How can I keep my landscape looking lovely in the heat?

Composite image, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — The heat is on, and many lawns are struggling. However, before you just turn the sprinklers on longer, consider these suggestions offered by the Utah State University Extension Office for keeping your landscapes and gardens healthy while also saving water.

In almost all circumstances, plants tolerate or prefer to have variations in soil moisture. This means that it is perfectly fine for soil to dry out moderately between irrigations. Soil that is kept overly wet reduces vigor and can actually harm plants.

Do not rely on a sprinkler clock or irrigation controller to irrigate lawns on a set schedule. Instead, determine when the lawn actually requires irrigation and manually activate the system as needed.

A common sign of drought stress in turfgrass is grass blades not quickly springing back upright when walked on, leaving a trail of footprints in the lawn.

Additionally, walking on a lawn barefoot can let you feel how dry the soil is. Relatively dry soil under the grass is hard, does not “give” when stepped on and is slightly uncomfortable to walk on. Wetter soil depresses a bit when weight is applied.

Unless your city has outlined specific water restrictions, as a general practice do not water between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. During this period, up to 50 percent of water emitted from sprinklers is lost to evaporation. Instead, irrigate when the sun is down or low in the sky.

Local restrictions can vary. St. George, for example, currently has water restrictions in place that limit outdoor watering with the city’s culinary (or drinkable) water to between 8 p.m. and 8 a.m. Cedar City directs residents to only irrigate lawns with culinary water between the hours of 6 p.m. and 8 a.m. during the months of April through October. Enoch is another example of a city with water restrictions, see link below.

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Small areas of the lawn can brown during hot weather because of variations and inefficiencies in sprinkling systems. Instead of increasing the amount of time the entire sprinkling system irrigates, supplement water to the brown areas with a small hose-end lawn sprinkler or water by hand with a hose.

Mow the lawn to a height of at least 2 inches. This allows roots to penetrate deeper into the soil and increases overall drought hardiness.

When irrigating turf, water long enough for the water to penetrate 6 to 12 inches into the soil. This encourages deeper root development and reduces the frequency of required irrigations.

Irrigate shady and sunny areas according to need. Shady areas require much less irrigation than sunnier areas.

Cover bare soil in the garden and flower beds with 2-3 inches of mulch. Not only does this save water, it greatly reduces the need for weeding. Inexpensive mulch can be obtained from many local green waste recycling centers. Grass clippings also work well and are free.

Hand-water or use drip irrigation to irrigate flowerbeds, vegetable gardens and shrub beds. Water should be placed near plants and penetrate the soil 6 inches deep for flowers and veggies, and 2 feet into the soil for established trees and shrubs.

Written by KELLY KOPP, Utah State University Extension water conservation and turfgrass specialist, 435-757 6650[email protected], and TAUN BEDDES, USU Extension horticulturist, 801-851 8460[email protected]. St. George News contributed to this report.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.


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  • Travis July 22, 2017 at 11:57 am

    What I see is that the lawn care industry here in St. George continues to mow, even when there is no growth to mow (too low). When I lived in NY, we generally did NOT have the lawn mowed in July. It just was not necessary at that point in time in the summer. I would think the same would apply here in the desert – in fact, an even longer non-mowing period of time during the summer would make sense. Our HOA just allows them in every week no matter what. And then we need more water – in the DESERT. My new home has NO lawn.

  • Foxyheart July 22, 2017 at 1:22 pm

    how about showing a pic of realistic St. George landscaping? This pic is irresponsible during a drought. It is not even in the desert. Anyone who tries to landscape like this is delusional.

    • ladybugavenger July 22, 2017 at 3:17 pm

      I agree. I don’t recall seeing green in HD in anyone’s lawn in st George. How about some rocks and cacti

  • DB July 22, 2017 at 3:55 pm

    I agree with both the article as well as Travis. Got rid of my small lawn eight years ago and never regretted it, though I still have to pull some weeds, despite the barrier underneath the decorative rock. It sure beats keeping up a lawn in the middle of the desert, however. The sprinklers at the condos across the way run two hours per day, six days per week. The seventh day? That’s when the lawn guys mow. It seems a bit like a ‘charity’ program to an extent.

  • hiker75 July 22, 2017 at 6:04 pm

    Since we are in a desert, get rid of the grass. Plant low water, low maintenance plants.

  • jvelo July 22, 2017 at 9:19 pm

    This article says “landscape” but seems to only focus on “turf.”
    Back in NY we got rid of the front lawn for stones years ago and mowed the back every other week. Certainly am NOT interested in having one now that we live here – and don’t miss it. Some of the neighbors still cling to a lawn. Doesn’t Las Vegas give $$ to people who convert to no lawn? Maybe that should be here too. And have those HOA’s stop insisting that people MUST have at least some lawn – they are doing a disservice to their home owners and our water situation, especially with all the new homes going up.

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