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Help your lawn breathe during the dog days.

It's time to catch up on answering some of the questions you've been e-mailing to me recently. But first... the hot, dry weather that many of us are "enjoying" right now can be a tough time for our lawns. So here are a few brief reminders of how to care for lawns during hot weather.

Watering is the obvious first choice, assuming you are not currently prevented from doing so by local water conservation regulations. And many landscapers agree that your lawn might need less water than you think. Try turning on your sprinkler for no more than 18 to 22 minutes every other day.

I recently read about a retired Detroit police officer who claims that his lush, green lawn comes from treating his grass to a special "cocktail" every three weeks. To 20 gallons of water, he adds one cup of beer, one cup of ammonia, one half cup of dishwashing detergent, one half cup of liquid lawn food and one half cup of clear corn syrup. Now, I'm not recommending this because I've never tried it.

When the soil is very dry and hard, the water will largely run off it, rather than soak in satisfactorily. Aerating can solve this problem. If you don't own a pair of those strap-on aeration spikes you can buy from gardening catalogs, find a golfer and have him or her walk around (a lot) on your lawn while wearing golf cleats.

When it comes to mowing, set the blades so you are trimming off no more than the top one third of the grass. This avoids exposing your lawn to too much stress. Speaking of stress, take a look at your mower blades. As any chef will tell you, a blunt blade is far more dangerous than a sharp one, and will tear and bruise the veggies instead of cutting them. It's the same with your mower blades. Blunt blades merely assault the grass traumatically with blunt instruments, whereas sharp blades cut cleanly like Chef Emeril expertly slicing through a bunch of asparagus in a single stroke.

As for fertilization, I suggest a visit to this website: http://ohioline.osu.edu/hyg-fact/1000/1191.html where you'll find a lot of information provided by the Ohio State university extension. 

Just a quick tip: This is a good time to be planning your Fall planting. The most popular trees, plants and shrubs are always the first to go, so you should be starting now. If you need a few ideas, e-mail me some brief details about your landscape and I'll reply with my suggestions.

Now to some of your questions. I try to respond to you personally whenever possible.

QUESTION: " I would appreciate it if you could shed some of the wisdom of your field upon a novice. I would like a privacy hedge of evergreen trees. I would like it to grow fast. I just ordered Redwood Cedar 10 inch seedlings, but understand they don't grow very fast. It seems Leyland Cypress grows fast, but are expensive. I wonder, how far apart to plant them and whether they will grow. I have some similar pines that were transplanted to the same soil that have grown marginally in the past five years. Is there anything I can do to get around this? The area is populated by Hickory and Oak trees. The soil easily loses grass and becomes a white sand on the top. Did I get the wrong tree?" - Ed Tracy.

ANSWER: Yes, you may have gotten the wrong tree. However, red cedar will grow somewhat faster after it is established (about 3 to 4 years). As far as the distance between cedars, they should be placed about 4 foot apart in the row. Cedar will grow about as fast as the Leyland once established. When you say your area is populated with hickory and oaks, about how close will these trees be to your new hedge? This could be a determining factor if they are too close to over shadow or sap your new trees. You seem to be doing the right thing.

QUESTION: "I'm a relatively new homeowner. We have three Kousa Dogwoods planted next to each other - one for each of the previous owners' children. For the past two springs, we have fertilized the trees but one of the trees never blooms with flowers. It is growing tall and the leaves are healthy. Why isn't it blooming?" - Adam Powers.

ANSWER: Sometimes it just may be that that particular tree is not getting enough nutrients. You may want to try some of those tree spike fertilizer products that you can get at Wal-mart. Let me know what happens in the following year.