So far, this is the hottest summer recorded in the 184 years of weather records. (August 15, 2016) Video by
The grass is brown instead of green. The leaves on trees are already falling.
Welcome to summer of 2016, the hottest so far in Rochester in 184 years, not to mention the drought conditions.
Now that August is here and the heat is not letting up, what can you do to protect your plants, grass and trees? Laurie Broccolo, of Broccolo Tree and Lawn Care in Penfield and Dave Dailey of Birchcrest Tree and Landscape in Webster offer these five tips to keep your yard looking good.
1. Stay calm. It’s distressing to see leaves turn yellow and fall off trees this time of the year, but established trees are hardy, Broccolo said. What you can do now is irrigate the trees and aerate around the trees come fall to loosen up the compact, dry soil and let moisture in.
If the tree is more than three to five years old, do not fertilize it, she said. The stress is drought-related and fertilizing may push out new growth.
2. The grass will return. Don’t panic over a few brown spots, Dailey said. Let the rest of the lawn green up completely. As the lawn rejuvenates itself, the smaller spots will probably fill in by themselves, and some of the larger spots may fill in by the natural spreading of grass plants.
Brown spots that remain after the grass has returned to its natural condition will have to be repaired. Before repairing, you may want to check to be sure the grass was killed by the drought and not grubs. To check for grubs, cut a 12-inch by 12-inch square of sod on each side of the bare spot and fold it back. If there are zero to six grubs present in any of the squares, the damage was probably caused by the dry weather. If there are seven or more, grubs probably caused the damage and should be treated before repairing the lawn.
Repair the grass by raking out all of the dead grass. Use the same rake to loosen the soil. Then seed, sod or fertilize for repair.
3. Less is more. The grass doesn’t grow much in the dry heat. Once you repair your brown spots, don’t be too quick to begin mowing again, Dailey said. “Remember, your grass has been through a difficult period,” he said. What your lawn has gone through could even be described as traumatic, so be sure it’s thoroughly greened up and let it get some growth before you mow.”
The lawns that took the worst beating this season were those that were cut short, Dailey said. Those that were mowed at three inches or higher fared better. If your mower was set below three inches, Dailey recommends that you raise it to at least three inches before you mow again, and wait until the grass grows to at least four inches before mowing.
Continue to mow at three inches until the last mowing of the season. Then drop the mower deck down to two inches. Mowing at three inches exposes more green leaves to the sun so the plants manufacture more food through photosynthesis. More food means a healthier, thicker lawn, and this discourages weeds.
4. Mulch is your friend. If you haven’t done so already this season, apply mulch to your landscape. Mulch provides your landscape plants with many benefits and gives your landscape a finished look. Its most important benefits occur below ground as mulch retains moisture and releases it over time, Dailey said. It also moderates soil temperatures, which is very important in this hot, dry summer.
When it does rain or you irrigate, mulch will absorb water and then release it into the soil over time. This is important in heavy rains in retaining the moisture.
5. Dead is dead. The stress of the extreme drought has impacted plants such as burning bush and young trees, Dailey noted. Some of the bushes have completely died out. The young trees may have dying branches, but those may be saved by watering. For the bushes that have completely browned, it’s too late to save them.
“Dead is dead,” Dailey said.