The Earth has its music for those who will listen. -George Santayana
August has arrived, and with it the beginning of the end. Summer is wrapping up and we’re quickly heading toward autumn...but we’ve still got high temperatures and late-summer sun to deal with, meaning summer yard care is far from over. Plus, currently over 50% of the US experiencing drought conditions from moderate to severe, which makes having a nice yard tough work indeed, even with landscapers involved. But that doesn’t mean it’s time to give up - instead, there are a few steps you should take right now that can help you deal with the drought while also preparing your yard for fall. You might not be able to control the rainfall or the temperature, but you can make sure your yard is as prepared as you are for cooler temperatures and, hopefully, a little rain now and then.
Take Care of the Trees
Trees are an important part of any yard, and late summer is a great time to give them some extra attention. Particularly if you live in a place with heavy snowfall in the winter, summer can allow you to see where the tree may have weaknesses so you can avoid branches breaking under snow’s heavy weight. Here are our top three tips for taking care of your trees this month:
- Consult with an arborist: An arborist can help you determine how healthy your trees are and the right next steps to keep them as healthy as possible. Trees are generally okay in the summer temperatures (unless your area is undergoing a serious heat wave) but not all types of trees are as resilient to drought, and it’s possible you might need to remove some branches that have become weak.
- Finish summer pruning: There is some basic pruning that should be done during the summer when you can see the full bloom of your tree (and especially for fruit trees). Plus, decay fungi spread spores in autumn, so pruning is better done before and after the season.
- Make sure your trees are getting enough water: Especially for the drought-affected areas, making sure your trees are getting enough water is about more than just keeping leaves green; drought-affected trees are more susceptible to disease. Talk to the arborist about how much water they should be getting, and how you can supplement if rain levels aren’t quite cutting it.
Water and Mow
These are fairly usual summer chores but most homeowners water and mow as much as they think the lawn needs without taking season, temperature, or drought conditions into consideration. Generally, during the summer, you want to keep your grass at a blade height of about 2.5-3 inches. This varies by grass type but is good as a general rule...except, of course, during times of drought. Drought conditions (especially long-term drought) means you’ll need to move the mower blade up at least one notch - you want to aim for 3-3.5 inches instead. The added height helps the grass grow deeper roots and become more resilient to drought.
Watering is important during non-drought years, but during drought years, it can be tough to balance the desire for a lush, green lawn with the need to conserve water. While you want to follow whatever community water restrictions there might be, within those limits there are a few ways to save water without completely forgoing a nice lawn. Stop using fertilizer (if you use it in general), and water lightly when needed. Most grass can survive up to four weeks without water (though they might not retain their color), so do your research and adjust accordingly.
Update Your Landscaping
End of summer might seem a silly time to update your landscaping but sometimes drought conditions remind us of the need to. Certain landscaping choices require less water and are thus more drought resilient, such as incorporating more decorative or functional hardscaping and less grass, or even using xeriscaping techniques. Take a look at some landscaping ideas that use less water and evaluate what works for your location.