Keeping your landscape beautiful during the summer months can be a lot of work. But with the right information at your disposal, you won’t just make the job easier—you’ll experience better results, too.
In order to help you take better care of your landscape during the summer, we’ve identified four key areas where people usually have questions or issues. For each area, we’ve listed common mistakes and easy-to-follow solutions to help ensure the good health of your landscape all summer long:
Irrigation: When it comes to watering your lawn, the biggest problem we see is overwatering. A consistently wet lawn causes grass roots to become shallow, which makes your turf weak and more susceptible to disease and malnourishment. This means you should always make sure your sprinkler system is off when it’s raining, because you’re not just wasting water—you’re damaging your lawn.
As a general rule, your lawn should receive the equivalent of about one inch of rain per week during summer months. Ideally your lawn would receive that rainfall spread over the course of the week. You can’t make it rain on command, but if you’re running irrigation you can split it into three or four cycles throughout the week. Try not to water every day as this promotes shallow root systems and can weaken the grass.
Rain gauges are an inexpensive way to measure weekly rainfall. However, if you have a smart irrigation system, you can simply program it to shut off automatically after hitting a set threshold for water distribution.
In Indiana, much of our soil is heavy clay. That makes it difficult for water to penetrate the ground. In order to prevent water runoff, we recommend watering your landscape in several short cycles instead of one long cycle so that the ground has a chance to absorb the water. For instance, if you typically run your irrigation system for 15 minutes, try setting the cycle to run for three 5-minute intervals instead.
Lawn Care: Have you ever seen a freshly cut golf course? Don’t cut your lawn like that. Golf courses use different types of grasses that are designed to be cut extremely short. Your lawn doesn’t have this type of grass.
As a general rule, you shouldn’t cut your grass shorter than three and a half inches. That’s because taller grass means longer roots. And the longer the roots, the more resilient your grass will be against drought and heat stress. With this in mind, you can even cut your grass higher than three and a half inches if you so desire. Longer grass also helps shade out weeds, and helps soil retain moisture during summer heat.
If the weather is very dry like it was during last summer’s drought in Indianapolis and throughout Indiana, you shouldn’t be cutting your grass at all. This adds unnecessary stress to the grass during a time when it’s barely growing. A good rule of thumb is that if you walk on your grass and can still see your footprints an hour or two later, it’s too dry to mow.
Tree Care: Oftentimes, people don’t realize that a lack of water can adversely affect trees even more than turf, flowers, and shrubs. That’s because trees usually take longer to show the superficial signs of malnourishment. But it’s critically important to water your trees regularly during dry weather, because it’s much more difficult and time consuming to replace a big tree than a patch of dead grass. If we have not had rain for three weeks and you don’t have irrigation, it would be wise to water your trees using a hose adjusted to a third of its full flow for 2 minutes per inch of trunk diameter. This should be done once per week until sufficient rainfall resumes. Trees that have been weakened by drought stress are susceptible to a host of secondary problems, which can be frustrating to say the least.
If you have any flowering trees, they will already be forming flowers for next year by mid to late summer—this also applies to other flowering plants. Don’t prune these trees or plants now because you’ll probably damage or remove next year’s flowers. If you have evergreen trees on the other hand, mid to late summer is a great time to prune because you don’t have flowers to worry about.
By mid summer, non-flowering trees have already put out new areas of growth. That means you can safely prune drooping limbs, and any limbs that pose a safety hazard. However, if tree limbs are near power lines, do not touch them. Contact your power company and they will send a crew to address the problem.
Diseases and Pests: Plant diseases and pests come in all shapes and sizes—and degrees of severity. Some, like bagworms and Japanese beetle grubs, will be extremely detrimental to plant health and will require immediate action. Others, like a small mite infestation, probably won’t require any treatment at all.
If you notice a tree or plant on your property is infested by pests or stricken with disease, don’t panic. If the problem is relatively minor, meaning there is no noticeable effect on the health of the tree or plant, let nature run its course and the issue will usually resolve itself over time. However, if you notice leaves falling off irregularly, yellow spots, or weak, brittle branches, you should seek a professional opinion.
At this point in the year, turf diseases will have already been established. Controlling these diseases often requires a curative fungicide, which can be expensive. By mid to late summer, it’s usually not worth the cost to go this route. Instead, consider preventative treatments for next year and/or over seeding your turf in the fall so that it comes back stronger. This is a more cost-effective approach than treating with turf fungicides.
Even mulch isn’t immune to the effects of disease and fungus. One of the most common mulch issues we see is spots of “dog vomit,” which is actually a slime mold. There is no treatment for it, but it also poses no hazard to your plants or landscape. You can simply scoop it up with a shovel and discard it in the trash. Just be sure to remove as much as possible to keep the fungus from growing back.
Managing your landscape during the summer months can be a big job, but if you do your research and follow directions closely when applying lawn and tree care products, you can have great success. Just remember that landscaping professionals are licensed and know how to best treat any problems you might be experiencing.
If you’re looking for more information about anything related to horticulture in Indiana, check out the resources provided by the Purdue Marion County Extension Service. Their purpose is to answer questions about all things horticulture, and they have many useful publications and knowledgeable extension agents that can answer whatever questions you might have. And don’t forget, we’re also available if you need professional solutions to your landscape this summer by calling 317.575.1100.