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Summer Lawn Care Guide

By Janine Caayao, Lawn Love
Photographs courtesy of Lawn Love

Summer is a time for rest and relaxation for many of us. When it comes to lawn care, however, there’s no such thing as a vacation. Although lawn care might look different depending on what type of lawn you have, it doesn’t change the fact that your lawn probably needs tender loving care to get through the summertime. But how do you best care for your lawn during these hotter, harsher months? Here is a summer lawn care guide to walk you through it.

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Warm-Season vs. Cool-Season Summer Lawn Care

Your summer lawn care routine will depend on what turfgrass you have and what your area’s climate is like.

“Know[ing] what kind of grass you have is the first thing,” says Ron Meyer, agronomist and crop production agent with the Colorado State Extension Service in Phillips County. While knowing exactly what turf species you have is important, you’ll be fine if you only know what type of grass you have: cool-season or warm-season.

How do you figure out if your lawn has warm-season or cool-season grass? Typically, northern states have cool-season grass, and southern states have warm-season grass. But what if you’re in the transition zone? A good way to know is by observing your lawn’s growth cycle.

Mow High and Mow Properly

This summer, you should let your grass grow a little taller and mow high. Mowing your turf high encourages strong root growth, which helps your lawn become more heat-tolerant and drought-resistant. Taller grass also provides more shade that discourages weeds from growing and cools your soil down a little.

For warm-season grasses, you should set your mowing height between two to three inches high. Cool-season grasses should be mowed even higher – no shorter than three inches tall.

When you mow, try not to take off more than ⅓ of your grass blades’ height. Any more than ⅓ can cause unnecessary stress on your lawn. Stress can make it easier for pests, weeds, and diseases to latch onto your lawn.

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Water Appropriately

Watering your lawn is key to keeping it alive throughout the summer months. It’s important to know what type of grass you have on your lawn partly because their water needs will be quite different. When temperatures reach 85 degrees, Meyer says, warm-season grass types need about one inch of water per week, and cool-season grasses double that.

If cool-season grasses don’t get enough water, they’ll go dormant. While most grasses don’t mind going dormant, dormancy can be more harmful for some grasses like tall fescue, as they can’t recover as fast as other grass types.

Here are some lawn watering tips to help you out:

Water early: The best time to water your grass is the early morning, between 4 and 8 a.m. This allows more water to reach the roots, reduces water waste due to evaporation, and gives the grass a chance to dry off. If you water too late in the morning, you can scald your lawn. Avoid evening watering at all costs because your grass will stay wet for too long, inviting fungal diseases.

Avoid overwatering: You want the water to penetrate six to eight inches deep into the soil. You can find out if you’re over- or underwatering by driving a small tool, like a screwdriver or small trowel, into the soil. If the soil is dry and you’re having a tough time getting it through, then you’re underwatering. If it slips right in, you’re overwatering.

You can figure out how long to run your sprinklers using the tuna can trick. Get a bunch of straight-sided cans – tuna or cat food cans work well – and place them around your sprinklers. Set a timer and let your irrigation system run until the water reaches your desired amount. The time it takes to fill the cans to your desired amount is how long you should let your sprinklers run. You could also invest in a rain gauge.

Lastly, don’t water every day. Once or twice a week is enough even during drought conditions. Watering deeply and infrequently promotes a strong root system that can handle drought better. Watering too often leads to shallow roots.

Keep an eye on your grass: Your grass will show signs when it’s not getting enough water. These signs include grass blades that fold up, wilting, grass turning blue-gray, and footprints that don’t disappear after you walk on the grass.

Leave dormant grass alone: If your grass does go dormant, don’t worry too much. It’s best to leave it alone than to try and water it back to life. Reduce the amount of water you give your warm-season grass to ½ to ¼ inch of water once or twice a week. For cool-season lawns, reduce to around ½ inch of water every two to four weeks, just enough to get them through the summer drought.

Your turf is quite sensitive when it has gone dormant. Refrain from mowing, stepping on, or parking on it, too.

Fertilize Your Warm-Season Lawn

Since summer is the prime growing season for warm-season grasses, it’s the best time for warm-season lawn fertilization. Feed your turf with a slow-release fertilizer in the early summer so that it gets the nutrients it needs to thrive.

Just make sure not to apply too much, as your grass can burn. This is especially true mid-summer; the new growth won’t be able to handle the hot weather. You can fertilize again in late summer around Labor Day.

Don’t fertilize if you have a cool-season lawn. Cool-season grasses should be fertilized in the fall and then again in the spring.

Keep on Top of Pest Control

The warm temperatures can bring pests out of the woodwork. Depending on where you live, summer pests could include June beetles, chinch bugs, cutworms, armyworms, and sod webworms.

Some of the most destructive lawn pests around are white grubs. These beetle grub larvae will eat through your turf’s roots, leaving the grass blades behind. Turf ravaged by lawn grubs can leave brown spots, and you can easily lift affected grass from the soil, as it doesn’t have a root system to keep it in the soil anymore. You might even be able to see these pests curled up and resting.

Treat your lawn for pests early in the summer to beat the heat. Spot treat rather than applying pesticides everywhere as much as possible, as pesticides can damage your grass during drought conditions. Always read the label before using pesticides, or consider contacting a pest control company to get rid of these unwelcome visitors.

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Photo Credit: Scot Nelson / Wikimedia Commons / CC0 1.0

Watch for Weeds and Diseases

In the summer, weeds might set up shop on your lawn. Spot-treat with post-emergent herbicide as much as possible; most herbicides target broadleaf plants, which can include shrubs, trees, crops, and flowers.

Like with pests, control weeds early in the season and avoid using herbicides when it’s 85 degrees or higher outside. Don’t mow before or after applying weed control products so they can reach the offending plants. Don’t apply herbicide before or after it rains, either, or else your herbicide won’t stick. Lastly, avoid applying herbicide during drought conditions, as this can seriously affect turf health.

Summer is also the prime time for some lawn diseases like brown patch, summer patch, and rust. As always, read the label before using a fungicide to make sure you’re using it correctly and safely. Spot-treat for fungal diseases as much as possible.

If you’d rather enjoy your summer on the beach or at the lake, why not hire a local lawn care company to do the work for you? Now you won’t have to pick between having a lush and healthy lawn and a relaxing weekend. Connect with a local lawn care service on LawnStarter today!

A writer by trade, Janine Caayao graduated from the University of the Philippines. She draws, plays video games, and snuggles with her cats during her free time.

All articles are copyrighted and remain the property of the author.

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