Restoring your lawn after a drought
Early summer 2018 was particularly hard for most lawns. Parched grass turned brown and for a time, lawns looked completely dead. Lawn grasses though are tough cookies. Within a week of the first rain showers to fall over the South of England, fresh green shoots started to appear on lawns.
Not every lawn is recovering from drought as well as it could. If your lawn is one of the ones that is still looking patchy, brown and a perhaps even a bit weedy. This blog is for you.
Soil compaction is the lawn lover’s biggest enemy following drought
Healthy lawn soil is nutritious, well drained and friable. In other words water can soak into it easily and plants can drive their roots through it to reach the food and water they need to sustain themselves.
A healthy soil profile has lots of spaces for air, water and roots
Normal soil is made up of millions of tiny particles, some of them barely visible to the naked eye. Between the particles are spaces. The spaces join up to create tiny channels where air and water can circulate freely. When soil is compacted, particles are pushed into the spaces, effectively blocking the circulation of air and water.
Over time, the soil beneath your lawn becomes compacted as a result of the lawn being used and enjoyed. Which is a good thing – that’s what the lawn is for. However, compacted soil means that root growth is impared and when the plants are challenged by drought, they don’t cope as well as they could.
How to tell if your lawn is struggling with soil compaction
Take a look at this lawn. It’s an extreme example of drought damage. The lawn owner has kindly given her permission to publish the photographs
The lawn was started from seed a little over 30 years ago. Since then it has been mown and fed regularly. But it has never had any renovations such as scarifying or aeration. It has however, been very well used in all weathers. It has seen numerous parties, been played on almost daily by children, grandchildren and dogs. Been camped on by the girlguides, played host to bouncy castles and paddling pools, had a minidigger driven across it in wet weather and generally been thoroughly enjoyed.
If I were to try and push a screwdriver into this lawn, I would struggle. The soil is so compacted that it is almost solid. It’s little wonder that the grass is struggling to recover from the drought.
You can see that the grass is still quite brown in places. And when you look closely, there is a thick layer of dead leaves etc on top of the soil. We call this the thatch layer. It’s normal to have a little bit of thatch on a lawn but this is extreme.
Even after rain, the soil is relatively dry – that’s because thatch impairs water absorption, and so does compaction. These plants are still thirsty!
Peeping through the dead vegetation are a few fresh green shoots. Not all of them are grass though. There’s quite a crop of broadleaved weeds appearing.
How to renovate a dry, neglected lawn
When a lawn is in a sorry condition and not recovering well from drought there are two options. The first involves hard work and patience. The second gives instant results.
Greenkeepers on golf courses and stadia spend the whole season caring for plants and soil so that playing surfaces will look good all year round. Their job involves not just mowing and feeding, but regular scarifying and aerating too.
Scarifying removes most of the thatch layer on a playing surface or a lawn. This allows water to percolate nicely through the soil and gives the grass plants plenty of room to grow new shoots.
Aeration pieces holes in the soil to help combat soil compaction and works brilliantly for relatively light compaction. 30 years-worth of damage and compaction though, will take more than a single season of aeration to correct.
Where compaction is a major problem and it’s accompanied by the presence of thatch, broadleaved weeds and rogue grasses. The quickest and easiest solution is to replace the lawn.
By digging or rotovating the soil, compaction will be relieved. Those air and water channels will be opened up again and yes, any lumps and bumps in the surface can be levelled out at the same time.
Laying new turf gives a stunning new lawn and prevents any annual weed seeds in the soil from germinating. For the lady who shared her lawn pictures with us – I would strongly advise re-turfing.
A supply and lay lawn project for one of Wimborne Turf's customers. Instant results.
If you’re not sure whether to renovate or replace your lawn, why not contact Wimborne turf to find out how much a new lawn would cost. We can either supply best quality lawn turf for you to lay yourself or you could make the most of our supply and lay service.
- Teresa Flower