6/20/12

Happy summer! Happy, healthy lawns!

Today is the first day of summer! Perhaps this leads you outside to attend to your lawn and garden. And, with the weather being pretty dry lately, lawns and gardens may indeed take extra care.

While the obvious answer to this year’s drought advisory may be to water the lawn, this may not be the best solution. Brown grass is a sign that the lawn is entering a period of dormancy, a normal state for the cool-season perennial grasses that comprise the majority of Illinois and Indiana lawns. So, you may need to decide whether to let your lawn go dormant in the summer or continue watering.

IISG’s MargaretSchneemann is the coordinator for Lawn to Lake, a project to encourage natural lawn care, thereby helping to reduce the amount of pesticides and fertilizers that end up in our waters. But, conserving water use is key as well. Here are her tips:

My neighbors are asking me why my lawn is looking greener than theirs even though I am not irrigating the lawn. The trick is following a natural lawn care program that increases the drought-tolerance of the lawn, extending the greening of the lawn longer into the summer season. For established lawns, a few simple natural lawn care steps include:

          *·     Mow lawn high throughout the summer (3-3.5 inches).
          *.      Water deeply once per week in the morning.
          *.      Avoid pesticide use on drought stressed lawns. 
    *.   Do not apply excess nitrogen fertilizer in the summer; wait until the fall. 
    *.   Aerate and overseed to prevent thatch and increase turf density.

If you decide to let the lawn go dormant, the question to ask is: How much water does it take to keep the lawn alive? For a lawn that is drying out, applying 1/3 inch of water every three weeks will keep your lawn dormant, but ready to green up again when conditions improve.

If you aren’t considering letting your lawn go dormant, keep these point in mind:
     Maintaining a green lawn in hot summer conditions can double the  amount of watering necessary to maintain the lawn (two inches per week).
*       Watering needs to be done before the lawn becomes dormant, when the very first signs of drought stress appear. DO NOT start watering a lawn that has already browned and entered a state of dormancy, as it will stress the grass plants, promote weeds, and encourage undesirable insects, such as grubs, to take up residence in the lawn.
·*      Many municipalities have lawn watering restrictions during these hotter summer months when increasing water demand for lawn irrigation is at its peak. Familiarize yourself with any lawn watering restrictions and adjust your watering schedule accordingly.
For more information, visit www.lawntogreatlakes.org.

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