We started off fall with abnormally high temperatures and low rainfall totals that put the New River Valley into drought conditions. As of October 22, our area was still in a moderate drought, according to the National Weather Service in Blacksburg. Since then, we have received several widespread rain events, including severe storms, that have given a good soaking to the ground.

With all the recent rainfall, drought may not be on our minds as much any more. However, drought conditions do have an impact that can last even beyond when the rains come. We thought of a few of those impacts that we’ve seen in recent weeks to share with you:

Early Fall Drought Impact on Lawns

Most lawns in our area consist of cool season grasses. These types of grasses go dormant during the hottest part of the year to protect their crowns (the part from which the blades grow). This means that your lawn may actually turn light brown, but the roots are most likely still healthy! While we usually see brown lawns in July and August, many in our area were brown throughout all of September too, unless they were watered. Cool season grasses usually do some of their best growing in the fall. But the heat and lack of rain in September caused the lawns to stay in their dormancy for much longer than usual.

The good news is that most turf recovers from this dormant state once cooler temperatures arrive and rainfall increases. Grass that was previously brown can become green seemingly overnight! You may have even noticed this in the past few weeks as we have finally seen more rain. However drought periods can sometimes cause permanent damage to lawns, depending on the specific type of cool season grass that your yard is made up of. If you are still noticing some areas of brown in your lawn that don’t seem to have bounced back like the rest of your grass has, Green Care can help. We can provide you with a free site visit to discuss how we can best help you address any bare or dead spots in your lawn.

Early Fall Drought Impact on Fall Colors

One staple of fall in most people’s minds—leaves—are impacted by a lack of rain too. We just experienced peak leaf colors here in the NRV in the last couple of weeks. While nothing can truly deter from the beauty of this season, you may have noticed that some of the leaves turned brown faster than usual, skipping their normal brilliance in color. While moisture in the soil does have some impact on the colors, the temperatures are more of a factor. According to the US Forest Service, a warm period during fall lowers the intensity of autumn colors. We certainly experienced that in September! However, fall colors are not determined by weather alone—they’re also influenced by leaf pigments and length of night—which is why fall is always beautiful in the NRV!

And, now that peak leaf season has passed, you may be wondering what to do about all the fallen leaves on your lawn. Check out our blog post with our recommendations!

Early Fall Drought Impact on Green Care Services

Fall is one of the busiest times of year for Green Care! While we usually begin our core aerations in late August or early September, we had to delay them this year. The ground was too hard from the lack of rain. So we conducted this important service in mid October instead, once we had finally received a little bit of rain.

We also apply fertilizer in the fall. Fall is a great time of year to fertilize because cool season grasses have slower growth in the fall, which is more conducive to fertilization. Instead of using the nutrients for growth like they do in the spring, the plants move the nutrients to the roots in preparation for winter. This allows for greater root development and storage of food for the coming year. Because we use a slow release fertilizer, this was one of our services that we did not have to delay due to lack of rain. Our fertilizer breaks down in stages. It is a coated urea product that awaits rainfall to begin breaking down and providing its nutrients. So although we applied it before we saw heavy rain, it has now had plenty of rain to reach its effectiveness, and our clients’ lawns are reaping the benefits!

These are just a few ways the drought conditions affected our area. Hopefully the rest of this fall will be a little more predictable weather-wise, allowing our lawns to get to a healthy place before winter sets in. If you have any specific questions, or would like to discuss how Green Care can help you care for your lawn the rest of this fall and throughout the year, get in touch with us today!