Lance Ellis

Lance Ellis

With our warmer weather, people are getting outside more and having outdoor barbecues, family gatherings and sunburns. Many are also having heat-stressed lawns.

This time of year is notorious for lawns to start being drought-stressed and turning brown or dull green. Homeowners many times don’t notice the impact of the weather becoming warmer, with fewer spring rains, and then forget to increase the amount of water being applied during the week to their lawns.

When altering your watering schedule, keep in mind that you want to water deeply and infrequently. This reduces water loss through evaporation, helps plants grow deeper root systems and strengthens a plant’s overall health and resistance to drought. Remember to water during the early morning hours from about 4 a.m. to 8 a.m. before the heat of the day starts, which helps reduce evaporation and improves water penetration into the soil.

Normally at this point in the growing season, we should be safe from major killing frost damage down in the valley, since we are past Memorial Day, but it’s still a good idea to keep an eye on the weather forecast, as an unexpected cold snap could jeopardize your seedlings. If you haven’t planted yet, then don’t let much more time pass, and make it a priority to get the seeds or transplants into the ground.

Our growing season is not very long compared with most places, and between our dry environment and chance of early frosts, we can have a challenging growing environment. Protect new transplants from wind damage during this time of year. They are tender and not generally hardened off sufficiently prior to planting and can be easily damaged.

With our temperatures increasing, the window for applying broadleaf weed control chemicals has closed for some areas and is closing for others. When temperatures get warmer, above 70 degrees, the chance for these herbicides to volatilize increases dramatically. Volatilizing means that they become gaseous and start to move out of the grass and up into the air and can cause damage to surrounding plants if they are in sufficient quantities.

Most broadleaf weeds, such as dandelions, are best controlled in early spring or late fall, as the plants actively absorb the chemical more readily. The directions for what temperatures that these chemicals can be applied is written on the label, so always read your label thoroughly before use. If you have questions about understanding what a chemical label is directing means, please feel free to call the Extension Office at 624-3102.

At this point in the season, it is a good idea to fertilize your containerized flowering plants with a slow-release fertilizer. Slow-release fertilizers will feed plants for between three to four months. Without this continued feeding, most flowering plants in a container will use up the available nutrients and become weak or yellow colored.

Due to the temperatures starting to rise, avoid aerating at this point of the season, as it can stress the grass rather than helping it develop a healthy stand. Aerating should be done in the fall when it has started to cool down and the lawn needs less water.

Power raking should be avoided if possible, as it damages the grass crowns and shoots. If your thatch levels are really thick, then power raking may be warranted, but otherwise, try to avoid doing this. The time frame when grub control should be applied is drawing to a close, and if you are going to apply something, it should be done sooner than later. If applied too late in the season, the lawn grubs will have already done their damage, and the brown spots that show up in July and August will not be prevented.

It’s better to have done this the first week to the middle of May depending upon location. Lastly, the late spring/early summer application of lawn fertilizer should be done around this time and before it starts to get hot outside. Remember to apply adequate water so recently fertilized turfgrass will not burn.

Lance Ellis is the University of Idaho Extension educator for Fremont County. He can be reached at 208-624-3102.

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