Over the past couple of weeks (July 2013), the majority of the UK has been bathing in a glorious period of hot weather. This is fantastic for ice-cream sellers and cactus growers, however the poor British lawn has a very tough time trying to cope in these unusual conditions.
Lawns in the UK are made up of cool season grasses. This is a family of grasses which thrive in the mild, temperate zones of the world, growing best in cooler, damp conditions. Just like we experience in the typical British summer! These grasses are not evolved to cope well in hot weather, and as a result, have a tough time when a hot, dry spell does finally come around!
So if our grasses don’t naturally do well in these conditions, what can you do to help your lawn cope?
How can I help my grass cope in hot weather?
If your lawn suffers and goes brown during a dry spell or a prolonged heatwave, there are a few things that you can do. All of these are focused around helping the grass retain moisture in the soil and in the plant, as the longer the grass can hold its water, the longer it will stay green.
- Water your lawn! During hot weather your lawn goes brown because it is parched and lacking in water. The best way to alleviate this is to water it! Give it a really good soaking once every three or four days. This helps the grass to grow strong roots, without allowing it to dry out. It is also best to water early morning, as this helps the grass take in the water before the suns evaporates it away!
- Keep your lawn aerated. A well aerated lawn is a healthy lawn. If any areas of your lawn are compacted, then these areas will deteriorate much more quickly during a spell of hot weather, giving rise to a very patchy lawn. This is because compacted areas of grass have much shorter, less established root systems, and retain less water within them. It is much better to keep your lawn aerated before it becomes a problem, but spiking your lawn during a hot weather spell is also a great treatment to apply to break the surface of the soil and help water get down to the roots much more easily.
- Raise your mower blades (or stop mowing entirely). Grass holds much more moisture when it has some healthy, long leaves to store it in. If you mow your lawn short, especially during a dry spell, you are slowly condemning your lawn to death, and will only be disappointed. A longer lawn is a healthy lawn, and this counts double in hot weather!
- Try to keep foot traffic to a minimum. During hot weather, grass is very fragile and parched. If the leaves are damaged the plant will take a long time to recover and will lose precious moisture. If you will be using your lawn heavily during a drought (and lets be honest, sitting out on the lawn is what summer is all about!) then make sure you give the lawn a good watering several hours before hand. Early morning is best, so that the grass can absorb the water and toughen itself up.
- Move garden furniture around. You will notice that during a period of hot weather, grass will tend to grow really well underneath tables, trampolines and chairs. This is because, it is shaded from the heat of the midday sun, and as a result will lose less moisture. If there is a particular area of your lawn which is struggling, such as near a path or in a play goal mouth, then it may be a good idea to provide some artificial shade over that area for a week or so, to help it to recover. To do this, simply move the garden table over it. It is also a good idea to move furniture around the garden on a weekly basis to spread the load around the lawn and not wear out one particular part.
- Apply a water conserver treatment. As the soil in a lawn dries out, it tends to become hydrophobic, repelling water and building a waxy coating around the soil particles. To break this down naturally, a lot of constant rain is required. However, during dry weather this can be alleviated with a water conserver treatment which is a scientifically designed, horticultural wetting agent which helps to break down this barrier to water, helping the soil to absorb it more thoroughly, helping the grass.
What if I can’t do any of these things?
If you are unable to help your lawn because it is too big, or you are away, then don’t worry too much. Grass is an extremely tough plant and will do everything it can to stay alive during tough times and most of it should perk right back up once the rain returns. However, if some areas do not recover, then we will soon be coming into autumn, which is the best time to repair any areas, bringing your lawn back to life for the following year.
If you have a problem with your lawn during a spell of hot weather, would like to book a summer spiking treatment or a water conserver treatment, then please don’t hesitate to get in touch and I will be happy to advise.