Many owners of bermudagrass and zoysiagrass lawns have heard about folks who “burn off” their lawns in January. Supposedly this releases fertilizer from the ashes and controls insects hidden in the thatch. It is true that farmers with many acres of bermudagrass hayfield burn their brown grassland each year. It’s their only economical insecticide, dangerous though it may be. Burning your lawn, though, is an entirely different matter.
Aside from the legal necessity to get the legal permit required in most municipalities, burning just does not release much fertilizer. There may be a smidge of phosphorus and a wisp of potassium left when the grass burns….. but its nothing compared to your normal turf fertilizer. In addition, few lawn insects hide in the dead grass, so they aren’t controlled. Furthermore, who wants to look at a black lawn for several weeks?
The biggest risk is to your home and to those of your neighbors. Farmers carefully measure the wind speed, humidity and air temperatures before performing a controlled burn in rural areas. They have tractors available to plow a fireline if the flame gets out of control. They try to minimize smoke so neighbors and traffic are not affected.
Think about it. Explaining to your spouse or neighbor or insurance agent how you “….just didn’t think it would go so fast……” is not a conversation you would like to experience.
In January, keep your matches for your fireplace, not for your landscape.
Dec. 29, 1995
Q: I’m in big trouble – help! Last weekend, my neighbors and I set out some luminaria candles in paper bags. The bags caught on fire and their bermudagrass lawn burned up! Have I killed it? What can I do now? Name withheld due to embarrassment, Gwinnett county
A: Don’t panic – it’s not as bad as it looks! The charred surface probably hides lots of healthy bermudagrass roots. As any flower gardener knows, where there are bermudagrass roots, there is bermudagrass. In rural areas, home and pasture owners regularly “burn off” their bermudagrass. The practice releases nutrients and makes the grass green up faster. Burning is illegal in the suburbs. You and your neighbors will just have to look at a black lawn for a couple of months. One good note: the lawn will turn green rapidly this spring. When that occurs, you can laugh and forget it ever happened!