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Don’t Fret Drought: Just Wait

By this week in August EVERY YEAR almost universal afflictions seem to overtake lawns: They’re either baked out brown, overrun by crabgrass, or both. In a line: Don’t Fret.

WITH REGARD TO THE CRABGRASS your best bet is to understand that the plant is an annual and it will be dead as soon as we have our first frost, which depending on where you live can be four to six weeks from now. Spending time pulling it out, or spot seeding, or worse yet treating with an herbicide, just makes no sense.

The reason you have so much crabgrass, or goosegrass or similar plants is almost assuredly due to your lawn mower — specifically the mowing height. In a nutshell, the mower should never be set below its highest setting at anytime during the mowing season until after the first frost. Mowing low opens the soil under the lawn to all kinds of sunlight, which causes the crabgrass seeds to germinate. Once that happens, look out. You’re going to get crabgrass.

I’m in charge of two lawns in my life, neither of which has had any crabgrass for years — until this year when I broke my arm. One of the lawns is still free of crabgrass because the guy I hired to mow the lawn has dutifully kept the mower blade high. At my house, where my son mows the lawn, we have crabgrass for the first time since we moved in. Turns out my son took it upon himself to lower the mower blade “because he thought it looked nicer to mow it low.” I cringed when he did it, knowing what would happen.

Later this fall, I’ll post about crabgrass renovation.

AS FOR DROUGHT AND BROWN LAWNS in most cases you can be assured that the lawn isn’t dead, it’s just dormant. Turning brown is a grass plant’s built-in mechanism for survival during periods of time when no natural rainfall occurs. As long as we get at least some moisture in the next six or eight weeks, the lawn will come back to green sometime in September.

If, in the worst case scenario, it is dead it still makes no sense to try to do anything about it in August. Plan a renovation for after Labor Day.

If you’re wondering if that grass is dead or dormant, here’s a short blurb I wrote about that subject last summer when, yes, folks were worried about brown lawns.

About The Author

Paul Tukey

An international leader of the green movement, Mr. Tukey is a journalist, author, filmmaker, TV host, activist and award-winning public speaker, who is widely recognized as North America's leading advocate for landscape sustainability and toxic pesticide reduction strategies.

Number of Entries : 1023
  • tom piontek

    how do I find the short blog on whether the grass is dead or dormant that you wrote last summer?

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