HELP YOUR LAWN SURVIVE WEATHER EXTREMES

We may have survived this summer’s extreme rain and heat, but those of us who spend time and money maintaining our landscape had to work a bit harder to keep the grass green and healthy.

“This has been a particularly challenging season,” said Rocky Bilyeu, maintenance and plant health care division manager for R&S Landscape, Midland Park.

So what’s a homeowner to do?

“During weather extremes, lawn-care maintenance is dictated by which extreme is going on at the time,” Bilyeu said. “Each requires a different course of action.”

THE HEAT IS ON

Long stretches of 85- to 90-plus degree days can wreak havoc on your lawn. To help it survive dry conditions and stay healthy the rest of the season, experts advise taking these steps:

  • Raise your lawn mower’s setting. “Under normal conditions, you should only cut about one-third of the grass blade,” Bilyeu said. “In hot, dry weather, it’s best not to cut at all. But if you must, cut at no less than three inches.”
  • Leave the clippings. This can help shade the soil so it doesn’t dry out further, while also providing a good portion of the nutrients your grass needs.
  • Keep mower blades sharp. Mowing with dull blades can break the grass, Bilyeu said, resulting in further loss of moisture and creating an increase in the possibility of disease. “Bugs and fungus and other lawn maladies move right in on weak, stressed grass,” he explained.
  • Adjust your lawn service contract. If you have a service mow your lawn, consider adjusting your contract to include a “flat rate’’ seasonal deal. That way, the workers don’t automatically mow the lawn (and charge you) even if it doesn’t need cutting.
  • Water deeply – one inch at least once a week – as long as local watering regulations allow.

If you’re unable to water for any reason, don’t fret if your lawn turns brown. “If a lawn is not watered, the grass will protect itself by shutting down or going into dormancy, resulting in the brown color,” said John Buechner, director of Technical Services for Holmdel-based Lawn Doctor. “When cooler temperatures and adequate moisture return, so will the lawn.”

DON’T FEED ME

Fertilizing your lawn during periods of extreme heat and/or drought is not recommended.

“When it comes to applying any treatment for the lawn, the hotter the weather, the greater the chance of damaging the grass,” said Bilyeu, adding that some applications can “cook” the grass. “For instance, if you spray a broadleaf weed control product, very dry grass can absorb much more of the product than you want, resulting in more stress to an already stressed lawn.”

Buechner warned, though, that lawns do need to be inspected to safeguard against destructive insects, such as sod webworm, chinch bugs and grubs. “Controls should be applied as needed, but avoid excessive fertilizers and weed controls until cooler temperatures return,” he said.

ALL WET?

“Naturally, there’s no need to water the lawn if there’s been a lot of rain, but too much water can also pose a challenge for homeowners,” said Bilyeu.

“Wet conditions definitely promote lawn disease,” Buechner added, “so avoid mowing when the grass is wet to reduce the spread of disease.”

During excessive rainy conditions, turn off your automatic or timed sprinkler system. This will not only conserve water but help preserve your lawn in the long run.

If properly cared for, lawns are very resilient, so weather-related setbacks don’t necessarily mean having to replace the entire stretch of grass. The good news is that most grass varieties grown in North Jersey require pretty much the same treatment, Buechner said.

When in doubt, though, contact your local lawn expert for professional help.

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