Lawn Experts, please help - New Turf Lawn Dying

I posted a thread to this site a few weeks ago "New Turf Lawn Dying? - Help please" and sadly no reply yet.
http://tinyurl.com/3ttk6xm
I am in the UK, but good lawn advice must surely apply the world over. Can any of you good experts please, please share some of your lawn recovery experience with me ?!
Can someone please help with my new 6 week old turf lawn which is not recovering despite laying, watering and mowing exactly as recommended by the UK renowned turf supplier Rowlawn. Except, .....I made one big mistake.......... I went on holiday! In those 2 weeks it rained a lot and grew too long (6"). When it was cut back all the lush green grass disappeared and I am now left with a thin, sparse and dead looking lawn. In the last 2 weeks since that it has showed little signs of recovering. Am I being too impatient and it will recover as Rowlawn say?
This is all explained in depth in the URL link above to my original thread. The pictures below give a good indication of the issue. Your help is much needed and appreciated. Many thanks. Puppilup
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puppilup


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puppilup said:

Did they tell you to mow it to 1 1/2 inches (as mentioned in your 3rd photo)? In summer, for cool-weather grasses, 3 or even 3 1/2 inches is better for the grass.

You cut back too much at once. Sometimes your are forced to cut back more than you would like, but you should have set your mower at its very highest setting so as to leave as much of the grass blades as you could. Ideally, you don't want to cut away more than 1/3 of the grass blade at any cutting.
Next time you go on holiday, try to arrange for someone to cut the lawn at least once while you are gone!

Cross your fingers, and wait, and raise your mowing height. You can drop it again as you move into fall. Maybe give it a *very* light fertilization.

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Pat in Plymouth MI

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First, good job of documenting and explaining the problem. Here are my thoughts. I agree with the above advice that you should not have cut it so short. The general advice is to remove 1/3 of the grass at a time. That doesn't mean you can cut 1/3 today, then another 1/3 in two days. I'd do that over a period of at least a couple weeks. You don't say what specific kind of grass it is, but for cool season grasses, leaving it at 3" is fine and preferable to cutting it too short. I would not go below 2 1/2" What you did probably shocked the grass.
However from the photos of the damage I suspect the bigger problem now may be fungus. That one picture that appears to show a cob web like substance on the grass that is dying. That is a classic sign of some of the fungus diseases that can attack and kill turf quickly. They generally thrive in conditions of high moisture, heat, and nitrogen. I'd immediately go out and buy a bag of fungicide and apply it. If it is fungus, it could make the difference between saving and losing the new lawn. IF not, it's not that expensive in the grand scheme.
Also, I'd say that at 6 weeks you should be watering about once every two days. You should be doing it either early AM, like 4am so that it gets done before the sun gets hot enough to evaporate the water. That will allow you to save water. Watering during the early part of the day is fine too, but more water is lost. The one thing you don NOT want to do is water it at 8PM and leave it wet all night long. That provides the environment for fungus and disease. Watering in the AM lets it dry out quickly and minimzes the time it is wet. If you're overwatering, which is what most people do when they see turf that isn't doing well, that will just make fungus problems worse. And cutting the grass so short so quickly shocked it, which leaves it more susceptible as well.
I'd hold off on any additional fertilizer as excess nitrogen just makes these problems worse. If you have a place that can test your soil, I'd do that. Often new topsoil has a PH that is way off and needs to be adjusted. There are kits available that you can use to test your own but if there is some agricultural service, like the govt, available, they are a better choice and likely to be more accurate.
Good luck.
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puppilup;932673 Wrote: > I posted a thread to this site a few weeks ago "New Turf Lawn Dying? - > Help please" and sadly no reply yet.

> Can any of you good experts please, please share some of your lawn > recovery experience with me ?!

