Summertime is the perfect time for barbecues, pool parties, amusement parks, and lawn care. Much like every season, proper summer lawn care is critical in ensuring you not only have a popping-green lawn for that family reunion. Summer lawn care also gives your turf a head start heading into the next season.
These summer lawn care tips will ensure all grass types – cool-season and warm-season grasses – are ready for the hot summer sun and prepared for the sudden cool of fall.
Summer Lawn Care Tips for Cool-Season Grasses
Cool-season grass has a tendency to go dormant and lose color in the summertime, but there are ways to keep it as green and get it ready for the big growth in the fall.
Water Your Lawn
When June rolls in, the heat comes with it, and it’s time to jump into summer lawn care mode.
Your lawn needs about an inch of water per week in the heat of summer to remain as green as possible. To track the amount of water your lawn gets, place a rain gauge in an area fully exposed to rainfall and check it every week.
If you notice there is less than an inch of water, use your irrigation system, a portable sprinkler, or a hose to supplement the lack of rainfall. Make sure to check the forecast before watering, though. If it rains later that day or early the next morning, you risk overwatering.
Maintain this 1 inch of water per week all summer long.
Mow on the Regular
Though your grass has gone at least partially dormant at this point, there will still be some growth. When you do mow, make sure you’re removing only about a third of the grass blade at a time. Yes, this will likely mean more frequent mowing for you, but your lawn will reward your extra work by healthy growth that looks greener and lusher.
Pest and Grub Control
Grubs and other lawn-killing pests emerge in cool-season grasses in July and can cause serious damage. Eventually, that damage can start a chain reaction of death in the summer heat.
Walk your lawn frequently and keep an eye out for pests and the damage they leave in their wake. When you suspect pest damage, the key is to identify the pest causing the damage and to take the recommended action to eliminate it.
Test, Aerate, and Amend
In August, you’re starting to think about fall, and the weather starts cooling a bit. This means your grass will soon enter its peak growing season. To ensure a healthy lawn once it enters this growth phase, you must get your soil ready.
You can verify this readiness through a soil test, which you can pick up at any lawn care store or online. Use this test to check the nutrient and pH levels of your soil and follow the instructions to learn what amendments you’ll need to get the soil right.
Before you dive into applying amendments, you must first give them a direct path to your lawn’s deeper roots. You can do this by aerating the soil with a core aerator or a liquid aerator and performing a dethatching with a rake or a liquid dethatcher. Aeration loosens up the soil, and dethatching removes the layer of dead grass and other matter laying on top of the soil.
Once you’ve aerated and dethatched your lawn, apply the fertilizer and other soil amendments according to the soil test’s recommendations.
Because fall is the best time for cool-season grass germination, late August is generally the prime time for filling in the bare areas of dead grass with new seed. This timing can vary by location, but the goal is to complete it about a month and a half before the first frost.
Lay seed lightly throughout your lawn and a little heavier in the bare spots. This will ensure even fullness once fall comes.
Fertilization and Weed Control
When September rolls in, fall is right around the corner, and the days are getting progressively cooler. This gives you about six weeks before the first frost hits, making it the perfect time to apply a balanced slow-release fertilizer that’ll last through your cool-season grass’ peak growth period.
You’ll also want to apply broadleaf weed control in September to ensure the fertilizer you just applied goes to feeding your growing grass instead of those invasive weeds. You can eradicate those weeds with a selective post-emergent herbicide.
Summer Lawn Care Tips for Warm-Season Grasses
Unlike cool-season grasses, warm-season grasses thrive in the heat of summer. However, this doesn’t mean they are a set-it-and-forget-it grass type in the summer. There is still plenty of work to do to maintain a healthy warm-season lawn.
Water Your Lawn
Warm-season grasses will need ample water to grow during the summer months, so you’ll want to set up a rain gauge in an area of your lawn that’s fully exposed to rain. Check the gauge weekly to ensure your lawn is getting 1-1.5 inches of rain.
If the rainfall isn’t adequate, you can use your irrigation system, a portable sprinkler, or a hose to supplement the lack of rain. Keep in mind, many southern states where warm-season grasses are popular are subject to strict watering restrictions in the hot months. Make sure you water only on the days and for the length of time permitted.
Feed its Growth
To maintain a healthy warm-season lawn in the summer means to keep the nutrients coming. Through its most active growth periods in the summer, you’ll want to apply a balanced fertilizer every four to eight weeks.
This constant feeding will keep your grass happy and growing. If you notice your lawn’s growing slower or browning, you’ll want to perform a soil test to ensure there are no deficiencies or a pH imbalance in your soil.
Mow on the Regular
Warm-season grasses thrive in the heat of summer, and because of this it is important to encourage continual growth with regular mowing habits. Be sure that you mow often, never removing more than one-third of the grass blade at a time.
Even though warm-season grasses thrive in the summer heat, they can feel the affects of drought conditions. Avoid mowing your grass if it’s going through the stress of drought conditions.
In July, grubs hatch and come close to the surface of the soil to start chomping on your lawn’s roots. This is the perfect time to apply a grub-controlling pesticide to kill these new hatchlings before they grow and ramp up the damage.
Scale Back the Mowing and Feeding as Temperatures Cool
Around August, the hot weather will start to cool, which pushes your lawn into storage mode. At this point, the new growth should slow, so you’ll want to scale back the mowing to an as-needed basis.
Because your warm-season grass is preparing for its dormant months, it is looking to store as many nutrients as it can. Make sure there is enough to go around by applying a slow-release balanced fertilizer in late August or about six to eight weeks before your area gets its first frost.
If you’re in an area that rarely gets frost, a late-August feeding will suffice.
Trim the Watering and Apply Weed Control
In September, the weather should be cool to make your grass dormant or near dormant, so you can scale back your watering a touch. There is no exact science to this, as it depends on the type of grass you have and your area’s climate. Keep an eye on your lawn and adjust the watering just enough to prevent stress and discoloration.
Since your grass is entering its dormant phase, weeds think its playtime. Show them the fun and games are canceled this winter by applying a pre-emergent herbicide when evening temperatures drop to 65-70 degrees F.
Another Summer in the Books
By following these summer lawn care tips, you’re gotten through yet another summer with a green, lush lawn. Now it’s time to turn your attention to the fall and winter to ensure your green lawn returns just as healthy next spring.