As it heats up (and dries out) this summer, it’s only natural to worry about the slowly browning grass in your front yard. There are a few things to keep in mind when it comes to watering, however, so you can not only be kind to your lawn, but also be kind to the planet as well.
Know when to water. Color is one indication that your grass wants a drink, but it’s not the be-all end-all of lawn health. One key measure to look for is known as “footprinting.” If your grass doesn’t rebound after you step on it, but stays crunched down, it’s suffering heat stress, and could use some water.
Know what time to water. Run your sprinkler early in the day (4am – 8am). If you water in the mid-day, the wind and heat of the day will evaporate the water before it gets to the roots of your grass. If you water in the evening, the water may stay on the ground into the evening, as the temperature cools. This creates prime conditions for fungus and mildew to creep into your lawn. If you have a sprinkler system, it’s easy to set the time for it to be watering. You can also buy timers that fit any hose bib if you don’t have a programmable, system, or just make turning on the sprinkler part of your morning routine.
Know how much to water. Watering the soil encourages grass to send roots down into the irrigated earth. The deeper the roots, the more earth the grass can pull water and nutrients from, so you want to encourage deep root growth. It’s much better to give your lawn infrequent, deep waterings than frequent, shallow waterings. Don’t run your sprinklers every day, and be sure to switch off your system if it’s rained recently.
Mow your grass better. Shorter grass makes soil dry out quicker, keeps roots short, and is more susceptible to weeds and pests. Each type of grass has different height guidelines, but in general, 2 ½ to 3 ½ inches is a good height. Grass can be damaged if you cut off more than a third of the total length of grass per mow, so a short lawn is one that needs more frequent mowing. The City of Saline Environmental Commission has rulers to pick up showing the best height for mowing, and you can pick one up at the Environmental Commission tent at Saline Summerfest, or at the Farmers’ Market.
Think about if you need to water. You might notice that your lawn isn’t growing as fast as it was in May, and is getting brown. It’s not dying, it’s dormant! Different kinds of grasses have different mechanisms for tolerating rough conditions, but it’s not uncommon for grass to slow or cease its growth when the environment doesn’t allow for it. The grass will then spring back to life when rain does come. If you can live with slightly less green grass for a few weeks, you can just wait for it to come back when the conditions are right.
Saline Environmental Commision - Luke Schmerberg
More information - Salinebegreen.com