> recovering despite laying, watering and mowing exactly as recommended by > the UK renowned turf supplier Rowlawn. Except, .....I made one big > mistake.......... I went on holiday! In those 2 weeks it rained a lot > and grew too long (6"). When it was cut back all the lush green grass > disappeared and I am now left with a thin, sparse and dead looking lawn. > In the last 2 weeks since that it has showed little signs of recovering. > Am I being too impatient and it will recover as Rowlawn say?

> thread. The pictures below give a good indication of the issue. Your > help is much needed and appreciated. Many thanks. Puppilup
Hi puppilup, I too agree with everything thats been said by other people but I would like to add a comment. looking at your pictures, you mentioned the very green edge adjacent to the brick edging and these are my thoughts. Often, water running off the bricks from either rain or irrigation waters the first 6" of grass very well and this could be the reason you have this nice green strip ? You mentioned going away on holiday and said it rained but in my experience, very rarely does rain actually water sufficiently !! I think, the turf dried out whilst you were away and this die-back could be the result ! You added to the problem by cutting the grass much too short to soon, allowing the sun to cook the weaker grass that was covered by the green bit !
Ok, I think as others have said, leave it much longer until its established and just make sure you are actually wetting the soil underneath and not just damping the surface ? You will soon know if its going to recover, give it a week and see how it looks then !
best of luck, Lannerman.
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Pat, Trader4, Lannerman & BobF - Thank you all for such helpful and mostly very consistent advice. Apologies for a delayed response, I have been waiting to report progress as either 'no improvement' or 'the lawn is recovering', which it is - recovering!! A week ago it looked doubtful, it would recover properly. I had visions of having to virtually start again as I watched it die! In just the last few days though it is showing a great improvement. I cut it on the highest mower setting, about 2.5" - see photos attached..
You all confirmed my own thoughts and regrets. The lawn was left to fend for itself too early and too long; at a very tender stage and age. Despite the rain while I was away, it didn't receive enough water, it was then cut back too harshly. Silly of me having prepared the site so carefully and bought quality turf (sod). After a drawn out landscaping project my timing was wrong. I wanted to lay a lawn before the UK summer was too far gone, will be autumn (Fall) in 3-4wks time. It was a risk and it didn't really pay off as now I have to give it extra care & treatment, But I feel it is now off the critical list! When I left for holiday it looked so lush, strong and healthy, but I did have a nagging thought the whole time that I was risking it and should have waited and laid it immediately after holiday when I could have watched and tended it daily all the way through. Enough said, water under the bridge (not on the lawn!) and all that, ........what's done is done, I have learnt for next time.
Your advice is good and welcomed but please also consider that most of you guys are in the US, presumably with much warmer summers than in the UK? This summer is bad, mostly 18C/65F to 21C/70F, many days as low as 16c/60f, very cloudy but equally not a lot of rain. We also mostly have a very fine blade grass, whereas in my limited travels of the US, California and Arizona; I saw mostly a very coarse bladed grass. Much hardier I would think?
Back to my lawn. I thought it was dead or dying fast on me. The worst photo, No#3, the one you Trader said looked like it had some fungus may be true. But I think it was also misleading because the closeup photo was blurred/out of focus, giving the appearance of a web/mist. I hadn't helped by perhaps over-watering it in my panic to rescue the lawn, also at the wrong time of day. I think it had become a bit waterlogged and may have suffered some of the rot that you spoke of. But, a few weeks of holding back on the watering and a high cut mowing twice a week with water every 2nd day at 6am as soon as I get up - this has given a great improvement.
Photos - I have included new photos as follows:- #3 late July - from previous photos, the worst it got to. #4 10-Aug - a week ago, days before giving it a light cut. #5 16-Aug - just after a light cut at 2.5" #6 16-Aug - detail photos of worst areas, greatly improved but still thin at ground level.
I am cautiously optimistic and would say that it is definitely not getting any worse. With some dead grass at ground level, and a general loss of density - it was very thick and green, it is now back to mostly green but still a little sparse If I were to cut it really short, I'm sure it would look very thin.
Your advice on the following please:- The lawn looks good and green at about 2" to 2.5" high, but when cut any lower it looks sparse/thin. My fear is that with a sparser covering the weeds will get a hold.
1) Treatment - do I use a fungicide, which one? I want to avoid any fungus and weed taking over. I also want to get it back to a thicker denser, multi-bladed, healthy grass. I want to put a fungicide on as you suggest Trader4, but I have trawled the UK sites for one and it may be just terminology differences, but I can't find a UK site that has fungicide specifically. There are lots of lawn feed-and-weed or weed and moss killer treatments, but most treatments are fertilizer and 'steroids' for lawns. Can you please try "lawn fungicide UK" in Google and see if there is a link to the product I should buy here, I can't see anything that fits that description even though there are a lot of links, they just lead to moss & weed killer or is that what I should use?
2) Will the grass thicken up or is the dead bit dead? Is the dead part of the lawn at ground level actually completely dead in the roots, or will new grass push through to thicken it up again.
3) How do I keep weeds at bay? - where the grass is thin, do I need to top dress (seed/soilo/compost/sand) and when?
4) Approaching autumn/Fall - do I have to remove the dead grass? Should I put a treatment on it to feed it through the winter? Rowlawn recommend an Autumn Lawn Food to put the lawn to bed for winter, see link..... 'Autumn Lawn Food from Rolawn' (http://tinyurl.com/3kosa44 )
5) What height should I mow at? - I have raised the mower to a 2.5" cut. It won't go higher. What height should I be working towards as 'normal' and by when? Remember this is supposed to be a fine blade 'show' lawn - if I can recover it!
I won't defend what I have done, except to say that the UK 'experts' on supply and care of quality turf (sod) are Rowlawn and they have given me some conflicting advice. You all give similar advice and so does the Rowlawn website - see links. However, when I called their Customer Advice line, despite pushing for contact with a more mature green-fingered old fox, I got the sales girlies. They may know their product, but they won't have the experience of doing and fixing it when things go wrong. Their advice when I said I had cut the lawn from 6" to 3" was that the light needed to get in and I should cut it right down to maxm 1.5". That clearly made it worse and is shown in photo #3 from my earlier posting where it looked scalped, bald and dead.
Hopefully on the way to recovering this lawn instead of a remake next spring as I had feared! Thanks again for all your help.
Puppilup 17Aug2011
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puppilup

