Prolonged periods of heat and drought can put stress on your lawn. Once temperatures start rising, lawns will begin to struggle a little. Growth will slow, colour may fade, and lawns will show signs of wear and tear as they are less able to recover from stress and traffic.
If spring lawn care is about getting your lawn healthy and green, summer lawn care is about keeping it healthy while temperatures rise. It’s also about maintaining a lawn that can withstand all the barbecues, parties, and running feet that summer has to offer. Here are some tips for keeping your lawn in shape over those long, hot days of summer.
Lawns need at least one inch of water per week, and more when the heat is severe. Water deeply and less frequently to encourage drought-tolerant roots. Water early in the day to reduce evaporation and fungal growth.
Either water your lawn regularly and deeply, or don’t water at all. Don’t let your lawn go brown and dormant, then try to “water it back to life.” If your lawn goes dormant in summer, it should stay that way until fall – don’t worry, it should recover once the weather changes.
Raise your mower blade in the summer. Taller grass is more drought-tolerant, grows deeper roots, and helps shade the earth to prevent weed seeds from germinating. Cool-season grasses should be mowed at 3”- 4” during the summer, or as high as your blade will go, while warm-season grasses should be mowed at 2”- 3”. Mulching grass clippings helps keep moisture levels steady.
Mow regularly, to prevent cutting more than 1/3 of the grass blade at a time. This keeps your grass healthier and prevents the clippings from smothering the grass. Keep mower blades sharp, make sure your mower is cutting your grass, not tearing it, to minimize stress during hot temperatures.
Many fertilizers require that they be watered in to the ground so that the grass can absorb the nitrates. During a drought, greener grass needs slightly more water. It’s okay to let the grass ‘dull out’ for a few weeks. Plants have a switch that lets them conserve their energy when food supply is low. If it gets too low to sustain itself it dies, but if there is just enough to live, it will slowly go dormant (like it does in the winter) or slow itself down to consume less resulting in a subdued color.
Tip: Organic fertilizers are naturally slow-release, and they are much less likely to burn your lawn (or pollute the environment) than chemical fertilizers.
By summer, many lawns begin to show signs of wear, especially in a few popular pathways. Consider installing stepping stones to minimize damage to your grass, and try to minimize traffic on dormant, brittle lawns. If you’re getting plenty of rainfall and your lawn is actively growing, you can apply a bit of fertilizer to these areas to help the blades recover faster.
Since we are not allowed to use any pesticides for weed control in Canada, the best weed control is to keep a health and lush lawn.
Dormant or drought-stressed summer lawns can be more susceptible to insect infestations, such as chinch bugs, cutworms, armyworms, sod webworms, fleas, and mosquitoes. Minor infestations often take care of themselves, but severe problems may require attention.
Summer is also the time for fungal diseases, such as powdery mildew and brown patch. Avoid watering in the evening to keep night-time moisture at a minimum.