Master gardeners: How to maintain a lawn during hot summer months

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Master Gardener Gary Fredricks provided some tips and tricks during a workshop for those wanting to keep a lush, green garden during the summer months.

Fredricks first asked participants to think about the qualities they hope to achieve in their gardens.

“Do I want the perfect yard?” He asked during the Zoom meeting on Aug. 3. “But when we talk about the summer it’s really: do I want a green yard?”

In order to maintain a healthy yard, Fredricks said the most important task is to mow it. He said people should avoid taking off more than one-third of the grass height when mowing because it will cause damage, including browning.

He showed a side-by-side comparison of two yards. One had taller grass but was more green, while the other was cut short and starting to turn brown.

Fredricks suggests mowing on the highest setting to keep it longer. It also decreases the amount of sunlight hitting weeds so it is less work for the landowner in the long run, he said.

“The lower we cut the grass, the more nutrients it needs,” Fredricks said.

In the winter and summer, the grass becomes dormant and doesn’t grow because the temperatures are either too hot or cold.

The next step for a green lawn is watering, Fredricks said.

Fredricks said people can check to see how much they’re watering their lawn by placing tuna cans under a sprinkler. There should be around one inch of water in the can.

He said the method is more accurate for the amount of water you should be giving the lawn, rather than “eyeballing it.”

It is ideal to water in the morning or evening when it’s a cooler temperature so the sun doesn’t evaporate most of the water.

When it comes to taking extra steps for a green lawn, homeowners have options to apply either organic or chemical fertilizers.

Fredricks said chemical fertilizers, like 2, 4-D Herbicide, are usually made with nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. The nitrogen makes the grass visibly greener soon after application, while the phosphorus feeds the grass root system. The potassium targets the circulatory system of the grass.

He said a 12-4-6 mix is the correct fertilizer to use.

Organic fertilizers are usually made of complex molecules, so when living things like worms or moles dig in the dirt, the nutrients are broken down for the grass to use. These fertilizers can include compost or manure.

Organic fertilizers slowly release the nutrients, so the benefits can be seen for years, rather than months, Fredricks said.

When using herbicides to kill weeds, Fredricks recommends spot spraying a weed. If the weed is oversprayed, the herbicides can run off into a neighbor’s lawn.

He also said the chemical should only be applied to active-growing plants when it’s between 50 to 80 degrees outside without rain.

Fredricks discouraged the use of Roundup because it kills everything around the weed.

The WSU Master Gardeners of Cowlitz County host informational workshops every week on varying topics. So far, the group has held over 50 presentations this year.

Previous events can be viewed online at cowlitzcomg.com/work
shop-videos.

For questions, contact Fredricks via email at garyf@wsu.edu or by phone at 360-577-3014, ext 3.

For the next workshop, WSU Master Gardener Art Fuller will discuss when to harvest vegetables for the best results. The meeting is scheduled for noon on Aug. 17 via Zoom.

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