Keeping your lawn Healthy during periods of drought
When it comes to lawn care and maintenance, the spring months are about getting your lawn green and healthy. They are also about preparing your lawn for the hot, dry months during the summer, and the heavier traffic conditions that come with homeowners spending more time outdoors. Summer lawn care is more about keeping your lawn healthy during stressful conditions, particularly during periods of drought following the plentiful rainfalls of spring.
While heat and drought conditions are damaging to lawns, homeowners often create more stress by trying to coax new growth and lush green appearances when nature is encouraging the grass to go dormant. It is important to provide a consistent routine for lawn care through various conditions, and be mindful of the appropriate measures when it comes to the basic principles of watering, cutting and fertilizing.
Watering will always have a big impact on the lawn’s appearance throughout the seasons (when not covered in snow). It is a must to have a regular schedule keeping the turf healthy leading into periods of drought. When irrigation systems are set up, it is necessary for them to be adjusted or manually operated to be able to water deeply and less frequently, to encourage drought-tolerant roots. Lawns need at least an inch of water per week and more when the heat is severe. It is also important to water early in the day to reduce evaporation and fungal growth. Deep, infrequent watering to the depth of the root system is the ideal situation, and should be performed ideally during the first signs of stress, such as wilting, darkening color and footprints remaining after walking across the lawn.
The lawn’s condition and climate is also an important factor when it comes to what is appropriate and consistent care. Maintaining a regular cutting schedule is important to the lawn’s appearance and health, and in the summer longer is better. During the earlier spring growth months with heavy rainfall and ever increasing, grass lengths, the lawn can be trimmed shorter. During the summer months and in periods of high heat and drought, a longer cut, with grass height at 3 to 4 inches, will create a deeper root system that will pull more water from deep in the soil, utilizing the underground water supply. Additionally, longer grass has a shading effect, conserving the moisture in the soil.
A few other basic lawn maintenance tips for the summer heat include:
- Don’t bag the clippings: leaving clippings on the lawn after a mowing or two can provide additional moisture.
- Sharp mower blades are always important, but dull blades are more unforgiving to stressed grass; they can rip blades and leave jagged edges that quickly dry out and turn brown.
- Limit the traffic on lawns; soil compaction that results from heavy foot traffic or other equipment lead to poor soil conditions and make it more difficult for the lawn to absorb moisture.
- Save the fertilizer for later: fertilizing in the heat of summer can burn your lawn and result in excessive growth when lawns should be going dormant; save it for September or at least two weeks after watering and drought conditions.