What might be causing the grass in your yard or garden to die

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By Yosi Yahoudai
Founder and Managing Partner

Q. My grass is dying and I can’t figure out why. I checked the sprinklers and they are working properly. I’ve been watering for 5 minutes per zone every morning, so I’m sure it’s getting enough water. What could I be doing wrong? It’s not even summer yet!

If your sprinkler system is giving head-to-head coverage and you’ve confirmed using the tuna can test, irrigation may not be the problem.

The tuna can test consists of placing empty tuna (or cat food) cans around the yard. They should be evenly spaced and arranged into a grid. The more cans you have, the better the test will be. If possible, arrange them so that they’re 2 or 3 feet apart. Run your sprinklers through a full cycle, then measure the amount of water in each can. If the sprinklers are working correctly, there should be the same amount of water in each can.

Mowing to a very short height can cause the grass to die, even with frequent heavy watering. Many people will mow their grass too low, thinking that they will be able to mow less frequently. Of course, if the grass dies as a result, you won’t have to mow it at all. 

Mowing too short exposes the turf to direct sunlight, which will cook the roots and dry out the grass. Exposed ground also encourages weed growth since the grass is not long enough to choke out weed seedlings.

Try letting your grass grow a bit longer. Set the mower blade to the highest setting. During the warmer weather, aim to cut twice a week at this high setting. The grass will still look tidy, and it will be able to tolerate the hot weather since the longer blades will shade the ground, protecting the roots and preventing the weeds from taking over. Grass doesn’t like it when you cut too much off at once, so the more frequent mowing ensures that not too much is removed at one time.

Grass roots are fibrous, dense, and can reach deep into the soil. During hot weather, adjust your watering schedule so that the grass is getting more water less frequently. This will encourage deeper root growth, which increases heat tolerance and discourages weed growth.

Q. We recently moved into a rental home in Hemet. There used to be a fruit tree in the backyard, and I wonder if you might be able to identify it. I am enclosing some photos.

That is an apricot tree that looks very happy. Apricots generally do very well in the warm inland valley areas, although we’ve found that they tend to go into alternate-year bearing. This means that one year you’ll get lots of fruit, and the following year the tree will either not produce or produce much less fruit.

Your tree is very bushy and looks like it could use some pruning. I would start with removing the lowest branches from the bottom 3 or 4 feet of the tree. From there, remove any dead material and any branches that are rubbing or crossing. After the tree has lost its leaves in the fall, you can prune again to open up the structure and shape the tree. This will make the tree happy and will make it easier for you to find those yummy fruits.

Los Angeles County

mglosangeleshelpline@ucdavis.edu; 626-586-1988; http://celosangeles.ucanr.edu/UC_Master_Gardener_Program/

Orange County

ucceocmghotline@ucanr.edu; http://mgorange.ucanr.edu/

Riverside County

anrmgriverside@ucanr.edu; https://ucanr.edu/sites/RiversideMG/

San Bernardino County

mgsanbern@ucanr.edu; 909-387-2182; http://mgsb.ucanr.edu

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About the Author
Yosi Yahoudai is a founder and the managing partner of J&Y. His practice is comprised primarily of cases involving automobile and motorcycle accidents, but he also represents people in premises liability lawsuits, including suits alleging dangerous conditions of public property, third-party criminal conduct, and intentional torts. He also has expertise in cases involving product defects, dog bites, elder abuse, and sexual assault. He earned his Bachelor of Arts from the University of California and is admitted to practice in all California State Courts, and the United States District Court for the Southern District of California. If you have any questions about this article, you can contact Yosi by clicking here.