Three Things You Are Doing To Kill Your Lawn Part 3

The last problem to address in your outdoor living space is heat-stress.  Heat-stress is not a problem with a deep root system, but can be difficult to deal with for a shallow root system.  Heat-stress commonly causes you to fall behind and never catch back up in the battle to keep your lawn healthy and green. 


The problem is that the shallow roots can dry out so easily in the hot sun.  Also, bluegrass is a cool season turf, which means that it begins growing when the temperature coming out of the winter reaches the high 30’s or low 40’s and goes dormant when the temperature reaches the mid 80’s.  Dormant is not dead, but it is frequently brown. 


This means that when you are behind in keeping your lawn looking nice and green, and the temperatures are in the mid 80’s or higher (end of May on), you will not be able to catch up because the grass is dormant. 


The only way to beat this problem that I know of is to cool down the ambient temperature at the crown of the grass.  This is commonly done by over-watering and shallow watering and results in a lot of waste water. 


Without understanding everything explained previously, it is very difficult to convince a person with a green lawn that is over-watering and shallow watering that they can cut back drastically on their watering.  Hopefully this process makes sense to you if you are guilty. 


The solution to heat-stress is called syringing and was introduced to me by Dr. Frank Williams of Brigham Young University.  Syringing is done by using one or two programs on the clock and setting the water to come on several times during the hottest part of the day, but just for very short times (2-3 minutes for rotors and 1 minute for pop-ups). 


This will have the same effect of cooling down the ambient soil temperature and bringing the turf out of dormancy without over-watering or shallow watering.  I have probably had more success in helping out lawns with this strategy than any other strategy previously mentioned.  Keep in mind that this is only a technique required for a shallow root system, because a deep root system will not suffer from heat-stress. 


One might argue that you should conserve water and let the turf go dormant in the hottest months, but that poses several problems, the first of which is simply the loss of function of a dormant lawn. 


Another problem with that argument is that you stand to lose two to three months worth of good healthy root growth without the healthy and active blades above ground doing their job.  In my experience, water invested in syringing now will result in an even healthier and more drought tolerant lawn in the future which will need less water in the long run.


Try out these strategies and enjoy your results.  Remember to be patient because it can take a full, healthy growing season to establish a good root system.  Don’t become too confused by anything mentioned previously and know that sprinkler clocks are really not that complicated. 


All clocks have three big elements in common and hopefully a fourth.  The three big elements are Days to Water, Run Time, and Start Times. 


Hopefully your clock has the fourth element, which is separate Programs.  The Run Time and Start Time were addressed by the discussion of shallow watering, the Days to Water was discussed by the over-watering discussion, and Programs was mentioned in talking about heat-stress—but can also be beneficial in separating zones for different watering needs. 


When buying a clock, I really don’t think brand matters too much, but I would definitely look for a clock with these four components and, preferably one that allowed you to set the days on a 14 day or 28 day cycle as opposed to just weekly, but that is the least of the priorities.

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