon as we have adequate rainfall the grass will return to its normal colour, in fact following the recent rains in June we have already started to see signs of recovery.
What can be done to help the grass?
If you decide to water, then make sure that you water correctly; personally we do not water our own lawns.
Will the lawn need remedial work?
You could consider one or both of the following:
This will introduce more drought tolerant grasses into your lawn enabling it to withstand these conditions
This will help relieve any compaction from sun dried lawns, will also remove any sub-surface thatch (which can act as a 'mat' preventing effective water penetration).
ScarificationReview thatch levels during the summer, a build-up of thatch in the summer could prevent water from penetrating the lawn.
We would be happy to discuss these options with you as required.
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