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Summer Lawn Care

The dog days of summer are just around the corner and these can be hard times for our gardens. When temperatures soar and rain becomes scarce I receive an influx of questions about maintaining a beautiful lawn.

Now, this is an understandable concern because lawns are a valuable asset, just as the other shrubs and trees around your home. If you don't think so, just try spending the time, money and energy to replace one. It's no small job. Here are a few tips that may help bring your grass through the summer.

When mowing, leave the blades of your grass slightly longer by just a couple of inches. This will help shade their roots and reduced moisture evaporation from the soil. So raise the blades on your lawn mower.

Next, it's best to water in early morning, very early, like at 5 a.m. This gives the lawn an opportunity to dry before nightfall, a time when types of fungus are most active. This is also usually a non-peak time for most communities' water supply. It's also much better to water heavily a few times a week than to water lightly more often. You see deep soaking encourages deep root growth, where as light watering encourages the roots to stay close to the surface of the soil, making your lawn more susceptible to heat and drought.

Another thing to keep in mind is an actively growing lawn this time of year will require about an inch to an inch and a half of water per week. This of course will depend on your soil type. Sandy soils require more water; clay soils require less.

I hold off on the fertilizer this time of year, as this would only promote growth, which means more watering and mowing. This fall I will apply a fertilizer high in potassium to encourage strong root development and help prepare the grass for winter. It's best to fertilize just after the lawn has been mowed and when the grass is dry. I use a spreader to get an even distribution. I set the gauge to a low setting and go over the area several times, overlapping each pass. Then I just water it in.

With all the traffic my lawn is getting I sometimes get sunken places and the lawn mower drops down and skins off the grass. But there is a simple solution for this that I picked up on the golf course.

Just mix five shovel fulls of sand to one shovel full of seed to about a cup of slow release of fertilizer. And I like to add about a shovel full of sterilized topsoil from the garden center for a little more nutrition. Now if your lawn grass is the variety that puts out little runners or stolens like a hybrid Bermuda or St. Augustine, you don't even have to bother with the seed just use the sand/topsoil mixture. Those little runners will knit together and cover it in no time.

Lawns can be a source of pride; just don't let the summer heat get the most of it and you.