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wrote:

Quite a remarkable improvement indeed! Glad it worked out for you.

You have a cool season grass. Don't know what they use there, but whoever supplied it should have told you. I would think it's probably bluegrass or fescue, or a mix of those, possibly rye too. Should be similar to what we use here in the mid-atlantic to northeast USA. In any case, that weather was perfect. Cool season grasses thrive in fall and spring and don't like hot weather, expecially when it's just been put down.

In another month I'd feed it with a Fall fertilizer. And thanks for letting us know how it worked out.

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Trader4 - Thanks for your reply. I will use the Autumn/Fall fertilizer as you say, mid/late September.
Yes, the grass is a mix specifically for the UK climate, see below it includes "Slender Creeping Red Fescue".
The Rowlawn site says .............. --------------------------------------------- "Specifically selected seed type sowing mix Produces a turf that provides the most suitable performance for the diverse UK climate. It is highly adaptable to variations in rainfall,
sunlight, soil type, pH level and nutrients "High content of Slender Creeping Red Fescue Extremely drought tolerant. High performance cultivar in times of low rainfall "
---------------------------------------------
Answer to questions please .......... On my questions 1 to 5, I would appreciate a short answer to each if you could please/
1) Should I still look for a fungicide, do you think it still needs one?
2) Will the grass thicken up or is the dead bit dead? I want to get it back to a thicker denser, multi-bladed, healthy grass.
Is the dead part of the lawn at ground level actually completely dead in the roots, or will new grass push through to thicken it up again.
Can I risk scarifying it in the Fall or Spring to remove the dead stuff?
3) How do I keep weeds at bay? - where the grass is thin, do I need to top dress (seed/soilo/compost/sand) and when?
4) Approaching autumn/Fall - do I have to remove the dead grass? Should I put a treatment on it to feed it through the winter? { You Trader4 said "Yes, put a Fall fertilizer down in a month". I will use the Rowlawn Autumn Lawn Food.Autumn Lawn Food from Rolawn
5) What height should I mow at? - I have raised the mower to a 2.5" cut. It won't go higher. What height should I be working towards as 'normal' and by when?
Do I go for 1.5" during next spring/summer? Remember this is supposed to be a fine blade 'show' lawn.
Many thanks again for such a prompt reply.
Puppilup
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wrote:

