As the thermometer here in the Midwest inches well past the 3-digit mark, and we start to feel the crunchy brown matting beneath our feet – the stuff that may have previously been soft, lush and green – one may start to panic with thoughts of global warming, maybe a wrong left turn at Albuquerque left you at the desert’s doorstep, etc…
Well, take a deep breath. It’s all going to be OK… and that thing in front of your beautiful home that looks like a pasture will, in fact, be green again.
The fact is, during extreme heat and dry spells, your lawn actually protects itself by slowing its growth and going dormant. Due to the quantity of water your lawn is going to require to stay green, you need to decide whether it is within your own best interests to try and maintain a 1-to-1.5” per week watering schedule, or simply roll with Mother Nature and let your lawn do its thing until temps cool and rains come.
If you decide to let it go dormant, here are a couple of things to consider:
- Leave your grass healthy by cutting it high – the highest setting for most mowers. Grass with three inch plus blades tend to have deeper, healthier root systems. Keeping it higher also helps to discourage weeds from taking over.
- Avoid regular watering; let it turn brown. Your dormant yard should be fine for up to a month with no water. At four weeks or so, water it to around 5 inches. When you are ready to go for “green” again, step it back up to your normal watering plan.
- Avoid any fertilizer applications during this period. Leaving lawn clippings from previous mowing should provide plenty of nutrients until things cool down.
If having a lush green yard, regardless of heat or (lack of) precipitation, is important to you…
- Just as above, keeping your lawn mowed at a higher setting helps promote healthy roots, protect the base of the blades, and deter weeds.
- Water to that inch, inch-and-a-half mark on a weekly basis. A great way to measure this is to spread a few cans out around the yard, water for 30 minutes, and measure for the average. Based on this, you’ll know how long to water to achieve the level your lawn needs to stay green. Be sure to adjust for rainfall as needed.
- Water earlier in the mornings to avoid water loss through evaporation. Watering late opens up the door to fungus.
- Watch for brown patches – if you see areas drying out, you may need to adjust your watering times to accommodate for areas that are evaporating faster than the soil can absorb them.
Regardless of whether you choose to keep your lawn brown or green through these hot summer dregs, taking care of it will remain important so that once it becomes bearable outside again, you’ll have that nice, healthy, beautiful yard and all of the many benefits that come with it.