Summer officially starts June 21st, but for anyone who has lived in Florida very long we know it’s already here. However, this year is unusual for a number of reasons: 1. Disney is actually restricting the number of people entering their parks and 2. Nearly 70% of our state is in a drought.
If you care more about the 2nd point than the 1st, you’re probably a Florida homeowner.
As lawn care professionals, we get so used to the rain and humidity that we’re a little unsure how to respond to the swift climate change ourselves. However, we have also learned a thing or two in our years of servicing Florida lawns on doing more with less, and making one drop of water stretch as far as possible.
So, in behalf of all bewildered Florida homeowners, here are 5 tips on how to care for your lawn this summer in these drought conditions:
1. Don’t Over-Fertilize!
As temperatures rise, the grass will burn and create a flush of growth that will struggle in the hot, summer sun. Stop fertilizing at least 30 days before temperatures rise, which is right around now. If your lawn is already looking straggly, stop fertilizing now. Just resist the urge and save your extra fertilizer for the cooler months of October and November when they can grow up nicely without the threat of drying out.
Bonus Lawn Tip: You can also use organic fertilizers (if your budget allows) which are naturally slow-release and much less likely to burn your lawn, or pollute the environment.
2. Raise Your Mower Blades
Taller grass is more drought-tolerant because it grows deeper roots and shades the ground to prevent weeds. In a drought, mow your lawn at 3”-4” or as high as your mower blades will allow. Also, mow regularly enough to prevent cutting more than 1/3 of the grass blades each time, which prevents the clippings from smothering the grass and keeps it healthier longer. Always keep your mower blades sharp, and make sure your mower is cutting your grass, not tearing it, which minimizes stress on your lawn during hot, dry days.
3. Water Wisely
Most lawns need at least one inch of water each week, which usually requires no work on our parts during Florida summers. But, as we said, this year is different. Use a rain gauge to track the amount of rainwater your lawn receives. Or, if you can’t afford one, just place a small tuna can in your lawn. If the can holds an inch of water after one week, you’re golden! If not, water your lawn to compensate for the water that is lacking.
Bonus Lawn Tip: Water early in the day to reduce evaporation, and whatever you do, never let your lawn turn brown or go dormant. It takes much more water to bring a lawn “back to life” than it does to keep it healthy.
4. Watch Out for Weed Killers
An already stress-out lawn will not respond well to extra chemicals, herbicides or pesticides, so use week killers sparingly. While summer is the best season is the best season to remove growing weeks before they bloom, hand-pull weeds instead of using harsh chemicals to remove them. Or, use weed control products only when temperatures are under 85 degrees Fahrenheit for 3 consecutive days or more. Also, there are some natural options that will kill your weeds without harming grass. Opt for these products when needed.
5. Control Your Lawn Traffic
Just the tread of human feet on a lawn can wear down your grass over time. Install stepping stones along popular paths, such as to your front door or towards a rear deck area, to minimize the damage of foot traffic to your grass.
Bonus Lawn Tip: Avoid glazed tile or marble slabs that look gorgeous but can be dangerously slippery when wet. Instead, look for manufactured paving slabs made of sandstone or others rocks. These are easier to split up, have a flat surface and the colors stay more consistent over time, which is great for our Florida sun!
If a lush, gorgeous summer lawn is what you’re after, the Florida drought doesn’t have to stand in your way! Keep these tips in mind, and give yourself a pat on the back for doing something good for your home and your state. Meanwhile, if you need any extra landscape design or lawn care advice, give us a call! We also offer tree service as well.