Our Northwest

Rethink your yearly brown, dormant lawn

Tuesday, August 8, 2017by  Jon Osterberg

Backyard lawn brown and dormant from not watering in summerYour lawn most likely will survive if you don't water it during this long, warm Northwest dry spell. But you might cause yourself problems down the road.

Last night I mowed my lawn for the first time in three weeks. It hasn't needed mowing because it's pretty dormant. I'm one of those who rarely waters in the summer, knowing from experience that my lawn always bounces back come September. In part, my mulching mower enables me to do that since the mulch helps trap ground moisture.

But last night my brownish blades seemed unusually crispy, and I wondered if I'd let my grass get too parched.

Gardening expert Ciscoe Morris said in a March Seattle Times article that it's okay for your lawn to turn brown in the summer, just as long as you water it deeply once in July and once in August. If you don't, it can thin too much, allowing moss and weeds to invade.

Oops. It's now August 8, and I never watered in July.

overseeding a lawn in bare, parched areasCiscoe says lawns usually bounce back once fall rains begin, and you can bolster lawn health – preventing moss and weeds – by renovating it in spring or fall. March-April is the ideal time.

Start by killing existing weeds, he says. Then dethatch if necessary, and aerate. Finally, overseed where it's needed – raking as much as you can into the aeration holes – and fertilize.

I might be willing to water occasionally in the summer if I had automatic sprinklers. PEMCO explained the benefits of a sprinkler system in a KCPQ-13 newscast that aired Sunday. Three stand out:

  1. Save money on your water bill – automatic sprinklers avoid over-watering.

  2. Boost your property value.

  3. Save time that you'd spend by manually watering your yard.

automatic sprinklers water a lawnThe last one is key this time of year. It's inefficient to water in the heat of day, and an ideal time to water is at dawn. No way am I going outside to move sprinklers around at 5 a.m.!

But if I had automatic sprinklers, I could program them to water while I'm still asleep. Even if I watered infrequently, it would be better for my lawn's health than letting it go dormant year after year.

Ciscoe recommends a deep watering at least once in July and August. You could set a sprinkler system to drench your lawn for two or three hours in the early morning and probably do it a lot of good.

Mahogany wood deck of a hydroplane is brown like a parched lawn(Awhile back I blogged about landscaping my yard with hydroplane-themed rhododendrons that match the color schemes of my favorite boats. I suppose my brown summer lawn pays homage to every mahogany-deck hydro that ever raced.)

So what's an automatic sprinkler system cost? A quick online search says $3,000 - $4,000 for a typical ¼-acre lot.

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