What Happened To My Lawn
Well that didn’t take long.Did it? It seemed as though we were looking at rain every day and wondering if summer would ever come. The past few weeks have been a reminder of the old adage about Long Island weather: “Don’t like it? Wait a minute or two.”
With the sudden rush of heat and humidity, our lawns are suddenly headed in the wrong direction. Lush green lawns danced in the rain. Now they are stressed, turning brown and giving way to weeds…especially crabgrass.
In my travels, I see untreated lawns that are sometimes 100% covered in crabgrass. That’s an incredible amount – but not really all that surprising given the spring weather.
How could this be? My lawn looked awesome a month ago.
The biggest factor is the one we have no control over whatsoever – the environment. July and August are the hottest and most humid months of the year, when temperatures both in the air and soil are consistently above the optimum for the growth of the cool season turf grasses that make up our lawns. These cool season turf grasses respond to these conditions by going into dormancy – what we view as the lawn turning brown.
Conversely, the very conditions that cause our cool season turf grasses to go into dormancy are the perfect conditions for the crabgrass. Instead of going into dormancy, crabgrass responds to this kind of weather with explosive growth. It has to grow this rapidly because it’s an annual plant that will die with the first frost. It must grow to maturity and set seed before the season is over, so it’s in a big hurry.
But you applied something for crabgrass in the spring! Why isn’t it working?
Pre-emergent applications are the best tool for crabgrass control, but it is not an eliminator. This is an important distinction, as there is nothing that will provide 100% crabgrass control. Pre-emergents stop more seeds from sprouting than ever in the past, but crabgrass is tenacious. It just keeps coming, even from cracks in the pavement. Pre-emergents are designed to break down over time so that they allow the cool season grasses in the fall to germinate. This rainy spring did not help matters.
Every lawn has a different number of crabgrass seeds in its soil. This is a function of how successful previous generations of crabgrass have been in setting seed. The old guys from Farmingdale used to say, “One year’s seed is seven years of weeds.” Seeds can lie dormant in the soil for a very long time – waiting for just the right opportunity of light, warmth and moisture to germinate. Every day that you allow that crabgrass to invade your lawn, you are opening the door for thousands of seeds to germinate in your future lawn.
OK, you’ve explained what’s going on. Now what?
You can apply a post-emergent crabgrass control this weekend. There are new products that are both safe and effective. We recommend either Ortho Weed-B-Gone in the spray bottle that’s ready to use or Bayer Crabgrass Control, if you like to use a hose end sprayer for application. It will stop the crabgrass (and other weeds) from growing. This is a selective product – while it kills the weeds, it will not kill your grass.
Then it’s time to renew and restore your lawn. In 2-3 weeks, as the days get shorter and the nights get cooler, your soil temperature will be perfect for over-seeding and rejuvenation. The seed we sell today is more drought and disease tolerant than the seed people put on your lawn 10 years ago. Your lawn will be thicker and greener next year and less vulnerable to crabgrass.If you overseed in the fall and apply a good fall fertilizer you will see a pronounced difference in the spring.
From the garden center,
Dees Nursery & Florist Oceanside NY