Did you know that you can pre-condition your lawn so that it can withstand summer heat?
According to the non-profit Turf Resource Center, for the best results, and an even stronger lawn when the summer begins to fade toward autumn, you should start immediately to prepare your lawn by following these simple steps:
Step 1. Reduce or eliminate fertilizer and weed control applications at least 30 days before you expect the temperatures to start increasing toward summer highs. While fertilizers encourage growth, they also create a lush rush of growth that does not withstand the high summer temperatures very well. Weed-killing herbicides, while targeting unwanted plants, may also place grass under stress that reduces its rate of growth.
Step 2. Gradually raise the cutting height of your mower by 25 to 50 percent as the temperatures increase during the summer. Longer grass encourages deeper roots and shades the soil better.
Step 3. Mow as frequently as necessary so you never remove more than one-third of the grass blade at a time. Increased mowing frequency will encourage deeper roots that are essential to your lawn’s health when the summer gets hotter and hotter. Also, always make sure your mower blade is sharp so that the grass blade is cut cleanly and not ripped raggedly.
Step 4. Water your lawn late at night or early morning, at a rate that can soak deeply into the soil. Most lawns need about on-inch of rain or irrigation water every week. Light and frequent sprinklings encourage shallow roots that can’t provide the grass with all of the moisture it will need during hotter times. Infrequent, deep watering encourages deeper and deeper roots.
Step 5. If severe watering restrictions are enforced, ration the water available to you by establishing priorities for your lawn. You may want to use the water on the portion of your yard that receives the most use or traffic or apply it to that area of your yard that you want to keep green. If proper steps have been taken, allowing your lawn to go dormant and be a golden brown during the hottest part of the summer can be an acceptable solution as it should re-green when the heat subsides and water can be applied.
Attempting to maintain an entire lawn that is perfectly green, when only limited water is available, may be impractical and certainly frustrating. It could also result in a weaker lawn if you attempt to lightly sprinkle the entire lawn.
Step 6. As the summer heat subsides, or watering restrictions are eased, you can start by once again watering deeply, but infrequently; allow increased traffic on all areas and gradually lower the mowing height. If weed control is necessary, you should first allow the grass to re-establish its health.
Step 7. Actions you can take in early fall, to strengthen your lawn for the winter and especially next summer, include aerating and/or dethatching your lawn (gas-powered, core-removal aerators and thatch removal units are available from lawn and garden suppliers or broad-based rental stores). A week or two after these operations, apply a well-balanced, slow-release fertilizer. If a soil test shows your lawn to be deficient in potassium, higher levels should be applied as this nutrient encourages rooting that improves heat avoidance and tolerance.
The above article was provided by The Turf Resource Center & The Lawn Institute (www.TurfGrassSod.org or www.LawnInstitute.com). Permission to reprint this article must be obtained by The Turf Resource Center & The Lawn Institute.