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Thursday, November 20, 2014
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Published: Saturday, 7/21/2012

COMMENTARY

Lawn vs. drought: a tough fight

BY KELLY HEIDBREDER

Shredded wheat, dried noodles, hay, and dust. That is how you are describing your lawns right now in your emails and Facebook posts.

Mine does too. But have no fear, your lawn will come back. It knows how to survive, so when it is struggling, it goes into neutral. Your turf is used to going into this dormant state in late July and August. But this year's lack of rain and record temperatures have made it check out even sooner.

Watering

If you must have that dark green color, you need to keep it watered. Early morning is the best time to water your lawn and garden. The winds are usually quiet, which will prevent evaporation. The water has a better chance to soak into the soil and do its job. The daytime sunlight will help dry off the foliage to prevent fungus and bacteria from growing and causing problems later.

Your turf needs about an inch of water each time you water. This could take one hour, or this could take four hours. It all depends on the water pressure at your house. Some lawn experts say you should water two times a day, three days a week to maintain a lush green lawn during a drought.

Water your lawn on a regular basis for longer periods to get the water deep into the soil. Scientists say this encourages longer root growth on your turf, rather than frequent short watering. And when your turf has longer roots, it will be able to withstand a drought better.

Problem areas

Since your turf is in a dormant state, it doesn't need fertilizer. But it can be stressed enough to invite problems. If you see yellow spots appear in your lawn, it could be dollar spot. They are usually two and a half inches across. Some can grow up to eight inches or greater in diameter. If you don't treat them, these patches can turn into sunken areas with a red brown border. When the weather turns wet, these areas may cover over with a white mold on the leaves.

Take a close look at your grass. If it has lesions or spots on individual blades close to the tip, it may be caused by a fungus that will girdle the blade of grass. These spots are usually bleached white with a dark brown edge. It won't hurt the root, but it can stunt their growth.

Fall fighter

Lawn experts say the grass can grow right out of some of these problems, so give it a good dose of fertilizer once it comes back in the fall.

If you have had a lot of traffic on the dormant lawn, it might not be able to come back from the trampling and need to be reseeded. Wait to do this in late September when the temperatures are cooler and moisture levels are higher.

Rake out the dead grass first, dig up the top one inch layer of top soil to give the seed something to grab on to. Toss some grass seed into the bare spots and cover it with a little top soil. Keep it evenly moist until you see it start to sprout. Then, water it about once a week until it gets strong. Keep the kids, dogs and mowers off the new grass to give it a chance to build a root mass and give it some fertilizer before it goes to bed for the winter.

Enjoy the break

Look on the bright side, we are saving money right now. We don't have to spend money filling up your lawn mower with gas.

Contact Kelly Heidbreder at getgrowing@gmail.com.



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