In the Wake of Irene: Assess & Overseed
More than a few SafeLawns followers and media members have called and emailed today about what to do with lawns after such a huge deluge of water along the East Coast. And a few other friends from Texas emailed to say, “Send the rain this way!”
The good news is that lawns are remarkably resilient. If you had a decent stand of pesticide-free, organically maintained grass before the hurricane, chances are you’ll still have your lawn in tact. Under the blue skies prevalent across the Northeast today and projected for the remainder of the week, many previously healthy lawns are almost guaranteed to be greener and will likely grow like crazy this week with all that moisture in the root zone.
THIN, BARE OR NEWLY SEEDED LAWNS may well have suffered greatly in the past 48 hours, however. Recently fertilized lawns may struggle, too, since most of that material probably washed into overstuffed storm drains.
For everyone, the first step is the same: Assess the situation. Remove any debris and fill in any eroded areas with a blend of soil and compost.
For folks with obviously bare areas, this is a great time to overseed. All that moisture in the soil and reasonably cool temperatures forecasted should create ideal conditions for the grass seed to germinate. Even without a major rain event like Irene, this is a great time of year to think about a lawn renovation. Here are a few pointers to dust off:
1) If you do put down seed, be sure to rake away any excess thatch layer or dead grass first to create good seed-to-soil contact.
2) If you feel your soil is compacted, aerating prior to overseeding is a good idea. If your lawn was under water, however, be sure to let it dry out for a few days prior to bringing a heavy mechanical aerator onto the grass.
3) Cover the newly seeded area with a thin layer of compost rather than straw; it will be cheaper and better for the lawn; it also looks better.
4) Water the newly seeded areas daily until they fully germinate, unless of course we get rain naturally.
5) Applying an organic fertilizer rich in potassium this fall will help the lawn through winter.
6) Don’t mow the lawn for the first time until the young grass seedlings are four inches tall.
7) As the leaves start to come down later in September or October, don’t allow the leaves to remain on the lawn, especially in the newly seeded areas; the leaves will mat down the grass. You may find you have to rake lightly, or use a blower, to remove heavy layers of leaves.
For more of a review on fall lawn renovation, check out our book, The Organic Lawn Care Manual (Storey 2007) or click here: http://www.safelawns.org/blog/index.php/2010/09/fall-lawn-tasks-heres-a-review/.