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How to Best Protect Turf from Scorch!

This time of year is notorious for scorch! At the beginning of summer, the lawn looks great. But beware! As we move into August, be on the lookout for evidence of scorch. There are many causes. While not completely preventable, there are good practices you can put into place even now to keep it from taking over. We’ll discuss what scorth is and how to identify it, and tell you what to do if you start seeing signs. As always, preventative measures are recommended. We’ll give some pointers on how to prevent it next year.

What is scorch?

Lawns in middle Tennesee are seeing hot tempuratures and generally less water this time of year, making conditions perfect for scorch to set in. Scorch can be described as a condition affecting grass and plants exposed to extended periods of heat, little water, improper use of fertilizers or pesticides, or high amounts of dog urine. The telltale signs are brown or yellow patches or stripes that appear in the lawn suddenly.

How does it happen?

Fertilizer burn – Most homeowners know that fertilizing is a good thing, but too much fertilizer is the quickest way to damage a lawn. Traditional fertilizers are made of mineral salts. Too much can produce drying effects, which can result in your lawn turning yellow or brown. The effects can be anything from a slight discoloration to the obvious “stripes” from overlapping spreader rows.

Dog urine – We love our pets! But are they the cause of scorch? You can tell by the nature of the scorch spots. Generally, if urine is the cause, the spot will be brown in the middle and green around the outside of the circle. This is due to the high concentration of nitrogen in urine. The nitrogen “burns” your lawn the same way over fertilizing does. The brown in the middle is where the contact was greatest, and the green around the outside if from the less diluted urine acted as fertilizer.

Heat and general summer stresses – If you haven’t done a great job of controlling weeds, fertilizing at appropriate times, practicing good watering, and mowing techniques, then your lawn is stressed. A stressed lawn is more susceptible to scorch and if affected, won’t bounce back as well as healthy turf.

How to treat?

Don’t worry, scorch is seldom a death sentence for your lawn. Turf is resilient and can withstand stress. If you notice signs of scorch, take action right away.

If scorch is caused by fertilizer, try to remove excess fertilizer and water more than normal. The extra water will hopefully dilute the chemicals and reduce the impact. Next, just wait and watch. There’s no way to tell if your lawn will completely recover. We do know this; a healthy lawn will recover better than a stressed lawn. So treat your lawn nicely.

If Rover is the issue, try saturating the urine spots immediately with water. This will dilute the urine therefore, reduce the impact of the high concentrate of nitrogen. Tip: Switch to a higher quality dog food. The higher protein quality, the less likely it is to leave by-products in urine. You could always try and train your pet to use a designated area as well.

What can you do to prevent?

We recommend a few best practices to prevent scorch:

Proper watering – When there is little rainfall, give a good soaking one to two times per week. Turf requires about an inch of water per week. Remember, watering time is just as important as the amount. Water early in the morning, around 3 am will work. You don’t want grass to be wet going into the evening. This is when disease can set in.

Organic fertilizer – If you fertilize your lawn, go organic! Scorch from fertilizer burn is the most preventable. Use organic fertilizer or compost for not only optimal results but a more forgiving application process. Organic offers so many positives, but if you must use traditional fertilizers, read the label carefully and follow directions. Note: we do not recommend fertilizing during the hottest summer months while turf is at its max stress level unless using an organic option.

Year-round maintenance A year-round maintenance program will give your lawn the best chance against scorch. Weed control and fertilizing should occur at regular intervals and at appropriate times of year. A deep-rooted healthy turf is your best defense! See our Lawn Care Calendar for what we recommend.

Is your lawn experiencing Scorch? Need help to determining the cause? Call Pure Green. Our experts can answer questions, offer advice, and a course of action!