Difficult Summer for Wisconsin Green Industry

My lawn has been a light golden-brown for over a month now
My lawn has been a light golden-brown for over a month now
image: Jay Gehler

In Wisconsin, like much of the US, the weather is making headlines – way too hot and way too dry. When was the last significant rainfall, maybe in late April?  Weatherman report the rainfall level is seven inches below average. That coupled with the extreme summer heat has significantly impacted the Green Industry in the Upper Midwest.

Typical rainfall in early spring appeared very promising, but then came summer with a vengeance! The rains stopped and someone turned up the thermostat to oven-like temperatures. In this part of the country, most contractors use cool-season grasses, typically Kentucky Bluegrass and Fescue blends.  The extended heat and dry periods meant that those turf varieties went dormant. I have not needed to mow the lawn for almost two months, but neither have many lawn care contractors. With little turf to mow and trees and shrubs shutting down in response to the hot, dry weather, many lawn-care contractors have been forced to reduce staff through layoffs.

This urban homeowner chose a sumac shrub, low, colorful sedum and wild daisies as alternatives to Kentucky bluegrass.
This urban homeowner chose a sumac shrub, low, colorful sedum and wild daisies as alternatives to Kentucky bluegrass.
image: Jerry Davis| For the State Journal

However not all hope is lost, comparing notes with other Green Industry business owners including: sod growers, tree and shrub nurseries, perennial growers and landscape contractors.  We all have tried to take this season’s weather in stride by adjusting business plans in order to retain our capital investment for coming years.  The common thread among us was that we could recall surviving other dry years— 1995, 1988 and 1976, and this year, just like then, the rain will return.  But in the meantime, this weather has presented a wonderful opportunity to talk with clients about alternatives to turf lawns and selecting native and adaptable plants.

by Jay Gehler

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