Today, it’s just under 30 degrees and there is not a cloud in the sky. These are days a landscape gardener secretly dreads: it is exceptionally hard work toiling outside in this weather, especially if you are required to wear thick overalls and protective layers for strimming and hedge cutting etc.
But the start of July, tomorrow, means we are well into the English summer, (even though we technically entered it on the longest day, two weeks ago). It is the months of June, July and August where we in England get the best chance to sit outside and enjoy the weather. Heat waves are forecast. Gardens will need watering. Ice cream sales will go up. Vitamin D production will saturate our pallid bodies and our bones will strengthen, all by UV baking, from the source over ninety million miles away.
But just as we take care of ourselves under such radioactive duress, we should also pay a mind to the care of our lawns. Lawn care over the hot periods is one of the foremost things I am asked about in my landscaping role – and Capability Dan has decided to put together a short list of simple steps that you can take to help keep your lawn healthy as the temperature rises and rainfall becomes scarce over this time.
The very first thing I would advise is for is to cut the lawn regularly and with a mind not to take too much from the grass itself, for when dry spells come the grass is better off being slightly higher.
Watering is next on the list if you require truly green lawns. And this is a controversial one as it seems we always have hose pipe bans in summer months (even after the preceding floods have washed much of Worcestershire out!). So use this responsibly – the RHS has a nice tip about this: if you use a sprinkler, put an empty jam jar out on the target area and wait till the sprinkler has filled it to half an inch. That should be enough for the grass. Be warned against using water directly from a hose pipe though. It isn’t an economical way of watering a garden as the water is too concentrated and much of it, in this weather, will simply be lost by evaporation. It is also next to impossible to spread the water evenly over the lawn.
One thing to look out for, especially when the seasons change, so where we might move from a wet month to a dry month, is the risk of fungi in the lawn. Red-thread fungus is one of the most common in the UK, and is found when both humidity and warmth are high. Fortunately, Red-thread infections are relatively easy to treat. The application of a nitrogen based fertiliser should see off any Red-thread that is beginning to dominate your lawn. Red-thread spores can stay alive for two years in the soil however, so if you get it one year, make sure to keep an eye on it for the next.
Another disease to keep an eye out for is Fusarium, characterised by brown patches of an irregular shape. Whilst there is no treatment for Fusarium, the damage it does to a lawn should recover without the need for human intervention. An interesting fact to know is that it is a subspecies of Fusarium that is used to make Quorn, whilst other species of Fusarium, if they get it into the food chain, can produce mycotoxins which can be very dangerous – as the Soviet Union found out in the 1930s when Fusarium contaminated wheat was baked into bread. This led to the Soviets developing and allegedly deploying the harmful mycotoxin that was produced by Fusarium in Afghanistan in 1981 under the code name ‘Yellow Rain.’ (There is also the possibility that mycotoxin infection can occur from bee faeces after they process pollen).
It really is true that even the tamed garden is still a raging battlefield being waged just beyond the reach of our senses.