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Beautiful lawns, rain or shine

Local experts discuss weather and techniques.

Lawns all over the Miami Valley are enjoying the change from last year’s scorching drought. However, there are still plenty issues to watch for as we move into late summer. We talked with two local experts for tips on how to keep your lawn from getting waterlogged and how to prepare it for the months ahead.

Water everywhere

2012 was a year of record highs and little rain. However, 2013 is its polar opposite with relatively cool temperatures and plenty of rainfall. It’s a great year for lawns and gardens, but too much water isn’t always a good thing.

“Mushrooms (fungus) only grows when we have an abundance of rain, high humidity and cooler nighttime temperatures,” said Mark Grunkemeyer of Buckeye EcoCare in Centerville. “Wet, overcast, humid conditions allow disease organisms to thrive and potentially cause damage to plants.” Grunkemeyer likened the effect to athlete’s foot, which can occur when feet stay warm and damp for too long.

“The wet weather is causing a lot of fungus disease,” agreed Steve Fry, owner of Nu Lawn in South Vienna. However, if your lawn has fallen victim, don’t panic just yet. “It isn’t usually serious, usually it’s temporary. There are fungicides you could use, but they’re expensive,” Fry advised. “If we get some dry weather, that will help a lot.”

According to Fry, dry weather often solves the fungus problem. If not, it’s best to consult a lawn expert.

Ready for August

The first part of summer 2013 may have been damp and grass-friendly, but August is coming, and the rain could easily dry up. Most likely, your lawn prefers cooler weather and won’t welcome the change of pace.

“Most lawns here in the Miami Valley are made up of Kentucky bluegrass, which is a cool season turf,” Grunkemeyer said. “Temperatures above 75 degrees or lack of moisture will create drought stress within the plant.”

In addition, the ground is now saturated and “turf roots cannot get any oxygen, thus creating shallow roots and more potential for heat and drought damage.”

So if the rain dries up, at what point should you start watering? “Any time we don’t get any rain for a week, start watering once or twice a week,” Fry said. “Water about half an hour in each spot because a little sprinkling isn’t going to do any good.”

In fact, too little water can worsen the problem by adding disease-fostering humidity to the grass.

If you want your lawn to reach its full potential, you’ll need to go beyond watering. “Maintain adequate soil fertility,” Grunkemeyer said. “Balanced nutrition applied at the proper time of the year is essential to plant health and vigor.”

You should also be sure to treat for late summer weeds, Fry advised, as well as watch for late summer pests “especially chinchbugs and sod-web worm.”

Keep it mowed

Mowing is important, but proper mowing is essential. “A general rule of thumb is to raise your mowing height when air temperatures go up and lower the deck when temperatures go down,” Grunkemeyer suggested. “Summertime mowing height should always be 2.5 to 3.5 inches, depending on your grass turf variety, and always leave your clippings lay.”

“Keep the blade sharp,” Fry recommended. A dull blade can have unfortunate cosmetic effects as well as contributing to more fungal disease.

“Mowing frequency during periods of stress is also critical,” Grunkemeyer said. “If temperatures remain high and drought conditions persist for more than 10 days, do not mow your lawn.”

With proper mowing and watering, your lawn has an excellent chance of making it through the driest summer months. “Remember,” Grunkemeyer said. “Your lawn is Mother Nature’s carpeting for the earth. The better we care for our lawns, the more we protect the soils where we live, work and play.”

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