The weather we are having is the type of conditions that will show you just how awesome a sustainable lawn can be. If you have allowed the grass to grow a little taller than usual, composted and not used chemicals on it, you should be experiencing the amazing care-free world of green grass at no cost. You can go as far as not needing to water your grass during these trying times for yards everywhere.
Inversely, If you have been cutting your grass too much and too short throughout the summer, you don’t have many choices at this point. You have to water it…a lot. Pesticides and fertilizers are the only way to keep your grass green. But if you are using chemicals to maintain your grass, don’t let your family or pets on it.
Two things really govern how well your lawn manages the hottest days of August. First, healthy grass starts with healthy roots. The roots need to be deep and strong at this point. The use of compost and not watering it has induced the roots to grow deeper and deeper into the soil looking for moisture. The spread of the roots make each blade of grass more likely to discover reserves of wetness underground, so it can drink all it wants as it tans in the afternoon sun. When you water your grass, you train the grass to look for easy moisture at the surface. The roots have not grown deeper. Instead, they have all stayed just below the dirt to lap up all the water it wants from your irrigation system. Now, the roots are now ill-protected and ill-developed to withstand even a day or so without your sprinklers. The heat of the day would roast them like hamburgers on the grill.
The second thing is your soil. Do you have healthy dirt? Healthy soil equals healthy grass. Root develop definitely helps your soil’s health. Deeper roots aerate the ground allowing a more diverse biology and air transfer. Your soil needs that air transfer and biodiversity to naturally keep the dirt full of the right elements. For example, your soil needs plenty of phosphorus and potassium. Phosphorus supports healthy roots and encourages growth. Potassium facilitates photosynthesis, respiration, water absorption and protein production in your grass. Potassium actually thickens the cellular walls within your grass armoring it against external stresses. Armor from external forces is absolutely necessary to standup the weather we are having right now.
The unsustainable approach to lawn care doesn’t balance the conditions of the soil, but makes it a hot mess. Typically, landscapers use too much fertilizer and phosphorus on your lawn. The excess damages your grass, making it more likely to die during stressful periods of drought and heat. Too much phosphorus can induce weed development as well. And if you don’t like weeds, you’ll splash your lawn with some other chemical to get rid of them only to farther off-balance the soil conditions.
Every lawn is different. The micro-habitat and micro-climate created by geography, shade, surrounding plant life, proximity to water and/or roads all play into how different each is. If you have started a new lawn from seed late in the season, you will need to water your grass this year. But for the yards that want to have a kid and pet friendly yard, the time to think about revamping your approach to your yard is now. Though I would not recommend going cold turkey in August, there are a few things you can do to prep for later this year and next year. One thing you can do is let your grass start growing a little taller. Keep it, at least, 2 ½ to 3 inches tall. If you really want to go all out, let it grow 4 inches tall a couple of times in August. You can also get a soil test to find out what’s the balance of potassium and phosphorus in your soil. Third, modulate the amount of water you are using on your grass. If you are watering it everyday, try every other day. If you are already watering every other day, try every three days.
Come September, when the days get a little cooler and the external stresses dissipate, you can do more to help your grass. Feed your lawn an organic fertilizer or rich compost (like mushroom compost). No synthetic chemicals and say no to pesticides too. Get your lawn aerated, and add new grass seed to problem spots. Also, try not to water your lawn anymore than 1 inch throughout Sept to the very end of the season. These and a few other actions will detox your yard making it healthier and safer for everyone.