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Season: Summer

  1. Using Water Wisely

    A healthy lawn needs water. How much you water and when you water can have an effect (positive or negative) on your lawn.

    Water is essential!

    • Without water, grass can’t grow.
    • Most perennial grasses will go dormant (turn brown) during dry spells. Brown grass is still very much alive and can survive for weeks until moisture returns.
    • However, allowing grass to brown will provide an opportunity for weeds to take root.

    How much water do I need?

    • Lawns need 1 to 1.5 inches of water per week during the growing season (May to October).
    • Buy a rain gauge – they are inexpensive and are available at local hardware stores.
    • Monitor rainfall and only apply what is needed to equal 1 to 1.5 inches of water.
    • Watering too much wastes time and money and creates an insufficient root structure.

    How often should I water?

    • Only once or twice a week (depending on the rain).
    • If you water twice a week, be sure to only apply half of the lawn’s weekly needs (0.5 to 0.75 inches at each watering).

    Water deeply, not quickly.

    • If you’ve been mowing high, then your lawn’s root system has grown deep and strong.
    • Allowing water to seep into the ground will help the grass stay healthy.

    When should I water?

    • Between 6:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. is ideal.
    • The afternoon is too hot and sunny, most of the water will evaporate.
    • Watering at night increases the risk of fungal diseases

    Tip: Determine your sprinkler output by placing jars on the lawn and timing how long it takes for them to fill with an inch of water.

    Credit: Cumberland County Soil & Water Conservation District.
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  2. Planting Using Buffers


    Vegetated buffers are trees, shrubs and groundcover plants that catch sediment and other pollution before it reaches lakes or streams. Trees and shrubs intercept raindrops and reduce their impact on the soil. Low growing plants and the “duff” layer on the ground filter runoff. Root systems hold soil in place and absorb water and nutrients. In addition, buffers can enhance privacy, filter noise and wind, and attract birds, butterflies and other wildlife.


    Select plants suitable to the growing zone, light and soil conditions of the planting area. Ideally, native plants should be selected since these are better adapted to local conditions, fit in with the natural landscape and do not require fertilizers or pesticides. Also, the most effective buffers should be as wide as possible and include a mix of trees, shrubs and groundcover plants. Fall and spring are ideal planting times, but anytime during the growing season is acceptable. Plant as described below (from

    1. Water the plant while it is still in its container. Dig a hole 2 times the width of the container and as deep as the soil level in the container.
    2. Remove the root ball from the container and loosen the outside layer of the root system either by scoring with a knife or pulling by hand.
    3. Set the plant in the middle of the hole. The top of the root ball should be at or slightly above normal ground level. If not, remove the plant and adjust the hole. Keep in mind that planting too deeply can kill the plant.
    4. Backfill 2/3 of the planting hole with soil. If the original soil is very poor and the plant requires better soil conditions, mix in no more than 25% loam and/or compost with the original soil.
    5. Fill the planting hole with water. This will result in a “moat” around the soil ball. When this drains completely, re-fill with water again.
    6. After the water has drained, backfill the rest of the hole to ground level, and gently press the soil down to remove air pockets. Next, form a circular mound of soil around the planting hole. Formation of this “ring” around the hole will help future watering and rain sink into the ground.
    7. Water thoroughly once more to remove any remaining air pockets.
    8. Place no more than 2” to 4” of mulch around the plant, but keep the mulch a few inches away from the trunk or branches emerging from the root ball. Cover leftover bare soil with additional mulch or move to areas where it will not erode into the lake.


    Plants and bags of compost and loam can be purchased from local nurseries.


    Year One

    Deep, weekly watering is a must during the first year of planting. Most plants that die in the first season do so because of inadequate watering. Make sure that the water reaches the depth of the root ball. The “ring” around the plant helps the water sink into the ground instead of running off. Planting areas can be weeded, but should not be raked.

    After One Year

    After the first year, you should only need to water if there is a lack of normal rainfall. Once the plants are well established, you can let the planted area naturalize so that you do not need to replenish mulch or weed. The “duff” layer of leaves and pine needles will serve as natural mulch.

