Last year’s heat and drought and this year’s late spring have added extra stress to lawns.
With buds finally starting to bloom on trees in the southern part of Minnesota and ice still stubbornly floating around on lakes in the north, it’s a good time to take stock of a strange year of weather and its effect on our lawns and vegetation.
To rehash the recent weather history that many of us may be trying to repress, we had an exceedingly wet and warm spring in 2012, followed by a summer and fall of extreme heat and certifiable drought. That took a toll on grass and trees—not to mention crops—all around the state.
And while we cut into the moisture deficit with a rather snowy winter, that winter only recently (mostly) released its grip on the landscape. And that landscape includes a lot of struggling vegetation.
A narrow window for recovery
According to Sam Bauer, turfgrass expert with University of Minnesota Extension, many people saw their grass wither and even die heading into the winter, especially if they didn’t provide extra irrigation in the fall.
To make matters worse, the painfully long winter has shortened the natural recovery period for grasses, when the root system develops enough to withstand the stresses of summer heat.
Normally, that window begins toward the end of April and lasts till early June. But this year we were still getting snow at the end of April en route to a monthly total of 17.6 inches—the snowiest month of the entire winter.
“Essentially, our window for recovery this spring is shortened, what with the cool temperatures we’ve had and the third snowiest April,” Bauer says. “Our recovery period is not much more than a month.”