Is it possible to have a great looking lawn through the summer? Yes, but it takes some planning. Using the right mowing and watering techniques, you can help your grass survive the hottest, driest parts of the summer, and still stay green. These tips will help you address common summer lawn issues, and let you know when it’s time to step back and let your lawn turn brown.
Why is Summer Stressful to Grass?
In most areas, there’s less rain in the summer, which means more irrigation is needed to make up the difference. Heat stresses grass directly, but it also increases evaporation, drying the soil out further. To keep grass healthy, lawn care should focus on keeping the soil moist, while removing factors that can strain grass growth.
Use Your Grass to Shade the Soil
Let your grass grow longer in the summer. The blades shade the ground, protecting the root system, and reducing evaporation. Most warm-season grasses remain healthy at heights up to three inches. Bermuda thrives at a maximum height of 2 ½ inches, while Bahia and buffalo varieties can grow up to four inches high.
Water to Keep Soil Moist
The deeper you can get water to penetrate the soil, the better your grass will be at handling the heat. For most grass varieties, you want to add 1 to 1.5 inches of water per week. Dividing this up into one or two applications each week will help saturate the soil across the entire root system.
Timing irrigation is a balancing act. On one hand, you don’t want the water to evaporate. On the other hand, putting down so much water at one time encourages fungal infections. Ideally, you should water early in the morning, just before the sun comes up. This gives the time for the soil to absorb the water while letting any standing water evaporate once the sun is up. If you have an irrigation system with a timer, set it to activate around 5-6 am.
Protecting the Grass from Other Sources of Stress
A dull mower blade breaks off the ends of your grass instead of slicing them. This opens up your lawn to infections. If you see jagged tips on your grass after you mow, you need to sharpen your blades.
If you have a pet in your yard, their urine can take a toll on your grass. Urine has a high nitrogen content. Between a lack of water in the summer and your dog or cat’s habit of using the same spot for potty breaks, there’s a high chance of having burns. Spray down the area with water to dilute the nitrogen as soon as possible, and keep the area watered to help plants bounce back.
Now is not a good time to fertilize your lawn, or treat it with herbicides and insecticides. If you have a weed problem, stick to contact herbicides. Since they’re only applied directly to the weed, they’re less likely to affect the surrounding grass.
My Lawn Turned Brown. Now What?
Your lawn probably isn’t dead, it’s just dormant. In times of drought and heat stress, your grass will shut down its leaves to focus nutrients and water on the roots to keep the plant alive. How do you tell the difference between dormant and dead grass? Dormant grass turns brown across your lawn, while grass will die in patches. However, if your irrigation system doesn’t have good coverage, you may have dormant spots outside of the water’s reach.
Usually, grass can stay dormant for up to a month before it starts to die. Trying to revive grass immediately after it goes dormant adds more stress, which may end up killing it. Instead, wait until the weather is more favorable, either because of increased precipitation or lower temperatures. If you see some green reappearing, it’s safe to resume watering and mowing your lawn.
Shank’s Lawn Equipment has Everything You Need for Lawn Care
From mowers to towable spray tanks, we carry every type of outdoor equipment you may need to take care of your lawn. Need help with your equipment? Shank’s is an authorized service center for most major brands of residential and professional equipment. We also have a massive parts warehouse, and we ship parts and accessories across the United States and Canada. Visit us at 4900 Molly Pitcher Highway in Chambersburg, PA, or online at www.shankslawn.com.