It sure has been hot in the Panhandle this summer, and the scorching heat may have you concerned about caring for your lawn. We did some research and got some tips from professional landscapers for best practices for watering during the summer.
First, how do you know if your lawn is suffering from heat stress? There are four common ways to tell:
- If you walk across the grass and you see footprints
- If the grass is a blue-gray color
- If you poke a screwdriver or stick 4”-6” into the ground and the soil within the hole is not moist
- If the edges on the blades of grass are curled inward
If your lawn is experiencing any or all of these signs, here are some helpful watering guidelines.
One of the most important considerations for watering in heat is the time of day you water. The experts say between 4:00 a.m. and 7:00 a.m. is the best time. It’s cooler and less windy, so the moisture evaporates less quickly. Although it may seem like evening would be a better time because of the temperature, that is not the case. Watering at night doesn’t give your lawn a chance to dry out, which could cause fungal issues.
How often you water is also crucial for your lawn’s health. Generally, it is recommended to water two to three times per week for 10 to 15 minutes per station or until your lawn receives ¾” to 1-1/2” of water per week, depending if you receive any rain. Although it may be a little counterintuitive, in extreme heat it is better to water just twice a week; however, you should water longer, about 20 to 30 minutes on each cycle or until your lawn receives 1” each time you water. Basically, you want to water deeply and less frequently to promote healthy roots.
How do you know if you’re watering 1” deep? The experts suggest either buying a rain gauge or using empty tuna or cat food cans, which are about 1” deep, placed around the yard to measure the amount of water it is receiving. Time how long it takes for the cans to reach the depth you want, and set the timer on your sprinkler system.
Proper mowing is another critical step in beating the heat and keeping your lawn healthy. Follow the 1/3 rule, which means you should never trim more than 1/3 of the grass height. It is suggested that the grass should be 3-1/2” to 4” tall. Taller grass can shade the lower grass which provides protection from the sun and helps to retain moisture. You should mow less frequently and only when needed.
It is also a good idea to keep the clippings on the grass because they provide essential nutrients as well as offer shade. Try to avoid mowing during the hottest part of the day to protect your lawn, and you.
Other ways to avoid heat stress for your lawn include:
- Keep your lawn healthy all year long
- Don’t fertilize in extreme heat
- Ensure sprinkler heads are positioned at a low angle
- If using a sprinkler and hose make sure you cover all areas of the yard
- Don’t overwater
If you have moved into a new home and have new sod, it’s important to start watering immediately to get the suggested 1” of water. During extreme heat, you may need to water one to two times per day for the first couple of weeks to get the roots established and avoid the chance of losing your lawn.