We all look forward to the time of year when our lawns green up and our thoughts turn to outdoor activities and barbeques. Unfortunately, lawn damage may be prevalent due to dry or drought conditions last year paired with unusually cold temperatures and lingering snow this past winter. Some plants cells were damaged, frozen or completely destroyed by these harsh conditions. As a result, you may notice brown blades, brown patches or even a wide area of discoloration appearing on your lawn.
The good news is there are a number of measures you can take to help your lawn bounce back from these adverse conditions and regain health and vitality. For starters, stay off your lawn as much as possible while it recovers. Here are a few other tips.
Mow high (3 inches) to increase tolerance to drought and insect or disease problems, and never remove more than 1/3 the height of the blades at any one time. Taller grass develops a deeper, more extensive root system. It also provides greater shading which lowers soil temperatures and reduces evaporation of soil moisture. Mow only when needed, and preferably not during midday or high temperatures. Finally, keep your mower blades sharp for a clean cut; torn blades lose more moisture.
It is always best to water early in the morning. Be sure to adjust for soil type and condition; for example, clay soil holds water extremely well while sandy soil barely retains water. Deep, thorough watering less frequently is better than more frequent, shallow watering (to check, the soil should be moist at a depth of 6-8 inches).
Avoid over-fertilization since it will make grass more prone to certain disease organisms and produce soft, tender growth that is less tolerant to drought. Make sure at least 35-50% of the nitrogen in a fertilizer is in a slow release form preceding high stress periods.
Sometimes what looks like drought damage can actually be due to insect problems, such as Chinch Bugs, Sod Webworms and Bluegrass Billbugs. Check your lawn carefully to make sure any insect problems are detected and treated promptly.
Since weeds compete for precious nutrients, growing space, and soil moisture, it is critical to get a quick start on weed control in early spring.
One advantage of dry conditions is that disease is less prevalent. However, keeping your lawn healthy and disease free allows it to better withstand stressful periods.