Summer Lawn Care

Posted: July 2, 2012

When it comes to maintaining summer lawns, a little laziness is a good thing. “The spring recipe for lawn care is to fertilize, mow up to twice a week and treat for weeds, but you should back off on all those practices during the summer,” says Pete Landschoot, Turfgrass Specialist for Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences.

During the hottest, driest months of the year, cool-season grasses usually go into a semi-dormant state, turning brown and dry – this is normal. With recent temperatures in the 90’s, I’ve noticed some turf beginning to go dormant. Fortunately, lawns generally recover when cool temperatures and moisture return in autumn. Here are some lawn care tips for summer.
Mowing heights should be a bit higher in the summer, from 3 to 3½ inches. If possible, mow in the cool of the evening or morning. Be sure to keep your mower blade sharp.
Weed Control & Fertilization
It is best not to use weed control products or fertilizer on your lawn during the summer months. The best times to fertilize in Pennsylvania are May, September, and November. Fall is also a good time to apply broadleaf herbicides to treat perennial weeds.
Treat for insects only if you see a significant problem. Grubs are active from mid August to early October. Landschoot says, “Grubs really can damage some lawns, but most lawns do not need annual treatments. They’re easy to recognize. Because they eat roots, you can roll back small areas of turf like a rug.” Preventive grub control treatments are generally applied sometime from mid June to mid July; these products need moisture (rain or irrigation) to get down into the soil. Read and follow label directions for any products you use.
Turf diseases are easy – there is little you can do, so let nature take its course. Although there are fungicides available to treat some home lawn disease problems, they are difficult to apply properly. And by the time you see symptoms, it’s usually too late to use fungicides anyway. A healthy, well-maintained lawn is your best defense against turf diseases.
“Most years, you don’t need to water if your lawn’s in decent shape going into the summer season,” Landschoot says. If the weather is hot and dry, you have two choices:  allow the turf to go dormant, or properly water the lawn to keep it green all summer. Once you begin to water regularly, you must be consistent and continue to water all summer. You must decide if maintaining a green lawn is really an essential use of our valuable water resources.
If you do want to keep your lawn green, and watering restrictions are not in place, the general rule of thumb is to water deeply and infrequently. Early morning is the best time to water, when cooler temperatures and still conditions keep evaporation to a minimum. Moisten the ground to a depth of at least four inches – “as deep as the roots go,” says Landschoot. A thorough soaking once a week is better than frequent, light waterings.
With the arrival of autumn’s cooler temperatures and increased rainfall, turfgrass again will have the favorable conditions it needs to green up and grow well. Late August to mid October is an ideal time to do maintenance, renovation, or establishment of turf; but lay off the lawn in the summer.