Keeping your lawn and garden healthy in summer

Now that the dry summer months are here, you will be happy to know that your lawn and garden may need far less water than you think in order to stay healthy. To avoid losing a large percentage of your water through evaporation, it is important to water early in the morning or in the evening.

Watering lawn
Rotating or oscillating sprinklers are appropriate for watering lawns, and it's best to water infrequently but deeply to encourage deep root growth. Frequent, shallow watering can make your lawn susceptible to drought stress, thatch, and weed problems. One inch of water per week is the general rule; it is easy to determine when your sprinklers have delivered the proper amount. Take several empty tuna or cat food cans and set them out in separate areas on the lawn. Mark a one-inch line on each can, turn your sprinklers on and check to see how long it takes for water to reach the mark.

Ornamental beds
Many mature trees and shrubs do not need much supplemental water. If you do water, it is best to use a drip or soaker hose rather than a sprinkler. You can manually water with a hose, but try to water the root zone rather than overhead watering. This keeps plant foliage dry, helping to prevent disease problems.
Just like lawns, infrequent, deep watering is best. How long you need to water depends a lot on your soil. In sandy soils, water moves downward quickly but does not spread very wide. The opposite is true for clay soils. If your soil contains good organic matter, water spreads both horizontally and vertically in the soil. Your soil may be somewhere in between, so determine what's right for your garden. Turn your soaker hose or drip line on for ½ hour and then check with your finger to see how far and wide the water has penetrated. Covering your soaker hoses or drip lines with 1-2" of organic mulch will cause the water to spread wider and decrease evaporation. .
If you already have an automatic sprinkler system or are planning to install one, you may be eligible for a rebate. Go to the Saving Water Partnership Web site at to see if you qualify.

Weed control
Weeds can be a real nuisance, but they also can help you determine the condition of your soil. For instance, buttercup appears most in wet, compacted, clay soils, and clover appears most in soils with low fertility. Dandelions thrive in dry soils with low oxygen levels, and moss thrives in the shade.
Lawn grass will struggle to survive in the above conditions, making it easier for the weeds to take over. The long-term solution to weed control in your lawn is to improve the soil conditions, enabling it to grow more robustly. To accomplish this aerate your lawn in the spring or fall, top-dress with ¼" compost, spread slow-release organic fertilizer each fall, and water properly during the summer. Refrain from using herbicides, including roundup or weed & feed products, as they can be harmful to people, pets, and the environment. If shade is the problem, consider replacing lawn with shade-loving groundcovers.
Dandelions and other weeds with long tap roots can be pulled with a Weed Hound or other stand-up weed puller. This is easiest when the soil is moist. Moss and large clover patches can be raked out. For lawns or landscape beds, corn gluten is an organic pre-emergent that can be spread like fertilizer. It does not work on existing weeds but can help prevent seed germination for 4-8 weeks.
Mulching tree and shrub beds can prevent weed problems by shading out the seeds, and can be used in tandem with corn gluten. Weeds that are in gravel paths, in between patio pavers or sidewalk cracks, or other non-planted areas can be deterred by pouring white vinegar or boiling water on their crowns. Using a flame-weeder can also be effective in these areas.

Mulching your landscape beds can achieve a wide variety of garden goals. All bare soil should be covered, in order to prevent compaction and erosion from rain and wind. Make sure to keep all mulch a few inches away from the trunks and stems of your woody plants to discourage plant disease. Using organic materials such as wood chips, compost, leaves, or straw is best, since they help build healthy soil as well as conserve water, prevent weed germination and decrease soil temperature fluctuations.
Wood chips are a great choice for mulching tree and shrub beds, and can also be used for informal pathways. A 2-4" layer of wood chips nourishes the beneficial fungi and bacteria in the soil, having a beneficial relationship with the roots of woody plants much like a natural forest floor ecosystem. Because of this, they also are a natural deterrent to many common weeds, which prefer a more meadow-like soil ecosystem.
For more information contact the Garden Hotline at 206-633-0224 or[[In-content Ad]]