As many have noticed, 2015 brought a record early spring. March in Seattle is typically cold and wet. This year, warm spring air and blooming flowers came in the middle of February – a month early! I have lived here all my life and have never seen such an early spring. June was the hottest month ever recorded here.
In April, 2016 the weather hit a record 89 degrees! This caused many new seedlings to die along with many lawns being chemically burnt from liquid spray companies. The fertilizers and chemicals that were applied had temperature warning labels and were not prepared for such a spike in heat.
The normal high temperature in April (in Seattle) is 59 degrees. That doesn?t make much opportunity for April showers bringing in May flowers. On the other side of the spectrum, Seattle just experienced the rainiest October in history. November 8th was another record-breaking day at 70 degrees in the middle of another record breaking 9-days of temperatures over 60 degrees. This further shows the abnormal conditions that have been affecting the weather dramatically. With such extreme changes on both sides of the year, it can make it more challenging than ever to grow a healthy lawn. I had to compensate for the changing growing conditions by using a specialized soil amendment this year to help lawns deal with the extreme changes in weather. The soil amendment improves the existing poor quality soil by giving it better health and fertility. This reduces soil compaction and improves overall soil health. This soil amendment is not a fertilizer; it is a top dressing blend of organisms and minerals which make up a sustainable microbial food source. The zeolites included in the amendment are responsible for reducing soil compaction by maintaining a controlled release of water and nutrients. I also started carrying a drought tolerant seed blend. This requires much less watering in the summer and stays greener farther into the summer. This seed is top rated as a low input for sustainable turf. I have had to change with the times and fine tune my product lines in order to provide my clients with the best chance for top quality results.
Your lawn care needs are changing with the weather and I have seen a lot of damage north of Seattle in Brier, Bothell, and Mill Creek areas. Whole sections of people’s previously healthy lawns have died. The native bent grasses were killed from snow mold or a slime disease. This is the worst spring I’ve ever seen for lawn moss – it seems to be taking over. I had to thatch much heavier than normal because of the warmer winter. If warm winters continue, predators like european crane flies will be in your soil longer instead of dying off. This situation puts your lawn and garden under incredible stress.
The lawns that have survived the best use organic fertilizers. I recommend every homeowner use organic lawn fertilizer at least twice a year. My belief is, if you take care of the soil, it will take care of the plant at the most important area: the roots. Lawns that had standard, non-organic fertilizer ran into problems because the soil could not help the plants survive.
What do I advise? You should use quality organic fertilizer from a nursery and not the big hardware stores. This typically costs between $50-60/bag. Organic fertilizers will help you by reducing watering costs and helping to prevent thatch buildup while improving the quality and health of your soil. Whether you have me apply an organic fertilizer or you want to apply it yourself, your lawn care needs are changing with the weather.
This is an excerpt from my recent newsletter:
Summer dormancy (brown grass) is a natural response to dry and hot weather. To insure your lawn survives in the best condition, it is important to start with as healthy a lawn as possible before this begins. Reduce the number of mowings, and leave it slightly longer from the start, to minimize water lost due to evaporation. Also, keep foot traffic to a minimum if possible.Most lawns in this area are in a dormant state for at least 8 weeks. If dormancy goes beyond this length of time, it is suggested that just enough water be applied to keep it alive. Watering will not make your lawn green. During a dormant phase grass should NOT be fertilized as often if at all, or it may cause damage.
The best bang for your buck is my Fall Organic Lawn Tune-Up which includes aerating, overseeding and organic starter fertilizer.