D E S I G N • B U I L D • M A I N T A I N
Your trees should get your primary attention. Why? Because healthy trees will provide a shaded canopy for your entire lawn, which in turn will keep it cool and less thirsty for water. Also, should your trees struggle or die, they'll be the most expensive things in your landscape to replace. A helpful strategy for strengthening your trees during drought is to drill several holes about 24 to 30 inches deep around the base of the tree and fill them with compost.
Drill slowly and pull back if you hit a root. These holes will allow water to penetrate the ground more easily and reach the tree's roots. You can use a large spade drill bit (about an inch wide) on your household drill for this task. NOTE: This procedure may dull your drill bit.
Water is lost from your lawn in two main ways: evaporation (water escaping from your lawn's surface) and transpiration (water "sweating" from the stems and leaves of plants). The more compact the soil in your lawn, the more easily water will evaporate from it, so it's a good idea to aerate from time to time. When you water your lawn, water slowly and with some kind of sprinkler system or sprinkler hose - this will prevent too much water loss through transpiration. It's also important to watch for, and kill, bugs and pests, as they come out into your lawn looking for food during dry conditions.
The best thing you can do to protect your plants and flowers during drought conditions is to use mulch. Un-mulched soil loses twice as much water as mulched soil, so three to four inches of good organic mulch like shredded bark, rotted sawdust, or compost will lock in moisture, prevent soil compaction, reduce the soil's temperature, and stifle water-stealing weeds. Also, if you are able to water your lawn, water plants slowly and with a sprinkler system, as plants absorb water better when they receive it slowly and steadily - like they do when it rains.
During hot and dry conditions, it is a good idea to conserve water in any way possible, so here are some general tips for water conservation. Don't go straight for the spigot when it's time to water. Collect roof water from downspouts and use that first. Wet your soil slowly and deeply by using a sprinkler system or sprinkler hose. That way, less water will sit on top of your lawn waiting to evaporate. It's also the best practice to water your lawn and plants in the morning (usually before 9 am) when humidity is high, because you'll lose less water to evaporation.
Bald spots in your lawn make it more vulnerable to summer heat. Thick grass will better hold moisture, resulting in a greener lawn with stronger roots that will survive heat and humidity. Here are some ways you can address thinning grass and keep your lawn green this summer:
• Inspect your lawn for noticeable bare spots. Grass growth can sometimes be spotty on sloped land and undulating areas due to water run-off and puddling.
• Use premium seed and a topsoil/organic, nutrient-rich compost to help the seed germinate and keep it from being washed away, blown away or eaten by birds. Dress the bare spots with approximately one inch of compost and then hand spread the seed, covering about 40% of the area. Use a kitchen broom (not a rake) to gently mix the soil and seed together. Fertilizing grass in summer can keep it healthy and growing strong.
• Water these newly seeded areas twice a day for the first few weeks to ensure the soil stays moist for maximum germination.
• To prevent bald spots from occurring, mow your lawn at or close to the highest setting on your mower and avoid stepping on your lawn when it is wet. Also avoid stepping on any new or immature grass.
While spring is typically associated with heavy rainfall, sudden summertime storms can leave your yard just as waterlogged. Here are some tips to help you deal with a deluge of rain:
• Try to avoid walking on wet or damp grass, as it is likely to damage it. Wait until water levels have completely subsided and you can walk on it without leaving wet footprints.
• If you want to mow the lawn once it has dried out, set the mower blades to the highest possible cutting height. Do not attempt to mow a wet or saturated lawn as you risk compaction and ruts. And obviously, do not use an electric lawn mower in damp or wet conditions.
• Lawns that have been very wet will benefit from some serious aeration – either manually using a garden fork or with the help of a powered aerator like the STIHL YARD BOSS. Moss is also likely to build up in damp conditions.
• Identify the low areas of your lawn most vulnerable to flooding and work to even out the ground or improve drainage.
Studies have shown that mowing at a height of at least three inches yields a healthier yard than one mowed at one or two inches.
When you mow your lawn often, you are promoting a lusher, more uniform lawn. How often is enough? That depends on how quickly your grass grows. Ideally, you should remove no more than a third of the grass length with each mowing. This will result in smaller-sized clippings, which act as a natural fertilizer for your lawn.
Vary your mowing direction each time you mow to keep your grass looking straighter. Change it up each time, moving north to south, east to west or diagonally to promote straight growth.
After mowing is complete, check your yard for any remaining clumps of grass clippings. Remove these clumps to prevent them from blocking nutrients to your lawn.
Summer days are long and hot. When you're outside getting work done, don't forget about personal safety. Here are some basic tips for working safely in the summer heat:
• Drink water frequently and in small amounts (about 1 pint per hour) rather than large amounts at one time. Drink 3-4 quarts a day during the summer.
• Don't depend on feeling thirsty to remind you – by the time you feel thirsty, you are already low on fluids.
Reduce Sun Exposure
• Wear tightly woven clothing that blocks out sunlight.
• Use sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15.
• Wear a hat with a wide brim to help protect the neck, ears, eyes, face and scalp.
• Sunlight is most intense between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. – your prime working hours – so take time to ensure you are protected.
Protect Yourself From Heat
• Take frequent water breaks in a shaded or air-conditioned area.
• Try to avoid excessive lifting, climbing or digging during peak heat hours. Use additional power equipment as necessary to assist with labor-intensive tasks.
• Know the signs of heat exhaustion: pale and clammy skin, increased pulse and breathing, dizziness and nausea, decreased urine output.
• If you feel you might have heat exhaustion, stop working immediately and rest in a shaded area. Drink small to moderate amounts of water or an electrolyte replacing fluid.
Surviving Summer Rain
Best Mowing Practices
Wetter Landscaping has some tips to help