    Applying Fertilizer

    If plants appear to be growing well, they should not require fertilization. Fertilizer can actually harm newly developing roots, and summer/fall applications can prevent shrubs and trees from hardening off in time for winter. Shrubs and trees should only be fertilized in early spring, and only after a soil test has been performed.


    You can save money by transplanting native plants into your buffer area. Keep in mind, however, that mortality rates of transplants is relatively high. Here are some general transplanting guidelines:

    • Make sure to ask for landowner permission before harvesting and do not take too many plants from any one area. Do not remove plants next to lakes or streams.
    • Transplant in the early spring or late fall when the plants are dormant. This reduces trauma to their root systems.
    • Choose sturdy-looking plants. Dig up the root ball as much as possible (extend your digging area at least to the width of the plant’s branches.) Once your transplant has been replanted, water frequently until well established.

    Credit: Maine DEP, Portland Water District.
    Part of the Conservation Practices for Homeowners Factsheet series, available at:

  3. Grub Management

    Grubs (a.k.a. larval beetles) feed on grass roots. Some grubs are a natural part of all lawns, but too many can create a problem. Improving soil health and building your lawn’s root system will help ward off grub infestations.

    What constitutes a problem?

    Use a shovel to cut a 1 foot by 1 foot square of turf and pull it back. If you count more than 10 grubs in that area then you may have a grub population that is large enough to damage your lawn.

    Fight back

    In northern New England, the best way to naturally combat grubs is by using beneficial nematodes. North Country Organics offers a mixture of two different types of nematodes in their Grub Guard product. The different types of nematodes work at different levels of the soil to combat grubs.

    Carefully follow package instructions when applying nematodes to ensure maximum effectiveness. Keep in mind that nematodes are living creatures, so applying a pesticide at the same time will kill them before they can get rid of the grubs.


    Treating for grubs should not be something that you will have to do forever. As your soil becomes a healthy and diverse ecosystem your lawn will be less susceptible to grub damage!

    Credit: Cumberland County Soil & Water Conservation District.
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  4. Ants

    Ants are a natural part of a healthy lawn ecosystem. You should be concerned with keeping them out of your house but not out of your lawn.

    Ants are your lawn’s friend!

    Ants prey on the larvae of flies and fleas and naturally aerate soil. They should only be considered a problem if they are getting into your house or if they are European Fire Ants, which sting.

    Control Methods

    • Pour hot, soapy water into the nest. This will kill some of the ants and force others to relocate.
    • Sprinkle corn meal around your home. Eating corn meal will make ants thirsty, and they will drink water until they burst.
    • Use diatomaceous earth or boric acid dust to dehydrate and kill them. Caution should be used with these substances, especially if anyone in your family has lung problems. Be sure to follow all safety instructions that come with the product.
    • If you discover an indoor nest, spread corn meal then use a vacuum with a HEPA filter to capture as many ants as possible. Seal and dispose of the bag immediately.

    Keeping Ants Outside

    To keep ants from moving into your house there are a variety of things you can try:

    • Use silicone caulking to seal cracks and crevices that could provide access. Check around baseboards, moldings, pipes, outlets, ducts, sinks, toilets, etc.
    • Keep the kitchen as clean as possible. Any food that is not sealed in an airtight container or in the fridge could attract ants.
    • Clean up all spills right away, bring compost outside daily and store garbage in airtight containers.
    • Ants could be attracted to pet food as well, so don’t leave pet dishes out and full of food constantly.
    • Replace rotten wood and keep moist areas well ventilated to deter carpenter ants from establishing colonies.


    Controlling ants with pesticides is not recommended for a couple of reasons in addition to the health issues associated with pesticides in general.

    • About 95% of ants never leave the nest so if you use pesticides to kill the ones that are foraging for food you’ll only be killing 5% of the total population.
    • Using pesticides on indoor nests has been shown to cause the colony to split and establish two completely separate nests, doubling your problem.

    Credit: Cumberland County Soil & Water Conservation District.
    Learn more at:

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