The Long and Short of It: Summer Lawn Care

A crispy brown lawn in the middle of a hot summer is normal.  Yes, you read that correctly.  That’s exactly what happens to Kentucky Bluegrass, the lawn of choice for most American homes.  What’s unnatural is a lush, weed-free expanse of green in the middle of August–that’s about as natural as Pamela Anderson’s curves.

When the temperatures rise and rains cease, Kentucky Bluegrass and most other grasses go into a natural dormant state.  A lawn can safely go into a dormant state for 3-4 weeks without any concern.  Here are some ways to tend to your dormant lawn:

*  Keep off the grass–don’t mow it, resist allowing heavy traffic on it.  In a dormant state the roots are at risk of damage.

*  Leave it a little long.  The shade created by a longer lawn will keep moisture near the roots and provide better competition against weeds.

*  Do not fertilize it.  Dormant grasses are not taking in any nutrients, adding more can even kill your lawn.

*  Ignore the weeds.  If you’re bent on applying broad-spectrum herbicides, spring and fall are the time to do it.  Applying herbicides in summer when your lawn is in its weakest state is not terribly smart.

*  Water sparingly.  A lawn only needs 1 inch of water a week to stay green.  You can conserve your water resources by allowing your lawn to go dormant.  If you feel it’s necessary to water, you can protect your lawn’s health with .5 inches of water a week through the dormant state.  Watering after the sun goes down at night will prevent evaporation and maximize the effects of watering.  A sprinkler usually puts out 1 inch of water every 1-2 hours.  Overwatering your yard will mean a shorter root system resulting in grass that is less tolerant to dry conditions.  Over watering will also result in needing to mow more.

If you don’t like the look of a brown crispy yard, alternatives include planting drought-tolerant grasses or planting something else entirely–like a perennial garden with a root system that will defy summer heat better than Kentucky Bluegrass.

Curious to learn more?  The Lawn Institute, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Ohio State University are great resources.



2 thoughts on “The Long and Short of It: Summer Lawn Care

  1. It drives me nuts when I see people watering their lawns. And some of my neighbors scalp their grass down to the dirt. It looks terrible.

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