Well, the first day of summer has come and gone, and we are now entering the hottest part of the year. Nothing smacks you in the face more than a blast of hot, humid air as you exit your nicely air-conditioned home or office. If you are feeling the heat, then you can bet your lawn is suffering, too. Don’t let the summer heat irreparably damage your lawn. Follow these guidelines to ensure that your lawn is protected and can weather the dog days of Summer.
Keep Your Soil Moist
What is most important is the health of the root system. You want the roots to go deep, where more natural moisture can be found and the soil is cooler. You can train your lawn to dig deeper into the soil by the way you water.
You want the top 1” of soil to be dryer than the deeper soil. This will force the roots to go deep in search of moisture. Try to avoid the splash and dash. You may think that giving your lawn a few minutes of water each day is best, but shallow watering teaches the roots to stay near the surface in order to absorb the daily ration of water. Instead of shallow watering every day, got for a deeper soak a few times per week. Try 3 days per week for an hour.
Of course, during extremely hot/dry periods, it may be necessary to water more frequently, but just keep in mind that you want the water to penetrate below the top 1” of soil. So don’t be afraid to give your lawn a good soak.
There are grass seeds and other products that are designed to help your lawn use less water and retain moisture. With all the concern over lawn chemicals recently, you may want to consider organic products or solutions.
When you water is also important. Don’t water in the heat of the day, because the much of the moisture will evaporate before it reaches the deep soil. Water in the early morning, so the water has plenty of time to soak in.
It’s very common for a well-maintained lawn to get a little stressed in the heat of the summer (as do we!), but if your lawn is looking a little brownish, resist the urge to immediately turn on the sprinklers. Over-watering can be just as detrimental to your lawn as under-watering, because it deprives the soil of oxygen, and too much moisture can lead to fungus and allow disease to penetrate.
Your lawn only requires about an inch of water per week, which includes natural rainfall. Turn your sprinkler system off, so you don’t water after a rain (or in some instances during the rain – we’ve all seen the crazy neighbor watering during a rainstorm!).
With the proliferation of “smart” home devices, you probably won’t be surprised to know that there are now smart irrigation systems that can help you save money on water usage by and prevent over-watering. These are cool, and definitely beneficial, but the same can be accomplished with a little awareness.
Sharpen Those Mower Blades
Do you notice the tips of blades of grass turning brown and dry? It could be your mower’s fault, not your watering habits. A dull mower blade tears at the grass blades, causing a lot of damage. It takes quite a while for the blades to heal, resulting in that brown, dead look. Sharp blades, by contrast, will slice cleaning through the grass, causing much less damage and prevents the browned tips. Check online for videos on how to sharpen your own blades, or take your mower into a local lawn mower repair shop.
Crew Cuts are Not for Grass
Our fathers and grandfathers did a great job of instilling in us the virtue of a closely cropped hair cut, a style that they often carried over into their lawns. We have come to think of a “well-manicured lawn” as being very short clipped.
Unfortunately, our ancestors couldn’t have gotten it more wrong.
Let your grass grow! The longer cut encourages the roots to grow deeper, and longer blades provide more surface area to convert the energy needed for the lawn to be healthy. A longer cut also shades the soil a bit, which slows moisture evaporation.
Now, this doesn’t mean that you let your lawn grow into a green version of an 80’s hair band. Depending on the type of grass you have, about 2-2.5 inches is the optimal height. But resist the urge to get the mower out as soon as it reaches 2.51 inches. Let it grow to 3+ inches before mowing again. You don’t ever want to whack off more than 1/3 of the length of the blades.
Don’t Walk on Dry Grass
If your lawn looks stressed out, as evidenced by that dry, brown look, then try to avoid walking on it. Don’t plan any Saturday football games in the back 40 until the grass has had time to recover.
Resist the Urge to Fertilize
In the heat of the summer, your lawn is working hard to just stay alive in the heat. If you fertilize it, then you force your lawn to expend energy on growth, which just causes further stress. A brown lawn is not a sign of lack of nutrients. It’s just a normal reaction to the stress of heat and maybe watering issues.
Also, adding fertilizer, coupled with intense summer heat, can actually burn the grass, which just exacerbates the problem. Wait until Fall, when your lawn has recovered some, before applying another feeding.
We all want to enjoy coming home to a well manicured lawn, and we may also enjoy a little healthy competition with the neighbors over who has the best one. But having a pretty lawn doesn’t mean anything if it’s weak or unhealthy. Give your lawn the TLC it needs to be strong and healthy, and you will be the envy of the neighborhood.
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