The no-sweat warm weather landscape

With July almost here and the dog days just ahead, there's a temptation to stay inside with the air-conditioning rather than go outside and sizzle in the sunshine.
But your plants are like needy kids, wanting you to provide them with food and water while protecting them from those weed bullies. Let's find a no-sweat, or at least a low-sweat, way to give your lawn and landscape the TLC they crave without incurring a case of heatstroke.
Here's rule number one, and like most good ideas, it is as simple as it is obvious: Stay inside when it's hot outside. Duh, right? Sure it might be obvious, but I still see a lot of people, red-faced and sweating, kneeling in their yard under a broiling midday sun as if it was somehow a character-building exercise. Believe me, toiling in the heat won't earn you any brownie points in heaven. But you might get there a little sooner than you expected.
The early bird catches the worm, but she doesn't catch sunstroke.
And it's not just you. Your lawn and shrubs will derive far greater benefit when they receive your attention in the cool of the early morning rather than the heat of the day.
Watering lawns and shrubs is a prime concern at this time of year, so let's have a quick review of some basic low-sweat watering activities.
Watering shrubs
If you're experiencing hot, dry weather, or perhaps even a drought, these guidelines should be helpful in maintaining the health of your shrubs or at least helping them survive.
Rather than using a sprinkler system, apply the water directly to the root system of each plant. Slow, patient application allows the water to be absorbed by the soil and is more efficient than a sprinkler system.
When watering directly to a plant's roots with a hose, use a wand or an attachment that sprays the water out like rain. A hard gush of water direct from a plain hose will wash away soil from around the roots and is more likely to run off over the compacted dry soil.
If you are watering a small shrub (under, say, four feet tall), water for about one minute which will deliver approximately five gallons of water. For shrubs over four feet, a good rule of thumb is to add an extra 15 seconds of watering time for each additional foot of height.
Weeding is another chore that's best done before the sun is up too high in the sky. You'll be cooler and the weeds are more likely to pull away from dew-moistened soil.
Watering lawns
As I have pretty much hammered home, water your lawn in the early morning. At that time, the dew is still on the grass and the water is more likely to soak into the soil and not run off.
Water the lawn thoroughly but not too frequently. Allowing grass to become slightly drought-stressed encourages stronger rooting.
A good sign that a lawn is ready to be watered is when you see footprints in the grass after you've walked across it, instead of the blades springing back up.
Frequent, shallow watering can result in shallower root systems and more weeds, including crabgrass.
However, a lawn that is newly seeded or sodded does need to be watered frequently enough to keep the surface fairly moist while it becomes established.
When it comes to mowing, remember that "taller" is an attribute that makes Hollywood stars and grass look more attractive. Don't mow your lawn to anything less than a height of three inches during the summer. Why? Fewer weed problems, stronger roots and more of a lush look.
If the lawn does turn brown because of a really dry summer, it's not the end of the world. In all likelihood, it will survive through its dormant period and come back, strong and green, next spring.
Make your garden part of your early morning regimen and save the sweat for a gym workout!
The Plant Man is here to help. Send your questions about trees, shrubs and landscaping to and for resources and additional information, or to subscribe to Steve's free e-mailed newsletter, visit

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