Summer in Southern California is hot, dry and practically rain-free. Keeping your lawn thriving in these conditions might seem daunting, but by following a few simple steps it can be easily accomplished.
The first step is proper soil preparation. To grow and thrive, grass needs a proper balance of sunlight, oxygen, water and nutrients. Too much or too little of any one of these and your grass will suffer. Grass gets 3 of these things (water, oxygen and nutrients) from the soil, so having good soil is very important. You don’t want your soil to have too much sand or clay in it, as this will impede the flow of water and oxygen to the roots. The ideal soil for growing grass is called loam soil, which is composed of sand, silt and clay in specific quantities. An easy way to test your soil is to grab a handful and squeeze it. When you open your hand, one of three things will happen:
1. It falls apart as soon as you open it – This means you have sandy soil and compost should be added to it.
2. It holds its shape, and stays clumped when poked. – This means you have clay soil and organic material should be added.
3. It holds its shape, and when given a light poke, falls apart. – This is good news–it means you have a loam soil!
Another good test is to check the PH level of your soil. A test kit can be picked up cheaply at any home and garden center. Ideally, soil should have a neutral PH level, somewhere between 6.0 and 7.0. If your soil is below 6.0, it’s too acidic and lime should be added. If it’s above 7.0, it’s too alkaline and gardener’s sulfer should be added.
Step two is having the right grass. Certain grasses fare better under different environments, and it’s important to know which grass is the right kind for your area. The grass types below are best suited for Southern California’s climate.
St. Augustine is a warm season grass that can flourish in high temperatures and direct sunlight, making it a good choice for Southern California. It has a nice blue-green hue which lasts into fall. St. Augustine is not a drought-resistant grass, however, and regular watering must be done to keep it in good shape.
Bermudagrass is another grass that fares well in high heat and bright light. It’s a tough grass, making it a good choice for homes with animals or children. It’s also drought-tolerant and stays green all year. Bermudagrass is used in parks, golf courses and sports fields around Southern California.
Mowing your grass high (usually using the highest blade setting on your lawn mower) and keeping it a bit long will produce a stronger and healthier grass. Longer grass takes in more sunlight, which creates a deeper root system and makes the grass better suited to survive droughts, insects and disease. It also make it more difficult for weeds to grow. 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 inches would be a good grass height, and that’s just an inch higher than what most people normally cut at. You can also help your lawn by recycling the clippings, just let them fall back on the grass rather than into a bag. Grass clippings will decompose and become a natural fertilizer.
Watering your lawn correctly and with the right frequency will ensure it’s healthy and stays strong, particularly during the dry season. Your lawn’s watering needs depends on the type of grass you have, the soil and how much rainfall you get. But, there are still good watering practices you can follow to get the most of out it. Watering should be done only when the lawn really needs it; watering too often and with too little water trains the roots to stay close to the surface, with no way to get moisture during dry periods. When watering, you should focus on slow and deep watering, which will train the roots down. Try to utilize a trickling water method, soaking the lawn slowly and completely.
The best time to water is early in the morning, to reduce irrigation. When your lawn needs watering, it will have a blue-gray tint and older blades will begin to curl. Also, footprints will stay on for longer than usual. If the grass doesn’t “spring back to life” after removing your foot, but takes a few seconds to lift up, it’s time to water.
By following these simple steps, you can have a lawn that stays green and healthy all year. If you have any other questions about your lawn or wish to speak with a designer, simply fill out our instant estimate form or give us a call at: 818.244.4000.
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