Record-setting heat and below-normal rainfall over the past weeks have led to drought symptoms in most landscapes. Lawns and landscape beds have been suffering.

Even with recent rains, it’s vital to keep up with irrigation when necessary through the rest of summer and fall to prevent long-term damage to plants, says LSU AgCenter horticulturist Allen Owings.

In the landscape, watering at the right time of day is important. It’s best to irrigate when the sun is low, the winds are calm and temperatures are cool. This will save water — as much as 30 percent — by reducing evaporative losses.

“It is best to irrigate at a rate that allows the soil to take in the water being applied,” Owings says. “You don’t want irrigation water to go into a parking area or down the street.”

The best time to water is from a couple hours before sunrise until midmorning. Water a couple times weekly instead of watering a little bit every day.

Most landscape and lawn areas need ¾ to 1 inch of irrigation weekly.

When watering, saturate the root zones, generally within the top 6 inches of soil, Owings says. Let the soil dry between irrigations. Watering too frequently results in shallow roots, weed growth, disease and fungus.

This is important for using your irrigation system and watering your plants properly, Owings says.

Irrigation will continue to be important as we move through the rest of the summer and fall in Louisiana.

Now also is the time to watch for chinch bugs in St. Augustine grass and Bermuda grass lawns, says AgCenter turf specialist Ron Strahan. Chinch bug problems show up as yellowish brown areas of the lawn during hot, dry weather.

“These insects extract plant juices from grass stems and crowns while pumping toxic fluids into the plants and disrupt the plant’s vascular system,” Strahan says.

Check for chinch bugs in the lawn by saturating suspected areas with a gallon of water mixed with a few squirts of lemon dishwashing soap.

This soapy solution irritates chinch bugs and brings them up near the grass surface so you can see them and determine if the bugs are causing the lawn damage.

Additional insect problems that appear during the summer include armyworms and tropical sod webworms. These moth larvae or “worms” can cause severe lawn damage very quickly and need to be killed with insecticides to prevent further damage.

“Be mindful of these pests as you walk through your lawns,” Strahan says. Investigate damaged areas and treat accordingly.

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