Burning dormant lawns (02-21-05)
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Someone asked for my opinion on advantages and disadvantages of burning a lawn prior to spring green-up. With the innovations in lawn maintenance chemicals and equipment today I see no real advantages in burning off your lawn. Previous reasons for burning would include removal of excess dormant leaf matter and thatch; reduction of some pests such as insects, weeds and diseases; and perhaps earlier green-up of new growth. Depending on the type of turf species you have, an advantage such as removal of thatch or earlier green-up may not even apply to your lawn.
The potential disadvantages far out weigh the advantages. First it may be illegal due to county or city ordinances. The actual success of burning is often less than desired. Why risk burning down your house, or even worse, yours and your neighbors. And if your home insurance agent knows you are doing this he may cancel your insurance. You may get rid of some surface leaf matter, but deep thatch removal is questionable. You would do as well with a very close mowing and collection of clippings with a bagger or vacuum. Once the lawn is actively growing renting a dethatcher for the weekend would be the best method of removing excess thatch. Pest problems are much better managed with appropriate pesticides. The unsightliness and mess of black soot on your lawn and tracking into the house must be considered. You will not get that much of an advantage in earlier green-up.
As you have gathered from my comments by now my bottom-line is...DON"T DO IT.
Published February 21, 2005
Dr. Wayne Wells is an Extension Professor and Turfgrass Specialist. His mailing address is Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, Mail Stop 9555, Mississippi State, MS 39762. firstname.lastname@example.org