Maintaining a healthy lawn prepares it for dormancy
Your lawn is unique amongst other plants. When water is not available, it dehydrates itself. But when water becomes available, it rehydrates itself. Most other plants would just wither away and die in these conditions.
You should prepare your lawn for dormancy by having as healthy of a lawn as possible. A weak lawn in dormancy will be susceptible to weed infestation and traffic damage. A healthy lawn can even tolerate a summer drought.
Grass has the ability to go dormant for long periods of time depending on their health and variety. Turf grass consists of 75 to 90 percent water by dry weight. When a lawn goes into dormancy, all the energy is refocused to the roots. The lack of water creates an environment in which it cannot easily repair itself.
Summer dormancy is a natural response to dry and hot weather. To insure your lawn survives in the best condition, it is important to start with as healthy of a lawn as possible. Reduce the amount of mowing to minimize water loss and evaporation. Also, keep foot traffic to a minimum if possible.
Most lawns are in a dormant state for at least eight weeks. If dormancy goes beyond this length of time, it is suggested that just enough water be applied to keep the grass alive. It will not make it green, but it will keep up the plant’s metabolism. During a dormant phase, grass should not be fertilized as often, if ever, because it may cause damage.
In addition, note that some weeds thrive in low water conditions because of their large tap roots which retain the water much like a cactus in the desert. These should be pulled by hand or spot treated.
Here in the Northwest, our lawns are subject to a period of adverse weather, such as high heat and lack of water. This affects our lawns’ adversely usually during July and August. Our western Washington grasses are able to adapt to this situation. But with proper care, we can help move our lawns into a healthy fall season.
Stewart Armour is the owner and operator of Aerating Thatching Co. in Seattle. Armour has extensive education in turf management in Western Washington. The first turf class he attended was Golf Course Construction and Design in 1981, taught by Jerry Mackie at Bellevue Community College. In 1994, he majored in turf management at South Seattle Community College. After several years, he advanced to Clover Park Technical College and studied under a local golf course superintendent, John Ford.
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