Every time I write about it being dry – it rains , I finished the following on Thursday 13th August and since then we have had 3.5 inches of rain !!!!!
Well the hot weather returned with a vengeance and lawns are really suffering as a consequence . The South East has been much drier than the western side of the country and even the rains of July have not helped.
Comparisons are being made with 1976 – also a long hot dry summer. In many places the ground is rock hard and rain when it comes is likely to run off and make very little difference – we will need steady light rains to make any difference.
We actually had 3 inches of rain in June and 2.5 inches in July – but the extreme temperatures of 24 deg C to 34 deg for weeks on end reduced the benefit of that rain.
Its been interesting looking at the soil profile of lawns that are dying back – the dark patches seen on the surface where grass is suffering are so dry penetrating with a soil auger is a real challenge . The core extracted is often completely bone dry to the point of nearly being dust, and at the surface 2-3 centimetres is a thick layer of dead matted material that acts as a surface sponge when it rains – but prevents water getting through.
Lawns that remain looking green and lush now are those that have the benefit of a good healthy soil and open structure – likely to be those that are relatively new where the soil was cultivated to a good depth and roots have been able to go down and soil capacity for holding moisture is good.
Healthy soils are vital to support grass – they need a lot of beneficial bacteria and fungi to be supporting the soil micro- organisms, good soil structure is important to this and extreme weather conditions wet or hot always highlight the problems.
Scarification and aeration is so important in these circumstance – although both can be very aggressive and so need to be done under the right conditions.
Aeration punches holes into the soil , to allow water to get through and oxygen which will encourage root growth. There are different types of aerator tines – some will slit the surface , others will spike or take a core of soil out . Soil type will determine the best tine for the job – it should not be carried out on soils when too wet, ideally it is done when soils are dry , this can have the added benefit of shattering encouraging further cracks to appear in the soil around the tine . However aeration cannot be carried out when very dry – as the machinery will be unable to penetrate the soil as is the case now .
Now is the time to carry out work to improve soil structure – and through September , please don’t hesitate to call for a survey to look at the soil structure of your lawn.
Do you need to treat leatherjackets in your lawn?
What are Leatherjackets?
A leatherjacket is the larva of the crane fly, or the Daddy Longlegs as it is more commonly known. The crane fly lays eggs as part of the natural life cycle. The larvae can be good for the soil ecosystem, because they process organic material and increase microbial activity. However, they can cause considerable damage to your lawn are not generally appreciated by gardeners! At this time of year, we should be regularly checking our lawns for signs of leatherjacket larvae damage. In the worst case scenario, an infestation of leatherjackets can decimate your lawn so being alert and checking for larvae during winter and early spring is a good idea.
How to spot Leatherjackets in your law
- Dry patches in the lawn
- Peeling back the dry patches reveal the grubs in the soil. The leatherjackets are grey/brown with a tough skin
- A large number of daddy long legs around your garden
How to treat leatherjackets in your lawn
The difficulty with leatherjackets is that there is very little you can do to prevent them and unfortunately there are no chemical treatments available. There are, however, ways you can treat leatherjackets in your lawn and get rid of them from your garden.
- They are valuable prey for birds and mammals various so let nature take it’s course! The birds may peck at the lawn in the hunt for the larvae but with a bit of luck they will solve your problem before the grubs hatch
- It is possible to treat leatherjackets in your lawn by covering the area with a large black plastic sheet overnight. This will encourage the leatherjackets to come to the surface of the lawn, so they can be removed in the morning once you take off the sheet
You will find that when the larvae have eventually hatched, the crane fly will disappear away and continue their life cycle elsewhere. As mentioned above, there are no pesticides available since changes in EU legislation as few years ago. There are organic solutions available which you can try but they have limited success. These are called nematodes, which are actually microscopic worms. The way they work is that they get into the grubs and infect them with a bacterial disease which kills them. There are lots of factors which need to be right for this treatment to work.
Want to treat leatherjackets in your lawn? Contact us today!
Crazy weather that we have – as soon as I mentioned needing to water last month it seems to have not stopped raining . June we had 3 inches of rain and July we have had 1.5 inches to date .
The outlook for the rest of July after the weekend looks like it will improve – less rain , but still unsettled, which is disappointing.
What is surprising though is the number of lawns that I have looked at recently where they are still dry – often lawns that are relatively old and predominantly fescue grass mix .
They have built up a layer of thatch and debris at surface level and the water often cannot get through this . It becomes a sponge and water sits there resulting in grass going black , and moss creeps in again.
Now is the time to aerate , that will solve the compaction and open up the soil to allow better water movement , and ideally top soil to get some organic material in to the root zone, this will help improve the soil structure and encourage root growth by getting air into the soil .
A healthy open soil will support good grass growth , and now is the time to consider applying a soil tonic to get all those micro organisms reproducing and building soil fertility .
July also seems to bring the ants out – all of a sudden our nice flat lawn appears to have mumps , you can physically try brushing the surface with a hard broom to disperse the mounds and try using one of the Nippon ant killer products , they have a treatment that can be diluted and watered on , easy to use and not so unsightly as the powder .