Ideally if you live on the East Coast you would choose to lay a variety of lawn perfectly suited to the climate; one that is drought tolerant, shade tolerant and which doesn’t allow invasive grasses or weeds to take over. Unfortunately many of us inherit our lawn when we move in so we must learn how to maintain our lawn during a hot and dry summer on the East Coast.
Start in Spring to get ready for Summer
Spring is the time to fertilise, aerate, detatch and top-dress your lawn. Fertilising in Spring will give your lawn a boost as it emerges from the dormant phase and begins growing again; this will help the lawn to cope during the warmer months. You should only aerate, detatch and top-dress your lawn as it requires it; don’t undertake just as part of your Spring lawn care. That said, Spring is the best time to endeavour to aerate your compacted lawn and detatching (removing that layer that has built up between the top of the grass plants and the roots) will allow water, oxygen and nutrients reach the soil and the grass plant roots. These processes will also help summer watering to penetrate and not simply run off the grass.
If your lawn is struggling, top-dressing for nutrients will provide a boost of nutrients and protect the soil while the lawn grows.
At the beginning of the summer season
Consider applying a wetting agent, particularly if a very hot and dry summer is predicted. As soil dries out it also becomes water repellent so an application of a wetting agent can help.
Wetting agents will soak into the soil and coat the soil particles with a water attracting agent which breaks down any greasy coating on the surface of the soil particle. This process allows the soil to hold onto water for longer periods of time, as well as allowing dry soils to soak up much more water than they would otherwise.
Mow regularly but take less off. You don’t want to mow your lawn too short during summer as this will cause stress to the plants and expose the soil to the heat, drying it out. If your lawn is cut too short it will suffer greatly from water evaporation. Regular mowing will also ensure the lawn is not scalped by removing too much leaf in a single mowing; this can easily kill sections of lawn which are under heat stress.
Many areas of the East Coast are still under some form of water restriction however it is only necessary to water lawns once a week; just make the watering long and heavy. This type of watering will cause a deeper penetration of the water into the soil and will encourage a deeper root system.
What to avoid during a hot and dry summer
Hot and dry conditions means that your lawn will already be suffering large amounts of stress so you need to avoid adding to it. During very hot periods put off activities such as lawn repair processes (applying top dressing, seeding, mowing an overgrown lawn), fertilising once the heat arrives, and applying weed control products.
Avoid watering late at night as this will encourage the breeding of lawn diseases.
If areas are your lawn are struggling in the heat try to avoid the area or at least limit the traffic to give the lawn the best chance to repair.
In an emergency, after a particularly hot, dry day and with no rain on the horizon, your lawn will benefit greatly from a long, deep, early morning watering.
A healthy and well maintained lawn will benefit from less weeds, will stop invasive lawns and will a pleasure to use all summer long despite the heat and humidity.