We want to express well wishes for everyone affected by Superstorm Sandy. Hopefully by now many of you have begun the process of getting your lives somewhat back to normal. Our thoughts are with the many who suffered from this tragic storm. Believe it or not there are some steps you can take in order to prepare your lawn for a bad storm.
Most tropical storms and hurricanes tend to take place in the fall and early winter seasons due to hot and cold air and water mixing. These storms tend to hit the coastlines first but have traveled far inland over the years. The primary concern after personal safety and property damage comes from saltwater intrusion onto the lawn. This can happen from tidal surges causing salt water flooding as well as from wind depositing high levels of saltwater onto your lawn. These high levels of salt can also remain in ponds and other irrigation supplies. High salt levels in the soil causes physiological drought. Water uptake is reduced in the plant since salt prevents normal osmotic action. Water that is free of salt cannot enter the grass plant since saltwater blocks this transaction. This is the same process that happens when you over fertilize grass with traditional lawn fertilizers and “burn” the grass. If possible, water or irrigate these affected areas after the storms with “clean” water to cleanse the soil of these salts.
Warm season grasses such as Bermuda grass, zoysia grass and St. Augustine grass have excellent salt tolerance. Tall fescue and perennial ryegrass have moderate salt tolerance and fine fescues and Kentucky bluegrass have relatively poor salt tolerance. The level of exposure of salt water on your lawn can vary greatly based on your property location near tidal areas that may just flood occasionally or in an area where salt is present in coastal soils all of the time. How long has your lawn been exposed to salt water? If the area has been underwater only once or twice a year for a few hours your lawn should do okay. Cooler saltwater causes less damage than warm saltwater. If the water is moving oftentimes there is less damage to the lawn.
What should I do to my lawn? Remove all accumulated debris and soil material on the lawn surface as quickly as possible after the storm. This quick action is required to restore the grasses ability to start the photosynthesis process again. The longer the grass is covered by debris and silt or clay, the less chance the lawn has of surviving. If possible, aeration can help to restore oxygen levels and help to promote healthy root and microbial activity. An application of gypsum can also help to reduce salt levels in the soil allowing for improved turf growth.
Common sense should be followed prior to a reported storm. Applications of fertilizer, pesticides and grass seed should be avoided. Most states have a law prohibiting applications of lawn fertilizers when a storm is forecasted. Change your application schedule when a storm is approaching, do not waste your time and money with any applications. Besides, this would be environmentally irresponsible.
Each year we face many different conditions from Mother Nature. We think that if we follow a sound lawn care approach that our lawn will be great year after year. This is why we will never create the “perfect” grass seed that survives everything, but we are getting better each year.
If you would like to help people affected by the storm please visit the American Red Cross at http://www.redcross.org/