Lawn experts have warned that the driest May in 124 years may do damage to our grass unless we take action now.
Johnsons Lawn Seed revealed its top tips to help lawns remain lush in dry, hot weather.
The UK’s oldest lawn seed specialist says that prior to rain and lower temperatures this week, it was a story of parched lawns and despair in the worst-hit regions which had been suffering since the Spring. In comparison the heatwave of 2018, the joint hottest summer on record for the UK, saw drought conditions arrive later in the season, with heat peaking in June and July, resulting in England’s average temperatures beating the scorching summer of 1976.
This year, according to the Met Office, England has experienced its driest May on record since 1896, with less than 10mm of rain falling on average. Northampton chalked up the unenviable title of the driest county, having received just 1.5mm of rain during May.
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if that wasn’t tough enough on the nation’s turf, the UK recorded the sunniest Spring since records began in 1929. Gardens basked in 626 hours of sunshine – great for lockdown Brits, but dealing a blow to lawns with their roots anchored in bone-dry soil.
Johnsons Lawn Seed’s Guy Jenkins said: “It’s important to remember that while we’ve had an unusually dry spring, it would take a prolonged, severe drought to seriously damage a healthy lawn. Lawns may be growing at a much slower rate than normal, and can appear brown and patchy, but 80 percent of a grass plant lies beneath the soil in the form of roots. In most cases, healthy, established lawns will quickly bounce back when rain falls, and by following our advice, gardeners can help lawns to survive.”
To assist gardeners in keeping lawns at their prime if hot, dry conditions return this summer, Johnsons Lawn Seed has issued a five-point action plan for lawn-owners:
1. Water wisely
Turning the hose or sprinkler onto established lawns can be a waste of time and money. A hose can guzzle up to 1,000 litres an hour, putting pressure on drinking water supplies during hot weather and running-up hefty bills where water meters are fitted. The exception to the rule is newly established lawns, such as grass sown in spring, which may need irrigating in dry conditions. If possible, use rainwater collected in water butts, and water at dusk, when the risk of evaporation is lowest, and moisture can seep down into the root system during cooler temperatures overnight.
2. Be a cut above the rest!
Remember that first cut of spring when you raised the height of your lawnmower’s blades? Do it again! It’s always tempting to achieve a manicured finish in high summer, but cutting lawns too low can weaken grass plants, leaving lawns more susceptible to drought. Temporarily raising the height of cut during hot, dry spells reduces stress on grass and can encourage plants to put down deeper roots in search of moisture.
3. Give your lawnmower a holiday
Lawn lovers are inseparable from their mowers during high summer, often cutting once or twice a week. Switching to fortnightly mowing, or less often if grass is barely growing, will further relieve pressure on parched turf.
4. Banish the grass box
Leaving a light dusting of lawn clippings instead of collecting and composting them can act as a mulch in hot weather, helping to lock-in precious moisture. Only remove the grass box if you’re giving the lawn a light trim: never leave heaps of clippings on the lawn as they’ll blanket the grass and can damage it.
5. Hold fire with fertiliser
Even if your lawn is in a sorry state, don’t be tempted to reach for fertiliser during drought. When soil is bone dry, essential water is not present to transport the nutrients down to the roots – where it’s needed. In fact, applying some traditional fertilisers can result in scorch if put down in drought, making it even more of a false economy. For best results, hold fire during drought, then apply lawn feed when normal weather conditions have resumed.
As well as celebrating its 200th anniversary in 2020, Johnsons Lawn Seed has been at the forefront of innovation, harnessing the power of research and development to bring gardeners new lawn seed mixes that are tested to perform in tough conditions. Find out more here.
So listen to the lawn experts who warn that the driest May in 124 years may do damage to our grass unless we take action now.