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Summertime Heat: Wither-or not


Many people long for summer during the winter months, but then…the heat waves hit and it's hard not to feel withered. To help you and your living landscape, I've comprised a few tips to help combat the heat and summer blues that hot dry conditions can inflict on your lawn.

First, try not to worry too much about your lawn's dry appearance. Most of the cool season grass cultivars grown in the Midwest, such as Bluegrass, fescue and rye grass, go dormant during hot and dry conditions. Dormant grass stops growing and hibernates in a way, which turns it yellowy brown and straw like, O.K. - not as pretty as the lush green of April for sure but an ingenious survival tactic. If the crown at root level has green color, and the roots have whitish gray color your grass is still doing well.

If you really want a green lawn, water at least 1 inch of water weekly, or up to two inches when temperatures are over 85 degrees early in the morning and never in the evening or night. Be prepared to stay committed to this, it stresses grass out more to go back and forth between actively growing to dormant stages and back again if you are not consistent than if you just let it naturally go dormant.

If hot and dry weather continues, eventually you will need to water. A sign your lawn does need a good drink of water is if footprints stay visible on the grass more than thirty minutes, or the grass has a dark tinge to it- or by following a basic guideline of providing at least 1/3 inch water every three weeks to keep roots and grass crown alive.

Keeping the grass height at  2 ½ to 3 inches tall  will help shade the roots and keep weed seeds from germinating. Mowing is reduced during hot months because the grass isn't growing, and that's a good benefit of this rest period! The weeds are still active, so they are easier to see now. That's also a good thing, because they can be plucked out of the yard one by one. It's helpful to note what kinds of weeds are most prevalent in your yard now- these are viable clues to what condition your soil condition is in.

Do not apply fertilizer now. September is the best month to apply fertilizer, aerate the soil, de-thatch and over-seed thin areas. For best results, consider getting a soil test done on your yard to identify possible nutrient deficient or pH problems.

As befitting the amount of space devoted to this perennial plant in the landscape, there was a lot to say on basic summer lawn care. Other landscape plants don't go dormant and do need more water than cool weather grass to stay alive during hot months. Newly planted trees and shrubs should receive two-three inches of water extending all the way to the drip line at least every other week during hot and dry conditions for the first three years. If you are using a sprinkler, it is helpful to know that a tuna fish can filled to the top is one inch of water.

Flower beds and vegetable gardens need at least one inch of water per week; and if temperatures are over 85 two inches of water may be needed. Water in the morning, and at the root level when at all possible.

It is also wonderful to remember the other creatures living in your yard. Birds need water and love taking baths in a birdbath. Change the water daily and they will love you for it. Squirrels may come to your birdbath when it gets really dry, but then may also leave your juicy tomatoes alone, which they sometimes just take one bite out of because they were thirsty. Butterflies and other pollinators love a safe place to land in water, try placing marbles or rocks in shallow water containers and they will reward you by pollinating your flowers and vegetables.

Enjoy the summer yourself by staying hydrated, by the way. Humans are not as tough against the heat and drought as our beautiful fragile looking plants are! Hydrated people enjoy the outdoors better....