April showers bring May flowers, but unfortunatley, June and July bring the heat. It’s not uncommon to have spells of dry seasons that last weeks in Minnesota. But for many homeowners, their lawns may be suffering. Here are some tips to follow to make sure your lawn stays healthy through the droughts.
Irrigate Your Lawn Regularly
Watering deeply and less frequently encourages deeper roots, which helps the grass withstand dry periods better. Water in the morning to reduce evaporation and keep the foliage from staying wet overnight, which can lead to fungal diseases.
Keeping your grass taller shades the roots and helps retain moisture. Cut it no shorter than 2-1/2 inches; 3 inches is even better. And don’t scalp the lawn! Removing more than one-third of the leaf blade stresses the grass and makes it more susceptible to drought, disease, and insect problems.
Use Sharp Blades
A dull blade rips rather than cuts the grass, which creates jagged edges that are more vulnerable to disease. Sharpen or replace the blade every 10 to 12 mowing sessions.
Applying fertilizer before drought sets in helps grass better withstand dry conditions. Be sure to use a fertilizer that contains slow-release nitrogen. And don’t overdo it! Too much fertilizer can make the grass more susceptible to drought stress.
Aerate Your Lawn
Aerating helps improve water and nutrient uptake by grassroots, as well as reduce compaction. Core aeration also reduces thatch buildup. Do it in early fall or late spring, when the grass is actively growing.
Use Mulch Around Trees and Shrubs
Mulching with wood chips or shredded leaves helps conserve moisture and keeps roots cooler in summer. Apply a 2- to 3-inch layer of mulch out to the drip line (the edge of the branches) of trees and shrubs. Keep mulch a few inches away from the trunk to prevent collar rot.
Be Wise with Watering
Don’t let the water run off your lawn; it’s a waste of water and money. Instead, water slowly and deeply so that the roots have time to absorb the moisture. And don’t water in the heat of the day; evaporation will be high and much of the water will simply evaporate.
Lawns will go dormant during periods of drought stress. They may turn brown, but they’ll green up again when conditions improve. Don’t be tempted to overwater in an attempt to keep them green; this will only make things worse in the long run by encouraging shallow roots and making the grass more susceptible to disease.