Friday, August 4, 2017

Flood Damaged Lawns

Beautiful summer lawn in July 2017

This summer has been a roller coaster ride of weather and growing conditions for lawns across Northern Illinois.  From a wet spring we jumped right into heat and drought stress in early June resulting in some heat tracking and stressed out lawns.  July followed with cool temperatures and weekly rains followed by record breaking flooding.  As a result lawns have performed well with the exception of those close to waterways that were covered in water for several days after the flood.  Lawns that were flooded will need some extra care and attention in the coming weeks.

Heat stressed lawn early June

Lawns that are covered with flood water generally suffer from several different types of damage.  Most turf grass species are able to withstand a few days of flooding.  However after a few days of being submersed under water, grasses can begin to die from a lack of oxygen and or light.  Other factors that can lead to grass dying after flooding include heavy soil and sediment deposits,  water contamination from petroleum or oils, algae scum, and increased weed pressure from weeds seed left behind.

Flood damaged lawn

The best thing to do to a lawn that was covered with flood waters is to remove any debris left behind once the water recedes.  This could be gravel, limbs, stumps, dead fish or animals, garbage or any other debris left behind on the lawn.  These items could smother the grass or prevent it from growing back if not removed.  After removing any physical debris, rake up any muck or damaged leaf tissue to increase oxygen availability to the grass and roots.  Hosing off any muck or debris may also be needed but make sure not to use too much pressure as this could damage roots and crowns of the grass plant.  Once the area is initially dried out and raked, watering may be needed to prevent it from additional stress if rains are not sufficient.  About 1-2 inches per week is ideal for grass.

The grass plant will generate new leaf tissue in the weeks after the flood water has receded if it was able to survive.  After a few weeks you should begin to see this new leaf tissue emerge.  This is a good indication that the plant was able to survive and will continue to grow.  During this time the best thing to do is nothing.  Try to stay off of the damaged areas as they come back for a few weeks with the exception of watering if needed.  During this recovery time other seeds and weeds will probably germinate as well.  Be patient with this process as it will take some time.  After a few weeks of regrowth you should be able to tell if the grass is coming back or not.  Early fall is the best time to seed any areas that do not come back and to weed spray any unwanted weeds that may grow as well.

Flood damaged lawn 

Even though the lawns on Northern Illinois were damaged from flooding this summer most lawns would grow back before late fall.  If areas do not come back in the coming weeks, power seeding or aeration with over seeding may be needed in early fall to get these lawns back in shape before winter dormancy.

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