You’ve likely heard various news stories about how summer 2023 has been one of the hottest summers on record for the USA. But it hasn’t just been in America. Across the world, July 2023 has been the hottest month on record. Focusing back on America, the American West has been experiencing water shortages due to heat and drought, and the traditional American lawn has turned into a big green punching bag for select environmental activist groups. Because of this, many homeowners find themselves in the awkward position of caring about their lawn while still being conscious of the environment. By looking at how the use and distribution of water, pesticides, and fertilizers in your lawn, it’s possible to keep a healthy and sustainable lawn as the summer comes to an end.
Watering Your Lawn
The easiest (and most obvious) way to reduce your lawn’s water intake is to stop overwatering. Just like how overwatering is the leading cause of houseplant death, overwatering your lawn can lead to yellowing lawns and dead grass. This issue is exacerbated because when you overwater a lawn, the water waste is much more significant than the water that is wasted when you have a heavy hand on your watering can. The EPA estimates that during the summer, 50% of the water homeowners use outdoors is wasted because of overwatering. The average American family uses over 300 gallons of water per day, and 30% of this water is used outdoors, though this number fluctuates based on what region you live in.
Are you worried about overwatering? Use these points as a checklist of common symptoms of overwatering.
- Runoff. Yes, this is a rather obvious clue, but if you see water splashing down a hill or trickling onto your sidewalk, you’ve oversaturated the soil. Using additional water at this point would be both wasteful and detrimental.
- Yellowing or browning grass. “Wait! Isn’t yellow grass a sign that your lawn is underwatered?” If you thought that, don’t worry, you’re correct. However, it also applies to overwatered grass. The way to tell is to take off your shoes and walk on your lawn. How does the grass and soil feel on your feet? If the soil is crumbly or crunchy and the grass feels brittle, it is underwatered. If you feel like you’re stepping on a sponge, your lawn is severely overwatered.
- There are noticeable amounts of fungi and bugs. All lawns are going to have bugs crawling through them, but if you’re noticing unusually high concentrations, this should be interpreted as a sign of overwatering. If you notice clumps of mushrooms close together, that is also a sign of overwatering.
So, when does your lawn actually need water? And how should you water your lawn to avoid overwatering?
- Check for curling at the tips of grass blades. If the tip is curling inwards onto itself, water your lawn immediately. The grass will bounce back and be just fine, but a failure to water at this point will eventually damage your lawn.
- The grass doesn’t spring up after being stepped on. If you walk across your lawn, look back, and can clearly see your footprints, the grass is dehydrated. Again, immediately watering your lawn can fix this, but the longer you wait, the higher the chance of permanent damage.
- Water in the early morning. Turn on those sprinklers between 5 and 9 AM. Watering your lawn in the afternoon when it’s hottest doesn’t keep your lawn cool. Instead, the water will evaporate before it can be absorbed by the root system. Do not water during the evening, as this can cause fungal infestations.
- Think about investing in a rain sensor. Rain sensors (also called rain shutoff devices) can control and override your sprinkler system when certain rainfall conditions have been met. One of the most common causes of water waste is when a sprinkler system is set to a timer and automatically activates after recent rainfall.
Healthy lawns still attract bugs, and there are certain types of pests that we want nowhere near our lawns and homes. However, spraying standard, off-the shelf pesticides can cause chemical damage to your lawn. Sure, you’ve taken out the bugs, but you’re left with an ugly yellow scar. Use natural, organic pesticides that repel and control pest populations without stressing your lawn. Here are three recommendations from ARBICO Organics. All suggestions assume that you have an effective way to apply pesticides and/or fertilizers to your lawn, such as a push-along spreader or a handheld sprayer.
- Garlic Barrier. The natural garlic spray will be absorbed into your lawn approximately 30 minutes after application. Don’t worry about the smell! That’s absorbed too. At the time of application, concentrated garlic damages the skin of many common insect pests, which shortly results in their death. After the application, the garlic absorbed by your lawn will continue to repel insects for up to 2 weeks.
- Mosquito Magician. Nobody likes mosquitoes. Get rid of both larvae and adults by applying Mosquito Magician to your lawn. A natural mixture of citronella, cedar, lemongrass, garlic, geraniol, and rosemary oils come together to rid your lawn of nature’s infamous bloodsuckers.
- Essentria G. Composed of essential oils like clove, thyme, and wintergreen, this insecticide was designed for application on schoolyards and government facilities. It repels nuisance insects while being safe for children to play in.
You never want to apply synthetic or chemical fertilizers to your lawn in the summer—the risk of burning your lawn is too high. Once August rolls around and the weather (finally) starts to cool, there’s only one more window where you can apply fertilizer to your lawn. You’ll want to apply your final batch of fertilizer in the late September to early October range. Ideally, you want to apply your final batch of fertilizer about 60 days before the first freeze. This fertilizer application is to help your lawn get greener faster in the spring. Look for a slow-release nitrogen fertilizer to tide your lawn through the winter. Before applying fertilizer in the fall, try doing a pH test on your lawn. If the soil is too basic or acidic, hold off on applying fertilizer, as it won’t be absorbed into the soil and will instead encourage weed growth. Winter will act as a reset for your lawn, and while it won’t be as green in spring as it would have been with proper fertilizing, you also won’t have to worry about an infestation of weeds.
ARBICO Organics was founded in Arizona in 1979. Today, they continue their mission of making effective, organic alternatives to mass market chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Visit them at Arbico-Organics.com to see their full product catalog.