After the spring rush to get new landscaping put in and existing growth fertilized and trimmed, summer lawn care can seem somewhat relaxed. However, high temperatures and reduced rainfall can really stress turf, turning it into a brown, spotty mess, and some lawn care can make the situation worse. These tips can help you provide the care the grass needs to stay green and healthy during the summer.
Make sure your lawn gets at least an inch of water per week, but remember that includes rain: have a rain gauge set up so you can supplement Mother Nature and keep soil moisture balanced. Spacing out waterings will help encourage the growth of drought-resistant roots, and watering in the morning will give time for the water to absorb into the soil without evaporating or pooling on the surface, encouraging mildew.
If you don’t water enough, the lawn will turn brown. This means the grass has turned dormant to protect itself from drought and will return once temperatures drop in the fall. If this happens, don’t try to pull it back out of dormancy with watering: this forces the grass to use reserves that would normally be saved for the winter. Instead, cut back to a quarter to a half inch of water every couple of weeks to keep the roots and crowns alive.
Taller grass is more resistant to heat, adding shade and helping the root structure penetrate deeper into the soil. Aim for a height between three to four inches for cool season grasses and two to three inches for warm season grasses. When mowing, don’t take more than a third of the height off at a time to make it easier for the grass to recover. Clippings should be mulched to both feed the grass and create a protective layer of thatch to further shield your lawn from heat.
Keep your mower’s blades sharp: dull blades will tear the ends of the grass blades instead of slicing them, and that can increase stress and open a pathway for diseases.
Fertilizer Usage and Pet Waste
Ideally, you shouldn’t spread any fertilizer from a month before the hottest summer days, and you should never fertilize a dormant lawn. If your lawn is still growing and you’re having trouble keeping grass on high traffic areas, use an organic fertilizer: they’re slower acting, which means they’ll be less likely to burn your lawn. If this is a consistent problem, consider placing some stepping stones to keep people from walking on the grass.
Dog urine contains high levels of nitrogen so it can burn the lawn just like fertilizer. Diluting the area with water can reduce the effect, but the best long-term solution is to make a mulch or pebble-covered area and train your dog to use that spot. Making sure your dog isn’t getting too much protein and has plenty of water to drink can reduce the nitrogen concentration in their urine.
Herbicides, Pesticides, and Fungicides
Herbicides can be used, but its best if they’re applied when temperatures are below 85 degrees F (30 degrees C.) While they may not directly kill grass they can increase the stresses encountered during hot days. Pesticides should also be reserved for major infestations. Grub infestations are common this time of year, but they’re easy to confuse with burning. To tell the difference, pull on the grass in brown spots: if the grass comes out of the ground with ease, it’s being attacked by grubs.
Fungicide can be applied if brown patch and mildew are showing up on the grass. While it may be tempting to water late in the day if you forgot to do so that morning, this will increase the chance of mold growth.
Keep Your Equipment in Top Condition
When you need to add something to your lawn care arsenal or you need to have your current equipment serviced, visit Shank’s Lawn Equipment. We’re a certified dealer for most popular equipment and engine brands including Honda, Troy-Bilt and Cub Cadet. Our shop is located at 4900 Molly Pitcher Highway in Chambersburg, PA, just off Route 11. To get there from I-81, take Exit 10 to Marion.
Not in the area? We can ship the parts you need to any address in the U.S. and Canada. Visit us online at www.shankslawn.com.