Many of my articles this year have discussed the unusual weather we have experienced, and this week is no exception. This last week was probably the hottest of the year, breaking records for late fall heat.

While it will cool off for a few days, the monthly projection shows it warming up to the low to mid-70s for much of October. In addition, we have had extremely dry weather, with some areas of the county not receiving any significant rain since the beginning of July.

As a result, lawns and landscapes are water-stressed at a time that plants should be preparing to go into the cold months of the year. Here are a few tips to help prepare your landscape as winter approaches.

New landscape plants

It can take plants several years to become established enough to survive on their own without much additional care. If you have planted new plants this year, particularly those that are known to be difficult to establish, ensure you are providing them with enough water to survive.

Water deeply and less often. This will encourage roots to grow deeper into the soil profile, helping plants to be more drought resistant in the long run.

In some parts of the county there is very little soil moisture. If you are planning on planting shrubs or trees in the next couple of weeks, it could be helpful to dig the hole and saturate the soil for several days prior to actual placement of the plant. Water it in thoroughly once it is planted.

Established plants

Focus your energy on plants that are most vulnerable to drought stress. In general, plants need about 1 inch of water per week to survive. But during times of extended drought and heat, plants may need more.

Water in the morning. More water will soak into the root zone as opposed being lost to evaporation. When watering in the morning, foliage has the opportunity to dry quickly, helping avoid diseases. If plants are under extreme drought stress, water as soon as possible to further reduce stress and damage.

In the long term, consider plants that are more drought-tolerant and resilient in climate extremes.

Lawn care

Usually lawns are able to tolerate drought stress for an extended period of time, but it is hard to predict how long grass can survive without adequate moisture, due to factors such as soil conditions, temperatures and general turf health.

As a rule, avoid walking on lawns as much as possible, but particularly when the grass is drought-stressed and more prone to breakage and death of the crowns.

If the lawn hasn’t received rain in over a month, provide ½ to 1 inch of water to get the grass through this dry period.

Best practices for maintaining the health of lawns include mowing as high as possible. This helps maintain the health by shading the soil to conserve what little moisture is left, and discouraging weed seed germination. This being said, my grass hasn’t needed mowing for the past six weeks.

Don’t fertilize during hot, dry conditions; the plants will try to produce new growth, draining reserve energy left in the plant.

Many times poor grass condition is the result of underlying soil problems such as compaction, high pH and thatch. While it may not be possible to take corrective actions at this time, make note of areas that need some work for next year.

Jacqueline Kowalski is the Summit County Agriculture and Natural Resources Extension Educator for the Ohio State University. For questions on local foods, food production, or other garden-related questions, contact her at kowalski.124@osu.edu or 330-928-4769, ext. 2456. Or call the Extension Master Gardener Volunteer Hotline from 9 a.m. to noon Tuesdays at 330-928-4769, select option 3 or extension 2481 or 2482.