Our landscaping expert explains how the recent hot weather can stress your yard (without showing it), and the most important things to do for it as we head into September.
If you’re really interested in gardening, the odds are that you also follow the weather pretty closely. While many people who spend their days indoors only encounter the weather when they walk out of the air conditioning for lunch or late in the day on the way to their car, it’s different for those of us in the Green Industry. We tend to subscribe to weather services, have weather apps on our phones and sometimes think that we could do just as well as the forecasters in predicting what’s on the weather horizon.
Depending on the summer weather we’ve had so far, August can be kind to our gardens or it can be a tough month. If we’ve had weekly thunderstorms and few days in the 90s, our landscapes are happy and our fall work will be easier. If we’ve had a hot dry summer with a couple of dozen days above 90, we’ll have more to do this fall and possibly well into the future.
One of the main features of our landscape that is particularly susceptible to a hot summer would be our lawn. Our lawns can go dormant and come back with the first rains of September but they can be under enough stress that they finally say enough is enough. Not only are dead roots not going to revive but a lawn under stress is also more likely to be hit by disease or insect problems. It’s also very susceptible to weeds looking for an opening. If things get bad enough, it’s time to start over.
While it may seem counter intuitive, August and into early September is the best time to over-seed or completely renovate a lawn in our area. Unfortunately, many people seem to think that this work is something that should be done once the weather turns cool and crisp in October. The problem with that strategy is our days are getting much shorter and the growing season is waning quickly. And, let’s not forget the falling leaves that would have to be removed from the newly seeded area. While not impossible, it is a challenge to produce optimal results. Take a look at your lawn now and if its needs re-seeding or sodding start to make plans. The warm days and cooler evenings of late summer are optimal for lawn restoration.
While it’s easy to let the lawn go dormant knowing it could revive, allowing our trees to do the same is not a good idea. Our large trees are simply not as forgiving. We need to first consider that trees are really designed to grow in the woods. They want the protection of other trees so that their roots are not exposed to the hot sun. The forest canopy also helps retain any moisture that does fall. The natural mulch provided by years of falling leaves helps replenish the soil and also helps to preserve moisture.
Planting trees in a lawn puts them in a more stressful situation. Not providing adequate moisture can have long-term consequences with slowly declining roots systems. Keep in mind that our trees don’t react as quickly as our lawns and herbaceous shrubs to drought stress. It may be two, three or more years before our tress tell us there is a problem. It’s not unusual that we have a tree in distress during a summer with seemingly perfect weather. The declining canopy is likely the result of harsh conditions from years past.
The lesson here is to keep an eye on the weather and on our landscapes. We have to provide the water that the clouds may not. The cost of the water, even with our increased rates, can be a bargain compared to renovating lawns and removing and replacing mature trees.