IT'S NOT YOU, IT'S THE CLIMATE
Gone are the predictable days of cool Spring weather, giving way gently to the halcyon days of Summer. The last three years have been the hottest in recorded history. Those of us blessed to live in the North East, experience this in waves of 90+ temperatures, sometimes beginning as early as late May, and the hellscape of rising temperatures, June through September, that we now call Summer. Gone too are the days of carefree lawn care.
As as a result, air conditioning has become indispensable. Humans have gotten used to high heat advisories and 'cooling centers' for the elderly and disabled. We've seen a new market develop for cooling performance active wear for those unfortunate enough to work outdoors. What we've failed to take note of is the effect it's had on our most beloved and prolific plant, grass. In particular, the cool season turf grasses which thrive here in the North East, Kentucky Bluegrass and Fescues. Weeds keep popping up there heads, as winter gets shorter and warmer but somehow we are surprised that lawn performance isn't up to par. It's not you, it's the climate.
UNDERSTANDING HOW CLIMATE CHANGE EFFECTS NE LAWNS
Pristine lawns in the North are becoming harder to maintain as plants struggle to adapt to warming temperatures. Plant growth cycles have been impacted as the weather becomes more unpredictable. We've noticed Rhododendrons and Irises re-blooming and budding as late as December, plants which typically bloom in Spring. The warmer temperatures are the ideal climate for the dreaded lawn nemesis, weeds which invade our lawns and make them unsightly. As landscapers, we've received numerous complaints from clients as their beloved lawns lose the battle against the prolific and dreaded weeds.
Kentucky Bluegrass and Fescues thrive in temperatures 60 - 80 degrees. The window for these temperatures has shortened and plants behave accordingly.
In the days of yesteryear, NE lawns received:
- Adequate rainfall, March - April
- Cool temperatures April - May (required for seed germination and seed development)
Spring weather used to provide the perfect conditions to nurture strong, root development which is key to withstanding the heat and drier months of Summer. Without deep and consistent lawn irrigation beginning in early Spring, lawn overseeding prior to temperature spikes, and fertilizer to accelerate root development for a thick lawn to choke out weeds, your lawn will lose the battle before it's begun.
SIGNS THAT YOU'RE DOING IT WRONG
Customer complaints about the lawn have increased in recent years because behavior hasn't adapted to changing weather conditions.
- If you start tending to your lawn in May, you've likely missed the cool temps needed for seed germination.
- If you start throwing down fertilizer and weed control in June, you're now combating high temperatures which make applications useless. Just like lawns have an ideal temperature for growth, they slow down growth when temperatures exceed 90 degrees and they stop taking in nutrients.
- If you've seen a burnt out lawn in Summer (huge brown spots are the telltale sign), someone made an application when it was too late to do any good.
- Likewise, if you have hired a cookie cutter landscaper who does applications on a set schedule without plant knowledge, or paying attention to the weather, your lawn will likely suffer as a result.
- If you've been watering the lawn for 10 mins a day, or not at all, and Summer arrives and the lawn goes completely brown, it's now dormant. Watering frantically will do no good. Cooler temperatures are required for lawn repair.
lawn care love
Understanding that changing weather conditions have a direct impact on lawn care is key. Even if you're hiring a company, ask them how they deal with lawn care and listen for a knowledgeable reply before signing on the dotted line. If they are not actively monitoring the lawn, tailoring it to plant needs and weather, you and your lawn will likely live to regret it.
- Install a Sprinkler System. Begin irrigation in early April to ensure adequate moisture.
- Water deeply and infrequently, 3-4x a week for approx 45 mins. all season long.
- A,D,O. Aerate, Dethatch and overseed. Once a season is great, twice is even better, Spring and Fall.
- Get a professional soil test every 3 years to determine soil PH and what amendments your soil is missing.
- Minimize your lawn's dependence on fertilizers which do nothing for the soil. A naturally healthy lawn will be able to choke out weeds and stay green in high temperatures. If you'd like more info on organic lawn care, click here.
Doubtless, you've heard some of these things before and they seemed unimportant, or time consuming. Not anymore. Now, extra care, patience and knowledge is needed to get, and keep, a gorgeous lawn. The quicker you adapt, the happier your lawn will be.