Well April was an incredible month , with many inquiries as to how lawns could be repaired or re-seeded etc I have to confess it was difficult to keep up.
Looking forward to May – weather forecast is for rain – but it remains to be seen how correct that will be, for the time being I would suggest that you continue to water where ever you can – especially on areas that have been over seeded or scarified.
Its only due to the cold weather that lawns do not look worse – with out warm weather they have been growing very slowly , and so the lack of water has not stressed them as much as it could have.
Remember though not to cut them too short , lawns that are left with 3 inches will also be pushing roots down to find moisture . We are now starting to apply early summer treatments and will notify you when we are coming , please try to cut the grass before the visit .
What is really noticeable now are dry patches where the soil is unable to absorb water – really highlighted during the dry spell as the grass there is dying off
Regardless of how much rain we often seem to get in the UK (and don’t we love to complain about it!), Dry Patch is a phenomena which happens to lawns when soil conditions have become so dry that water is no longer able to penetrate into the soil. This means that even when rain returns the soil has become hydrophobic – often this can occur in areas where there is high footfall or on the edges of lawns or mossy areas, where you have been exercising on the lawn during COVID and have compacted the soil or even around the washing line . This is where surface compaction or lack of aeration , or moss has prevented water getting through and the grass is unable to make any root growth .
This condition often happens in lawns that have become old or where the soil is poor and natural healthy bacteria cannot work efficiently, the soil becomes dry and virtually dead with little or no active micro-organisms.
Hydrophobic conditions are caused by a white, waxy mycelium fungus in the soil which prevents any water from penetrating.
In some cases, the issue can be resolved by heavily hollow-tining the dry patches and applying a soil wetting agent, mixed with a fungicide. This process helps to break down the surface compaction of the soil so that it can absorb water and recover.
It may take repetitive treatments of wetting agent at monthly intervals to be successful, but in the worst cases, where treatment is likely to be unsuccessful, it will be necessary to remove the affected soil and replace it.
We need healthy soils to grow good grass , and that is where the benefits of cultural treatments such as our Symbio Bio treatments in the summer help by adding soil fungi and bacteria to keep the soil healthy.
Aeration and top dressing are so beneficial, but conditions must be right – its too dry for aeration on a large scale now – but it is the perfect time for focussing on those patches and giving them the specialist care they need.
Just a quick catch up – this years weather is rather unusual and not helpful for lawns
- February saw the end of the very wet winter – it was almost as if suddenly the tap was turned off.
- March saw a little bit of rain , approximately 1 inch which was spread over the month in small amounts little and often .
- April nothing in the way of rain – so much for April showers , it has been colder than March with the chilling winds although it has improved in the last few days.
- The outlook is not much better with no rain forecast for early May.
- These winds have also increased evaporation and dried the soil out and you can see areas of lawns that are susceptible to drying out starting to look pale.
- We have also had a lot more frosts this month than I can remember for a long time and so many magnolias in full bloom have been hit – it has also kept soil temperatures down which is not helpful where grass seed has been sown and trying to germinate .
- Its also too cold for the nematodes that we might have put down to control over wintered leather jacket
This cold dry weather means that herbicides applied to control weeds will not work so effectively , fertiliser will be released slowly as it is not moist enough , grass seed unless in contact with damp soil will be slow to germinate and lawns that have been scarified to remove moss will struggle to recover.
I have stopped all cultural work that was planned – scarification and aeration etc due to the dry, this will be re-scheduled
Never sure how many people get the opportunity to follow this
March has been a strange month so far starting off with relatively warm sunny weather – which resulted in many people venturing out and realising the lawns were not in the condition that they had hoped for .
Moss continues to be the devil – with many lawns heavily covered and going to need scarifying, which having done a few recently is taking twice as long as usual and producing a massive amount of waste material
It also very noticeable that turf lawns have struggled , with grasses dying out and there is no real pattern , some that were laid late in the year have really struggled , but then again some laid last April have not done any better . The one common thing seems to be that the finer grasses , the fescues have struggled and the stronger rye grass have survived. Time will tell how well they recover , but most likely there is going to be a need for over seeding .
Having started warm – we seem to have reverted back to damp weather , and a cold wind – guess its what we should expect as we head towards the Spring equinox next weekend Saturday March 20th
Highlights the need for a regular plan and strategy to keep lawns looking good – Not necessarily possible to fix things instantly but we can use the next few months to rectify the problems to have healthy lawns for future years
As Benjamin Franklin said “By failing to prepare you are preparing to fail”
Turf showing the effect of hard winter and death of Fescue
Well what a month January turned out to be – from minus 5 deg C up to 13 deg. We had Snow for 2 days, frost and my lawn is still covered in water having had 4 inches of rain over the month.
Unfortunately this has delayed the planned application of winter lawn tonic and moss control – so lets hope February is better. What is really noticeable is the incidence of struggling turf that was laid last year . The turf has still not fully established and put roots down and tends to be very dense, the wet conditions have resulted in the roots sitting in water and not getting any oxygen.
Getting a lot of inquiries about lawns that are sitting in water which has identified areas of poor drainage, not easy to solve especially on clay soils where the ground may have become compacted. Or the surface has thick thatch and moss and water cannot get through.
