We’ve had a tough late-spring and summer for rainfall in the Northeast, and you are no doubt experiencing a browning of your lawn.  Greensphere wants to answer some common questions about why this happening and what we can do about it. 

Frequently Asked Questions About Lawns in Drought Conditions

Q: Why is my lawn turning brown?

A: The short answer is a lack of significant rainfall and increased temperatures. Browning is a symptom of the lawn going dormant to protect itself from the heat and to help conserve energy in its roots. This is your lawn’s natural reaction to the stress of heat and drought conditions. Sporadic pop-up thunderstorms provide very little relief for lawns or plantings. The soil becomes hydrophobic due to this extended period of dry weather, so any intense rainfall runs off the soil before it can be absorbed. The rain cools things down at the surface but isn’t giving enough moisture to the roots where it’s actually needed. 

Q: Why is it important to continue fertilizing? If my lawn is brown, it’s dead right?

A:  In all likelihood, your lawn is dormant — not dead. Given the right amount of moisture and cooler weather, healthy lawns will weather this storm (no pun intended) and rebound. However, they will only sustain dormancy for so long before they run out of resources. So, why fertilize when dormant? A high-quality fertilization program provides nutrients into the soil to help it recover. Periods of drought can lower the pH value or increase soil acidity due to soluble salt not being flushed out of the soil. So while the lawn may be brown, fertilizer applications are vital to helping it recover. Additionally, there are a host of disease problems that the turf can face during periods of drought. While a standard fertilization program does not include fungicides as they are not regularly needed, having a trained technician on your property can help identify these issues early so they can be resolved with the least amount of resources. Diseases during a drought can easily kill the turf due to its weakened state.

Q: I have irrigation in my yard — why is my lawn still turning brown?

A: Turfgrass needs 1 inch of rainfall or irrigation per week on average. Irrigation can accomplish this and watering your yard should be done deeply and less frequently, meaning watering 1 inch all at once is far more beneficial than watering .25″ four times a day. Even with adequate watering, the intense heat we have experienced lately is still enough to cause stress and browning. Watering later in the afternoon to cool the surface temps down can help relieve some stress. Irrigation, though effective, can get expensive and could be prohibited in towns with active water bans.

Q: But we are fertilizing the lawn, why is this happening?

A: Think of fertilizer as food for your lawn. Just like people, your lawn needs both food and water to survive. Fertilizer won’t put moisture into the roots but it does provide the lawn with nutrients it needs to help it recover from this period of drought. Without water, the fertilizer can’t keep the lawn green during a period of dormancy, but it is beneficial because it is being stored up in its root system for later use. 

So why continue to fertilize when dormant? Fertilizer provides nutrients into the soil to help it recover. With a complete fertilization program, products are applied in tandem with the fertilizer, such as grub preventatives. Skipping the next step of treatments leaves your lawn vulnerable to grub damage, and in its weakened state, it won’t take much to kill the grass if grubs start feeding. 

Q: Why are weeds popping up, and what can I do about them?

A: In a stressed state, spraying weeds in your lawn is too harsh for the turf to handle, and you’ll not only kill the weeds but the surrounding turf as well. It’s best to wait out this dry stretch and treat weeds when the weather cools and the lawn is a bit more resilient.

Q: What do I do if my lawn dies from the drought?

A: Lawns that die out will benefit from aeration and overseeding in the fall since the turf won’t regrow.  The soil becomes compacted from lack of rain fall and foot traffic so the aeration loosens the soil back up to allow existing turf to spread it’s roots and get the nutrients and water from the soil and prepares the soil for new seed to take root.  By overseeding at this time you are putting grass seed down where it’s needed- the bare or thin spots to grow it back in.  Adding a layer of compost while aerating and seeding gets organic matter down into the root zone to allow it to thrive when it comes in. By leaving these bare patches till next year you are inviting weeds to fill them in so you want to get seed down as soon as the weather allows. 

Contact Green Sphere in Massachusetts for Lawn Rescue!

The heat and dry weather will no doubt put your landscape under stress but with continued care, you can help it recover. Rest assured, we are committed to providing you and your property with professional service and quality results. We continue to monitor the condition and needs of each individual property and will make service recommendations to help your lawn survive this period of drought. Contact us today to get a free quote on services, and don’t forget to ask about our seasonal specials and referral programs!