Summer is the time to test anyone's love for their lawn. Even if the weeks are regularly punctuated with cloudbursts, hot weather still causes the grass to flag at midday. Here are some tips for keeping your lawn looking lush. Lee Reich, Associated Press Your lawn may need help
Watering helps when done correctly. Set coffee cans out on your lawn, then turn on the sprinkler and leave it on until there's an inch depth of water in the cans. After you've done this once, you'll know how long it takes to put that inch of water onto your lawn.
Barring rain, give lawn 1 inch of water once a week. Do this in the morning, when the water will have time to seep into the soil, rather than evaporate, yet the grass blades will dry soon enough to limit disease problems.
Lawn food might be needed, but nothing fancy. In most cases, cheap nitrogen fertilizer will suffice, applied once or twice per year.
How much to mow is more controversial. If you mow high, the grass blades grow longer and promote a stronger root system. On the other hand, the longer the leaves, the more water they give off. And most people like the look of a closely shorn lawn. Probably the best course is to mow highest in spring and fall, when grass roots grow the most. At any rate, never shock the grass by shortening blades by more than a third of their length.
Consider what to grow
The "grasses" are a large family of plants, and another road to the ideal lawn is to grow varieties best suited to your site. Grasses differ in tolerance to shade, foot traffic, heat and pests. They also vary in appearance, some coarser than others and some losing their color when the weather gets dry or cold.
Striving for that lush, green carpet is not without cost. The average lawn lover spends an estimated 40 hours each year on lawn care, dousing the grass with 10 pounds of pesticide and contributing to the 560-million gallons of gasoline burned each year in mowing. And that 1 inch of water per week? It works out to about 10,000 gallons for a 25- by 40-foot lawn each season.
Adopt a more realistic — or naturalistic — ideal for what a lawn should look like, making caring for your lawn easier, cheaper and less of a strain on the environment. You can get by with little fertilizer or water — your lawn won't die from lack of either. Become more tolerant of pests and weeds.
Consider alternatives to the usual grass species. Buffalograss, for example, never grows to more than a few inches high, and tolerates heat, cold and drought. Okay, it does turn brown — temporarily — under stress, but let's call that color "golden."