Sunburned Lawns

sunburned lawns

Is your lawn golden brown and crispy?  Don’t despair, look around, you are not alone. On my street alone, most of the yards are sporting sunburned lawns. The extreme heat and lack of rain this summer have created havoc on eastern Ontario’s usual lush green landscape.  My heart goes out to the farmers in the area whose crops are so severely affected.

In comparison, the condition of my lawn seems trivial…my front yard usually gets toasty in late July/early August as it has a southern exposure getting full sun pretty well all day, but this year it is well beyond “dry”.  

Lawn Dormancy

On principle, I refuse to get out there every morning or evening to waste water on my lawn in these drought conditions, so every year my south-facing, front lawn looks pretty sad in July and August.  Unfortunately this year the parched, yellow, straw look started in mid-May!

Please remember, lawn grass is supposed to go dormant in these extreme conditions.   At this point there is nothing you can do to revitalize it as it will not respond to fertilizer and water is not enough.  Fortunately, our nice green lawns will return with cooler weather and some rainy days.  When this happens, and your grass starts to turn green again, you can apply fertilizer to strengthen the roots which will promote a faster recovery.

Remove Weeds on Sunburned Lawns and in Gardens

Why do the weeds in my gardens, sidewalks, and lawn continue to thrive in this hot weather, when the grass and flowers struggle?  On close inspection, the only part of my lawn that looks green is weeds.

sunburned lawns

The one positive thing about sunburned lawns is that it is easy to pick out the weeds!  If you have the energy in this heat, now would be a great time to remove those pesky weeds including the green “creeping” sort that line the driveways.  Be sure to pull out the entire root though so they won’t come back. Then when the cooler, wetter weather does arrive you can sprinkle some grass seed where those weeds were growing.

After the weeds are all pulled from your gardens, apply a thick layer of mulch to deter them from coming back too soon.  Weed seeds blowing around or carried around by birds will germinate in mulch too, but the mature weeds will be much easier to pull out when their roots are growing in mulch instead of soil.

Repairing Sunburned Lawns

MARK CULLEN, a Canadian garden expert, has the following advice on the best way to make repairs to your sunburned lawns:

  • Spread Mark’s Choice Lawn Soil (found at Home Hardware stores) over the area you wish to re-seed, 2 cm. thick
  • Rake smooth
  • Broadcast Golfgreen lawn seed [Canadian for our lawns: 0% weed seeds] by hand
  • Rake smooth to incorporate into the soil.
  • Step on it or roll it with a roller 1/3 full of water. 
  • Water it every day that you do not receive any rain until established.
  •  Do NOT let the seedlings dry out!
  •  It is best to water first thing in the morning or in the evening.

Fall is the Best Time to Repair Sunburned Lawns

In my opinion, fall is the best time to repair drought damage to lawns. That’s because cooler nights as well as more and longer-lasting dew on the ground each morning during autumn means less chance of sod or grass seed drying out.

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