“To water or not to water, that is the question!” That’s actually the KEY question for most homeowners who want to keep their yard looking good, but don’t want to tell their children they had to use their college fund money to pay the water bill. The truth is, in the highest heat of summer, and especially during an excessive heat wave, virtually no amount of water is going to keep your lawn grasses from going dormant or turning brown. Most varieties of lawn grasses naturally WILL go dormant during summer’s peak, but it is important to note the difference between “dead” and “dormant.” Going dormant is what these grasses and many plants do as a natural reaction to heat and less water . . . . in fact, it is what KEEPS them alive. They enter a form of “sleep state,” only to revive and come back to life later in the season when things cool off a bit. This is why most of us in this area find ourselves needing to mow the lawn so often and so far into the end of summer and beginning of autumn months. If your lawn becomes straw-like and brown, do not freak out and immediately spend money to replant or resod. It may just be doing what nature tells it to do for a while.
The old adage is true – watering during early morning or late evening is definitely the best idea. That prevents too much water from being immediately evaporated by the heat before the roots of the grass and plants even have a chance to soak it up. But it is important to note that applying too much water can be every bit as damaging as applying too little . . . . perhaps even more so. Overly wet lawns are more susceptible to disease, and lawn damage can occur when the roots of the grass do not have to grow as deep and become less effective. Overwatering can also damage and cause run-off of the very soil that keeps the grass alive. If you are lucky enough to have a sprinkler system and can set it up on a timer, set it for brief periods of time during the coolest time of day. And don’t alienate the neighbors. Be sure to AIM your sprinklers so you don’t shock passers-by with a sudden soaking as they walk their dogs on the sidewalk . . . . no matter HOW entertaining that might be to you.
Don’t make the mistake of cutting grass too short in the hottest weeks. Shorter grass is actually more susceptible to heat damage. If you can stand the look of it, you may want to mulch the grass clippings and let them fall upon the lawn while cutting, rather than bag them and discard them. This may not create as nice of a look, but the clippings can actually act as a form of sponge, holding extra water that would otherwise be evaporated more quickly. It also acts as a natural fertilizer as it breaks down.
Summer months may not be the best time to fertilize or battle weeds on a broad scale. There is a very definite reason that the directions on those products usually call for use in the Spring or Autumn. That being said, a little forethought goes a long way, and lawns that have been treated in the early season will have a better chance of holding up better in the summer. The chemicals and products used to do these things can, under the best of circumstances, burn your lawn. These dangers are only heightened in heat. It may be more of a pain in the neck, but you may want to consider battling those weeds the old fashioned way – digging them out by hand.
For smaller areas, like a garden, consider an alternative method of watering. There are lots of products sold on the market to do this, but you can also “do-it-yourself.” A full, inverted soda, milk, or water bottle, with the opening imbedded well into the soil, nearby the plant, will actually meter out water as it is needed. This may not offer the prettiest alternative, but if it is in a vegetable garden, or well placed behind plants and out of direct line of sight for other plants, it can work very well. Be sure to research the particular type of plant to get an idea of exactly how much water is needed, and how too little or too much water can affect production.
Above all else, remember this. It is a lawn. It is grass. Nothing more. It is wonderful to take the care to maintain it and keep it looking good and enhancing your home, but the neighbors will not shun you if you have brown spots on your lawn. In cases of drought, lawn watering is NOT a priority . . . no, not even YOUR lawn! Keep it in perspective. A little care and thought can keep your lawn growing nicely. When all else fails, most local hardware stores sell green spray paint. Just sayin.’