During the last five years, our community has experienced four extreme weather conditions. Lawns and landscape plantings have really taken a beating. Those living in Muster are still recovering from the flooding of 2008 and, since then, we have flip-flopped from flood to moderate or severe drought.
2012 was one of the worst in the Midwest’s history for drought stress. “I didn’t go to school to be a meteorologist, so I won’t make any predictions for what 2013 will bring us. What I can do is plan for the worst and hope for the best,” says Nick Shaw at Lawn Doctor. “As with most things, the old saying of ‘failing to plan is planning to fail’ holds true with lawn care, too. Mowing, watering, feeding and controlling pests are the four key aspects of lawn care that we can control; so lets start planning,” he says.
Things to consider-
Mow high: A grass plant is a living solar collector. The larger the collection area, the more energy the grass plant can create. Keeping the lawn longer also keeps the ground cooler and reduces how quickly water evaporates from the surface of the soil.
Water infrequently but heavy: Deep watering or watering until the water penetrates at least 4-5 inches into the soil is key because this is where root development happens. On sandy soils, water penetrates more quickly. On clay, this can take up to an hour per watering zone (whether you use an in-ground sprinkler or one attached to your hose). A great way to test water penetration is to run your sprinklers, then take out a screwdriver, poke it in the soil and move it around. The soil will be moist at 5 inches if you are getting good water penetration. If the soil is not moist enough, water more or contact a professional for help. Also, remember that weather plays a large role in how effective watering is for your lawn. If it has been hot and dry for weeks, you may need to water. If it is cool and rainy, like in 2011, you may water less frequently.
Use the correct amount of fertilizer: Fertilizer is like hot sauce, too much of it is not a good thing. If doing it yourself, READ THE BAG. If you still have questions, ask for help or hire a professional. Improper fertilizing can actually make a lawn less healthy, damages the environment, wastes money and sets up the lawn for future problems like fungus or insect stress.
Control pests using the correct products: Pests in the lawn include weeds, insects, diseases and animals. If you have a dandelion, use a weed spray or pull it out. If there are grubs eating the lawn, an insect control product is best. Shaw stated, “last season we consulted on a job where the customer had used a mixture of bleach and water softener salt to kill off mildew in her lawn. Bleach works great in the bathroom, but it should never be used on a lawn and never if it was mixed with salts. The good news is she killed off the mildew; the bad news is she also destroyed half her lawn and had to have the soil excavated and replaced with fresh dirt because it was contaminated with salt and bleach."
Shaw recommends, "make a plan using good information and sound lawn care practices and you will be able to adapt to whatever extreme weather Mother Nature throws at us this season.”