Preparing the Landscape for Summer Stress

  • A healthy grass plant is better able to resist the stress of summer heat, drought and weed invasion. Feed the lawn before the heat of summer with a slow-release fertilizer to strengthen the lawn and deepen the root system. This makes it more competitive and vigorous without promoting the rapid plant growth that causes the grass to use excessive water and dry out.
  • Keep fertility levels up before summer stress hits, and heat and drought damage is kept to a minimum during the summer months. Recovery will happen much earlier and more rapidly. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!
  • Mowing height directly affects the depth of root growth in grass plants. Raise the height that you cut your lawn to 2.5 inches. This reduces stress on the grass plant by leaving more leaf surface.
  • Check your lawn-mower blade to make sure it is still sharp. If you sharpen your own blade, don’t forget to balance the blade to prevent engine shaft damage.
  • By reducing the amount that you mow, less water is lost due to evaporation.
  • Water lawns deeply and infrequently to force the roots to go deeper in search of water and by doing so creates a more drought-tolerant lawn.
  • Watering during the cool part of the day reduces evaporation and allows more water to reach the roots.
  • Wetting agents help moisture to penetrate dry, hard soils, making more water available to the roots. Localized dry spots can occur on irrigated lawns, causing the soil to become hydrophobic or water repellent.
  • Deep, infrequent watering along with mulching helps hold moisture deep in the soil where it is not as subject to evaporation and more available to the roots.
  • Mulch applied to your garden beds 2-3 inches deep helps retain moisture in your garden. Mulching also helps keep tree roots cool and protects shallow roots.
  • This advice was recommended by a plant pathologist lecturing to a group of landscapers in a seminar at the Center for Urban Horticulture.
  • If you’re planning to apply mulch to your garden this fall, it is now recommended that you have it delivered 60 days in advance of your planned application. This allows time for the mulch to mature and cook out the weed seeds and toxins before you apply it to your garden.
  • Most golf courses, homeowners, and businesses place their orders at about the same time, putting mulch manufacturers under great pressure to deliver. If you order in advance and allow the mulch to age before applying it, you are guaranteed a higher-quality, weed-free, and toxin-free product.
Avoid drastic pruning of shrubs and ornamentals to reduce evaporation and stress on the plants during the summer heat. If you dead head (remove dead blossoms) your annuals and perennials quite often, they will bloom again in summer.
Check your sprinkler system for broken or misaligned heads. Make sure your sprinkler system has a rain sensor to help you save on your water bill. Flag your sprinkler system heads in summer then take a picture showing all your flagged heads. Then when your system is first turned on in spring, any non-operating heads will be easier to locate. Plug your drip irrigation emitters for plants that no longer exist.
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