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For many people it is a constant struggle to keep their yard in shape throughout the hot summer months. Hopefully these tips can help you to maintain a beautiful lawn and landscape. Please remember that these are general guidelines and may not necessarily be specific to your region.

Water is probably the most important nutrient that your lawn requires, however, there are good and bad ways to water your lawn.

-Never water your lawn/landscape in the heat of the day. This may actually cause more harm than good. The droplets of water that remain on the grass, plants and flowers actually wilt the plant once the hot sun warms the water. Most of the water that is being put down is also being evaporated due to the heat.

-It is best to water in the early morning or early evening hours, but never late in the evening. This will give the ground a chance to soak the water in and reach theroot system of the plants. Watering late in the evening could possibly cause more disease and weed problems as they tend to develop more at night than during the day.

-Most lawns require a minimum of one inch of water per week. This can be accomplished by watering each section for one hour at a time. To ensure that your lawn is getting an inch per watering, place an empty tuna can in the lawn. Once the can is full you have reached one inch. It is best to water in this manner 2 -3 times a week if possible.

-Rain is the best supplier of water due to the natural occurrence of nitrogen, which is essential to the health of your lawn. It is hard to ensure that your lawn is getting enough water in some cases. Don’t be fooled by quick downpours. It may be a lot of water, but it is coming down too fast to soak in and most of rain is washed away. A hard, short storm may still need to be supplemented later in the week with a good watering.

Keeping your lawn at a good height is important to the health of your lawn as well as the aesthetic aspects.

-Never mow your lawn in the heat of the day. The hot sun can damage the newly exposed grass blade. It is best to mow in the early morning or early evening hours.

-It is best to keep your mower height set to 2 1/2" - 3" (the highest setting on most mowers. Mowing at 2" or less is considered scalping. When a lawn is scalped it can lead to brown or dead spots in the lawn, increased weed growth, and a higher chance of disease. This is due to the resistance of the grass being lowered considerably.

-Do not mow more than 1/3 of the grass blade off at a time. If more than 1/3 is removed then the shaft of the blade is being cut off and exposed to the elements, which is damaging to the grass. Mowing frequently should ensure that the proper amount is being cut off at each mow.

-Keep your mower blades sharpened. Dull mower blades will shred the tops of the grass blades. This will not only give your lawn an undesirable appearance, but could also damage the shaft of the blades.

Fertilizing and weed control:
Fertilizer is essential to the health of your lawn, especially in hot weather. If you are unable to water adequately it may not appear as though the fertilizer is doing any good in the middle of a drought. Once the rain starts, the fertilizer that has been stored in the dormant grass roots will go to work.

-Fertilize your lawn 4 - 6 times a year for best results and apply crabgrass control in the late winter or early spring. Fertilize your trees and shrubs twice a year, in the spring and fall, for best results.

-It is best to use a well-balanced fertilizer consisting of nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium on your lawn. It is also helpful to supplement your fertilizer with a good weed control, if one is not included in the mixture. Most fertilizer brands will have the fertilizer labeled with the correct time of year to apply (i.e. early spring, late spring, summer, and fall.). During different times of the year your lawn will require different amounts of each of the nutrients.

-Your lawn may have to be treated with weed control in between fertilizing applications as well. Some weeds are more stubborn than others, such as violets and clover, and need an extra treatment.

-Be sure to purchase a spreader with an adjustable gauge and follow the spreader settings on the fertilizer bag.

-Any reputable lawn care company should be able to provide all of these fertilizing needs as part of their service if time does not permit you doing it yourself.

Identifying insect damage:
The healthiest of lawns are still at risk of severe insect damage. Once you start to see signs of insect damage it is important to act fast. If an infestation has occurred it could only be a matter of a couple days for the insects to completely ruin your lawn. None of these signs are necessarily indicative of an infestation. It could just be one or a few insects which could lead to very minimal, if any, permanent damage, but once you notice these signs it is best to pay attention to it and treat accordingly. It is best to purchase a good insecticide and treat right away rather than purchase a new lawn or new trees/shrubs.

-Know the basics of identifying insect damage. There are hundreds of different turf and plant damaging insects that leave many different signs so I will give some basic things to look for.

Turf damage:
*Round, brown areas where the grass looks as if it has been flattened.
*Brown areas where the turf pulls up like a carpet.
*Several brown spots in the same area.

Tree and shrub damage:
*Small holes in the leaves or trunk.
*Leaves that have only the veins remaining.
*Branches that have no leaves remaining, but the rest of the tree is fine.

-Treat these areas with a good insecticide that can be found at any hardware store. In some cases you may have to find out the insect to treat with the proper insecticide. Most are in a powdered form that is simply applied by sprinkling on and around the damaged area. Some may have to be watered in to be effective.

-If the areas continue to grow larger then I would suggest calling a lawn care company to come out and survey the damage. Most reputable companies have trained individuals that will be able to identify the correct insect and offer a plan to treat accordingly.

-There are several good preventative insect materials that can also be purchased at most hardware stores.

Hopefully these tips will enable you to keep a healthy lawn and landscape as well as your sanity during the hot summer months. Once again these are general tips and are not specific to any particular region.