Summer Lawn Care

Sunday, June 10, 2018 4:34 PM

It seems to be getting hotter earlier each year, and this year is no exception.  What are the most important things I should be focused on to ensure a successful lawn and garden season throughout the summer?   Alicia M., Broken Arrow

Hot and dry days of summer not only put a stress on people but on yards, plants and gardens as well.  Like people, keeping them healthy is the very best way to prevent diseases and other problems.  Proper weeding, mulching, fertilizing, and watering will go a long way to help create and maintain a healthy landscape.

Weeding: Nobody likes to weed, but it’s a necessity.  The key is to apply pre-emergent herbicides at the proper time, visit your gardens often and pull weeds as they appear, and to keep gardens properly mulched and lawns properly fertilized.  Remember – the very best countermeasure to weeds in a lawn is a thick, healthy turf.

Mulching: Mulching protects tree trunks from lawn equipment damage, reduces water loss due to evaporation, keeps the soil cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter, prevents grass and weed growth, adds beneficial organic material to the soil as it decays and, quite simply, it looks better.  Remember that most plants get oxygen through their roots, not from leaves, and will suffocate without air in the soil.  So, a maximum of 2-4 inches of a loose material, such as shredded tree bark, wood chips or compost from your own compost bin, is sufficient.  The desirable mulch pattern should look like a "doughnut" around the trunk, not a "volcano."            

Fertilizing: Having a soil test conducted is the very best way to know exactly what your lawn and gardens need.  A test should be done about every 3 years.  In general, Bermuda grass needs about five pounds of nitrogen per 1000 square feet each active growing season, applied between spring and fall.  So, a good rule of thumb is to apply one pound of nitrogen per 1000 square feet in each of the five months between and including April and August.  Fertilizing after August will increase the chances of spring lawn diseases (e.g. Spring Dead Spot) next year.  Fertilize fescue in the spring, then again in September and November.  Do not fertilize fescue or any cool-weather grass in the summer. 

Watering:  Watering more infrequently and longer is preferred over watering often and shorter.  This method allows the moisture to go deeper into the ground, thus coaxing roots to do the same.  By doing this, your lawn will sustain itself through hot/dry conditions much better.  Generally, the equivalent of one inch of water per week is sufficient.  If it’s very hot and dry, up to 2 inches per week may be necessary.  Water early in the morning to avoid heavy evaporation and to give the plants a chance to dry off before nightfall.  For gardens, drip irrigation is the most efficient way to water.    

You can always get answers to all of your gardening questions by calling the Tulsa Master Gardeners Help Line at 918-746-3701, dropping by our Diagnostic Center at 4116 East 15th Street, or by emailing us at mg@tulsamastergardeners.org.