No. Based on how well it's recovered, if it had any fungus/disease its gone. It could have just been from not being properly watered, cutting it too short quickly, etc.

There are a variety of grass types. Some which are called clump type cannot spread and create new individual plants. But even with a clump type grass, the individual plants can grow larger to fill in bare spots. And from your pictures your bare spots are small enough that they would fill in that way.
But you have creeping red fescue which is a cultivar that has some ability to send out stolens and establish new plants. So, you should not have to do anything. I think it will be fine. If there are any larger spots you could either get a piece of sod or buy creeping red fescue seed. I'd only do the latter if necessary as there are differences with varieties and you might see a difference in texture, color, etc.

I think scarifying is referred to here in the states as dethatching. First, you need to understand that thatch is normal. There is always going to be a layer of decaying cut grass, dead crowns, etc. That decomposes on it's own. It's only when it gets excessively thick to the point that water and air can't penetrate that it becomes a problem. That is when you need to consider scarifying. Before doing that on any lawn, I'd lift a section of turn and look at the edges. If excessive thatch is present it will be a thick layer of stuff almost like what would be on a thatch roof hut. A layer of about a 1/2" is normal.
When you scarify, while getting rid of the thatch, you are also damaging and killing some of the grass. That's the tradeoff. In short, I'd leave your new lawn be. I'd personally prefer to address most thatch issues by aerification, rather than scarification. Punching holes in the turf opens it up to water, air, etc and then bacteria can better break down the thatch. But again, your lawn does not need that.

Get a 2 gallon tank sprayer and a herbicide for broadleaf weed control on lawns. With a tank sprayer you can minimize the amount of herbicide used while at the same time delivering it exactly where it's needed.
- where the grass is thin, do I need to

As I said above, I think it will fill in by itself. I'd wait until mid-Sept and see what it looks like then. If you need to address any spots, that would be the time. You could also give it a light fertilizer application now, which will help it grow and fill in more, then use the Fall fertilizer late sept.

I would not worry about the dead grass. Wait and see how it fills in. Above fertilizer sounds right.

Sounds good.

I'd keep it at 2.5. You could go lower next Spring if you like the look better. I would not go lower than 2. Also, don't know if you are actually measuring the cut height or going by settings on the mower. There can be a difference. If you want to go lower, you can try it, just don't do it in sudden steps.
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puppilup said:

No.
I would hold off on anything like that, and prefer core aeration to raking out thatch. (I am guessing that you may have mainly fine fescues, notorious thatch producers, but decent shade tolerence.)
Treated decently, the turf should thicken up, albeit, with fescues, it will only thicken up slowly. It might be wise to overseed, but if you don't you could consider applying a pre-emergent herbicide this fall. (There are 'winter' weeds which sprout in the fall, like speedwell and chickweed.)
Your lawn is small enough to spot weed, by hand or with a tool, should it come to that.

If it doesn't seem to be filling in well, yes overseed and topdress.

I would go with a light feeding at the beginning of September and a Fall/Winter fertilizer blend in mid to late October. But my soil is quite sandy so YMMV.

I would suggest no less than that in midsummer. Mow every 3 days if neccessary to keep it looking tidy. You can drop it back a bit in fall (after the growth has slowed) and for the first cuts in spring, then raise the height again.

I suggest you leave it taller and mow more often; it will give you less grief that way and still look tidy. And keep the mowing blades sharp. Very sharp.
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