For the past two months or so, with proper spring lawn care, we’ve watched our lawns come out of winter dormancy and green-up to a nice, thick, healthy dark green lawn that left all of our neighbors jealous. And since the hard work of early raking and spring clean-ups, to the multiple mowings per week, we now want to enjoy the fruits of our labor throughout the summer.
However, Mother Nature may have different plans for our cool season lawns as the summer season begins to sizzle. Here are five simple summer lawn care tips to ensure you maintain a healthy green lawn through the summer months.
With the hotter outside temps also comes hotter soil temps. You grass will begin to slow its top-growth, possibly become dormant (see No. 2 below) and the need to mow will be less frequent than Spring/May. Make sure your blades are still sharp.
Raise the height of your mowing deck. Longer grass blades will keep the soil shaded from the blaring sun, and thus cooler roots. Cool season grasses like Turf Type Tall Fescue (TTTF) will be aiming for 4″. Mulch your clippings whenever possible, and always follow the 1/3 rule (never remove more than 1/3 of the grass blade at a time).
- Drench: ~20 minutes – or 1/2″ of water, a couple of times per week to total one inch, to one and a half inches (1″ – 1.5″). Preferably in the early mornings
- Heal:. Short watertings in the late morning and mid-afternoon – about 5-6 minutes each time to cool the soil
- Spot: Hand-watering and spot-spraying hot-spots in the lawn
Perhaps the most important summer lawn care tip. Barring your town’s water restrictions, aim for 1″ to 1.5″ of water per week – including natural rainfall. If there’s a week without rain, irrigate. I prefer impact sprinklers because there’s a heavy stream that’s also lower to the ground. This is important as the wind doesn’t blow the water around, and that the watered area is consistent.
To measure how much water your irrigation system puts out, place some water gauges (or empty tuna cans) in the middle of the sprinkler streams. Time the sprinkler for about 20 minutes, then check the gauges. Once you reach 1/2″ of water, run the sprinkler for that time 2-3 times per week, every couple of days. Do not water every day. Remember: deeply, but infrequently. The idea is to drench, then let the grass and soil dry out a bit for a couple of days, then drench again.
Early mornings are the best time to water your lawn. Avoid late evenings as the damn overnight grass blades coupled with warm, humid temperatures is a sure call for fungus. However you can water for 5-6 minutes in the afternoons only to cool the grass and soil. This is considered a healing. Also hand-water and spot-spray some hot spots that tend to burn up more so than others.
Skip fertilizing all together. Adding too much nitrogen and forcing growth in a stressed and possibly dormant lawn will do much more harm than good. Don’t risk burning your lawn, particularly with synthetic blends like Scott’s and Lesco. Instead opt for safer, non-traditional organics like humic acid as a supplement in the summer. I’m using Summer Survival by Kelp4Less. If you must fertilize, go organic, like Milorganite, and use half of the recommended bag rate – no more than 1/2 lb. of Nitrogen per 1,000 ft2
- Jonathan Green 8-0-1
- Jonathan Green Mag-I-Cal Plus
- Milorganite Alternatives
- Kelp4Less Extreme Blend Review
Prevent lawn fungus by using a one-two punch of Azoxystrobin and Propiconazole in early June. Alternating both chemicals will prevent the fungus from become tolerant, or immune to one specific fungicide. Example, if I used nothing but Scott’s DiseaseEx – which azoxystrobin is the active ingredient – on my Turf Type Tall Fescue (TTTF) then eventually, the brown patch will become resistant to the fungicide. By alternating, you’re hedging your bets. Each active ingredient is labeled in a different category; each of which prevents and cures different funguses at different rates.
Preventing grubs is going to be your most important task of the summer. These insects can cause irreversible havoc to your turf – leaving you with dead patches galore until fall renovation (aeration and overseeding or slice-seeding). You treat and prevent grubs by throwing down a product like Merit early before summer (early June) before the larvae hatch and begin feeding on your roots. You can also use Grub Ex or Bayer Advanced to prevent and kill grubs in your lawn. As always, read the labels to ensure the product is going to treat (prevent vs. kill) the actual insects in your lawn (grubs, sod webworms, etc.)
I hope these five summer lawn care tips were helpful. Please share a comment below if you have any questions or feedback.