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Image captured from: http://www.seattleweatherblog.com/rain-stats/rainfall-2013/

Just about every year around this time the property owners in the Northwest are faced with the same dilemma — green grass or brown grass. This year is no exception… Like many around the country we too are experiencing a drought. With the exception of April (and to a much lesser degree May) we have been behind every month. July didn’t record any rainfall and August isn’t accounting for much either.

So how do responsible property owners maintain green lawns when the water stops falling from the skies? The answer lies in understanding how our grasses are naturally designed to perform.

Most of our lawns are made up of Rye and Fescue grasses. These grasses have evolved over millenniums to go dormant this time of year. Back in late spring and early summer they were storing sugars to make it through the drought period and be able to recuperate as the rains start to come back.

Watering your lawn during our drought period is just fine but applying high nitrogen fertilizers this time of year is not good and disrupts your grasses natural behavior. Nitrogen, while critical for plant growth, is a very powerful element and one that needs to be used with caution.  When our grasses want to take it easy, jacking them up with Nitrogen to make them green is not a good thing.

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A summer lawn of Earthdance Organics

Our approach is to use very mild amounts of nitrogen such as poultry manure and micronized fish and go heavier with other stress relievers like sea kelps and humic/fulvic acids.

If your lawn is not as dark and green as you would like it, this time of year is not the time to make those adjustments. Getting your lawn healthier during its growing periods of the year will keep it looking good during its natural dormancy period. As the rains start to come back we bring up the nitrogen levels to get some good fall growth before winter and to keep it looking good all winter long.

Understanding your grasses’ growth habits are just the beginning of healthy lawns that stay green and need less water. The real key to sustainable stands of grass is right under your feet. That in a future posting…