You have to remember that all soils can only absorb so much water – we refer to this as Field capacity, it is the amount of soil moisture or water content held in soil after excess water has drained away and the rate of downward movement has materially decreased, which usually takes place within 2–3 days after a rain or irrigation – basically you can only get so much in a pint pot, before it over flows.
If it’s a surface problem it can be resolved with scarification and aeration and top dressing with a good compost this will open the top 15cm up and allow water to get through.
If its clay we have two options we can apply gypsum which causes the clay particles to flock together increasing the particle size which will help improve drainage, but this is a slow process and can take 2-3 years, and will not always resolve the problem.
In the USA who are regarded as the experts in lawn care and who we tend to follow there is increasing use of treatments that can be sprayed on to the lawn which can improve drainage with out the need for scarification which can be quite aggressive – it’s a new idea in its infancy so we will might look at trialling it later this year.
The other option is to put in a drainage system, this is the most expensive option and if the problem of water sitting on the surface only occurs every few years you might be better to put up with it. If not the most common method is what is known as French drains – trenches are slit into the soil and back filled with gravel up to the surface, this allows water to drain away – often the drains slope way into a ditch where water can move away or in to a soak away.
Its important to mark where the water did sit on the lawn as in a few moths time when its dry it will soon be forgotten , and then if need be the repair work can commence .
Well the wet weather of November carried on through December with 89mm or 3.75 inches . Interestingly this matched last December as well . Outcome of all this wet weather is MOSS and more Moss, although moist conditions are not the only factor responsible for moss, it certainly is the main contributor.
Other factors that add to the problem – Thatch, Shade , Drainage, Air movement, Cut height and Feed.
Moss in most cases is always present on lawns, but in most cases the % cover is so small that you don’t notice it in a healthy lawn , until one of the factors that contribute to its growth is no longer in balance.
Thatch can build up at surface level, and below – it is a mat of dead and decaying root and grass material that can prevent surface water draining through , it provides a perfect medium for moss spores to grow on and prevents air getting to grass roots and air movement around the blades of grass. Healthy soils are less prone to this as fungi and bacteria will feed on this thatch , break it down and convert it to a natural fertiliser that encourages grass to grow strongly. Getting that balance is not easy, but regular scarification to remove this thatch can help.
Shade – provides perfect conditions for Moss , hence as we moved into autumn with shorter days and less light the spores that are present quickly multiply. You will always notice Moss where you have trees that create shade and plants that spread out over the edges of the border on to the lawn. Hedges throw shade and often we find gardens moss free on one side and then as you move towards the hedge it increases. North facing gardens also are a potential moss haven – no direct sun and constant shade.
Drainage is vital to move away excess moisture , again if you have water sitting on the surface the moss quickly grows , aeration will help remove excess water – but to get the real benefit it should be done in conjunction with top dressing in order to get some sandy loam in to the growing area. Clay soils are the worst and you should always ensure remedial work is carried out when conditions are appropriate.
Air movement – hugely important, many small lawns can be surrounded by fences and hedges which provide the structure of the garden. Probably not possible to change the design , but you should be aware that there will be less air movement , and lawns will take longer to dry out.
Cutting height is a major factor in encouraging moss – too often grass is cut too short and the blade scalps the surface, the grass never recovers and the surface is populated by the moss spores. Essential to adjust cutting height through out the year according to the conditions and never cut more than a 1/3 of the grass length at any one time – also need to take in to account the grass variety and type of mower that you are using.
Keeping the soil fed with a balanced nutrient programme around the year ensures that the grass is growing strongly and can smother the moss out. In the South East we are seeing an increase annually in temperatures to the extent that grass will grow all year around – it probably slows down a little in November / early December with the lower light level, but not that you really notice. Feeding is a mixture of providing the essential elements that grass needs to grow , but also feeding the soil, if we can encourage an environment for soil fungi and bacteria to flourish the soil will support the grass and without excessive growth the grass will be strong and less prone to disease
December soon came around and the first morning of the month has started with a relatively bright day after the misty fog of November .
Overall November had 50mls of rain – not a lot , but it came on the back of a wet November – and with the exception of a couple of frosts, the dull days kept surfaces damp and slippery . We also had some remarkably high day and night temperatures that kept the grass growing – and the Moss.
Most lawns I have seen remained relatively disease free, but for any golfers you might have noticed that some of the greens looked pretty bad where they had not been able to apply fungicides. Golf greens are under constant use ( COVID permitting ) and the grass is so much more stressed , and fed to keep it looking fresh , but then it is more susceptible.
With your lawn we try to avoid over feeding and look at the cultural practices to improve the soil which keeps the grass growth in balance. The last of the autumn application have now been applied, which was a mixed feed biased towards root growth and less top growth.
We are now using this period for maintenance and checking over the equipment to be ready for the New Year , also implementing plans for next year , and installing new software that I hope will improve communications with you. By early January we will be back to apply the Winter treatment and first of the year , which will be a combined lawn tonic and moss killer , this is also an opportunity to re-asses your lawn and make any further recommendations for the forth coming year.
If you are struggling to come up with any ideas for Christmas presents for someone we are offering gift vouchers that can be purchased in multiples of £50 – these can be used against any Lawn work we undertake for existing or in the case of new customers against any work following a survey – they only cover the county of Hertfordshire.
Merry Christmas & Best wishes for the New Year