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How to protect your grass, plants and trees in these dry conditions

From brown grass, to stressed trees, local experts offer advice to keep your plants healthy this summer.

MINNEAPOLIS — If your grass, plants and trees are looking a little beat up right now, experts say you're not alone, and there are a few tricks you can use to keep them healthy during these dry conditions.

Nick Scallon is the head of groundskeeping at the University of St. Thomas.

He recommends watering your lawn once a week, about 20 to 30 minutes, and watering in the morning is the best time to do it.

"A lot of people are watering it every day, that's really not an ideal situation. You're better off just letting it go a little dormant and hitting it hard once,” Scallon says.

Scallon says the science behind this approach is all about forcing your grass into different cycles and forcing the plant to grow deeper roots.

When your grass is stressed, like in these dry and hot conditions, the grass will naturally go into a dormant state to preserve energy.

Scallon says you can then force your grass to grow deeper roots by giving it a deep watering once a week.

He says this technique may lead to brown grass in the short term, but he says in the long term your lawn will be much healthier and will look a lot greener.

“What you want to do is water enough to get six inches of soil saturated. What happens then is it forces the roots to go deeper,” Scallon says.

If you water your grass every day, Scallon says that will break this dormant cycle.

Your grass will look greener in the short term, but the roots won’t go as deep and the grass could be even more susceptible to drought later in the season.

“It’s going to look a little rough, but in the long run you’re going to be better off,” Scallon says.

But what about plants and trees?

Kait Ryan is a horticulturist with the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board.

She says younger plants and trees also need a lot of water to stay healthy.

"Doing long deep waters is more important than watering super often,” Ryan says.

“Those really deep waterings might seem like a really long time to some folks, to leave your sprinkler on or just stand at one spot and give a deep watering, but that water is going to stay with the plants and will get deeper into the roots.”

She says some plants can handle these dry conditions better than others.

She says hydrangeas and hostas don’t do very well in this heat.

“I’ve seen a lot of hostas burning up because they just can’t take it,” Ryan says.

That’s why she recommends deep waterings for these types of shade-loving perennials and annuals that may not be used to these dry and hot conditions.

“Even some of the trees that have been around for a few years can be stressed in these conditions. So, it’s also important to water your trees when you can,” Ryan explains.

Another tip is to avoid pruning your plants and trees.

Ryan says that can add extra stress on top of these dry conditions.

“And also try to avoid mowing your lawn when you can. If your yard is crispy and brown, don’t mow it. It’s already stressed out enough. Just water and let it recover. If you do have to cut it, don’t cut it too short, because that can also add extra stress,” Ryan explains.

And even if we do get some rain later this week, experts say it doesn't necessarily mean that we can go back to normal and stop watering.

She says it all depends on the type of rain that we get.

If it's a quick downpour, that's not going to cut it.

She says the ground is so dry right now that most of that rain would simply run off and wouldn’t be absorbed into the roots.

“We will need a nice, long, steady rainfall to really get some good water into the ground and get things green again.”

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