Tricks to Get Your Lawn Through the Summer

Portland is known for being rainy. We’re so accustomed to keeping raincoats and umbrellas handy that we often are taken by surprise and miss the rain during the dry months of summer. We aren’t the only ones; our lawns miss the rain, too, and grass can suffer in such dry, sunny weather. Keeping your lawn looking green and plush in the summer doesn’t have to mean astronomical water bills and constant care.

The first step is to replace the rain with water from your sprinkler. Most lawns need one to one and a half inches of water each week to stay green. You can measure how much water your sprinkler distributes by placing a wide, flat container (like a tuna can) in the path of the sprinkler’s spray, then running the sprinkler for 10 minutes. Measure how deep the water in the can is to find out how much water your lawn is getting. Pay attention to how much rainfall does occur on the rare chance there is a summer shower so you don’t overwater.

Bear in mind that the time of day you water your lawn affects how much is absorbed by the roots of the grass. Watering your lawn during the hottest hours—from midday to early evening—wastes water, as much of it evaporates from the sun. This is especially true in more arid parts of Oregon, such as Bend. Watering your lawn later in the evening can encourage fungus growth or other nasty things you’d rather avoid. Try watering your grass in the early morning before 10 a.m. This keeps the majority of the water from evaporating while making sure it is absorbed by the soil and roots before evening.

If your home is in a hilly area, remember that water will run down the slope before it is all absorbed by the grass. A workaround for this is to water the graded area for a short time first, move the sprinkler to another part of the yard for a while, and then back to the slope to ensure coverage.

Make sure to take note of the surface area of the lawn covered by the sprinkler’s reach. A little overlap is a good measure to avoid burned strips of grass, but too much can waste water or hurt the grass from overwatering. Experiment with placement of the sprinkler and water pressure to avoid watering large sections of the sidewalk or driveway.

The length of the grass in your lawn affects its tolerance to sun and heat. While the ideal height for grass growth varies a bit by the type of grass, a good general height is about 2.5 inches. Cutting it too short can leave blades of grass too vulnerable to the sun’s rays, while leaving it too long can make the grass too thirsty or open to growth of disease.

A lower-maintenance step to keeping your lawn healthy is providing shade from the sun. Once planted and established, trees and shrubs can act as shields against the scorching sun. Keep in mind that these large plants still need to be watered in the hottest months, but the investment in their growth pays off for your grass.

Another option to keep your front lawn looking sharp in the summer while conserving water is to reduce the amount of grass in your lawn. A paver walkway not only reduces the amount of watering you’ll need to do, but is also practical and can make your home look more welcoming.

While the summer heat may leave you feeling wilted, an ounce of planning and a few inches of water can keep your lawn healthy and green and improve your home’s value.