Now that the extreme heat has passed, how’s your lawn faring?

By Bonnie Orr
WSU Chelan/Douglas County Master Gardener
August 17, 2022

Bonnie Orr
Bonnie Orr – WSU Extension Chelan/Douglas County Master Gardener – photo by Don Seabrook, Wenatchee World

It is August. The weather the first half of summer was moderate until a scorching end to July. The tomatoes, though, are ripening; all is well with the world. Well, maybe not the lawn.

How does your lawn look? The fescue went dormant by the end of June, and it will re-sprout when the weather cools and the days become shorter in mid-September.

The crabgrass, meanwhile, is having a great time. I am always surprised at the places those little crabgrass seeds germinate in sunny places in my garden. The quackgrass has also been raging under the soil, putting out those long, white roots that you can almost unthread for several yards. And the Kentucky bluegrass, if it has been keep fairly tall (2 ½ to 3 inches) and the homeowner has been diligent with thatching and aerating, should be in its prime.

August is when you finally realize how effectively the irrigation system distributes water and how the deep shade inhibits the growth of a sturdy lawn. Many times, application of more water will not solve the problems of spotty turf growth or the profusion of weeds that have taken over the places where the turf grass has failed.

How much water are you placing on the lawn with each run of your irrigation system?

Tuna cans are a reliable means of measuring the water flow. The recommended rate for lawns in our area in August is 2 inches per week put down in only two applications of 1 inch each — for example, on Tuesday and Saturday. The heavier saturation encourages grass roots to grow deeper into the soil to access the water and to keep cool. Ask the WSU Master Gardeners about this technique that actually allows you to use less water overall with better results.

Often tree roots compete with turf grass and utilize the water before the turf does. In addition, trees and large shrubs shade the ground, and lawn needs full sun to grow vigorously. The Master Gardeners can help you troubleshoot your lawn problems. You can bring samples of turf to the Third Saturday events or on Thursday evenings from 4 to 6 p.m., both at the Community Education Garden at Springwater and Western avenues.

How are the clover lawns faring? Clover mixed with other small broadleaf plants such as wild strawberries, yarrow or ajuga seem to fill in faster and suffer less from weed competition. Other gardeners prefer the ”lawn look” of pure mini-clover as a ground cover.

Last year’s very warm summer created difficult growing conditions for newly seeded clover lawns. It seems in our area, fall seeding is more effective because of the cooler autumn temperatures. Clover takes a full four seasons to fill in bare areas, so it is not a quick fix.

The one aspect of clover that really appeals to me is that clover does not go dormant as turf lawns do and stays green all year long, even when not growing vigorously in late fall, winter and early spring. In addition, clover takes about 30% less water, a consideration for all of us as we move into periods of drought. Also, there is less mowing, no need for fertilizer and no use of herbicides.

However your lawn grows, take some time to sit outside and enjoy it.

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