Tips for maintaining your lawn in the hot summer months

Our climate is changing... of that there is no doubt. Summers are getting hotter and that means we need to use every trick in the book to keep lawns healthy.

Here are some tips, some obvious, others you may hot have thought of, that will give you an advantage in caring for your lawn:

DO NOT OVER WATER

This may sound like bad advice, but there are reasons why over-watering in hot, dry conditions is bad for your grass. In general, turf grasses do better on the dry side because soil that is constantly wet will deprive the roots of oxygen thus slowing growth. Also, since diseases thrive in wet conditions, over watering could make grass roots susceptible to diseases.

The best advice on watering is this: water deeply and infrequently. Water deeply to wet the entire root zone and do not water again until the grass is dry. If you notice patches of grass that dry more quickly, ie: "hot spots", water those only and do not water again until all the grass is dry

DO NOT CUT GRASS TOO SHORT

There is a tendency to cut grass as short as the lawn mower or tractor will allow. I suppose the motivation, whether it is a homeowner cutting his own grass or a commercial landscaper, is that you will get a couple more days before you have to cut again. This is definitely a no-no in the hot summer months.

If a lawn is cut too short, it reduces the plants’ ability to produce energy for growth. When cut at the proper height, however, grass develops stronger roots that support healthy grass that can tolerate the stress of cutting.

Here is a good hint, it is called the "One Third Rule":

Never remove more than one-third of the grass height at one time. This keeps the lawn cooler because less plant tissue is removed. In fact, cool season grass types actually benefit in the heat of the summer by setting the blade higher. If a lawn is normally cut at 2.5 inches, for example, increasing it to 3 inches in the heat of summer will come with many benefits.

MOW GRASS PROPERLY

Four important tips about mowing:

1. Never mow grass during drought because grass under stress will not have the same ability to recover.

2. Never mow wet grass because it will clump and that will inhibit growth.

3. Always make sure mower blades are sharp. Sharp blades cut grass, dull blades tear grass. If you have ever seen grass with a brown appearance after cutting, that is usually caused by dull mower blades. That torn grass not only spoils the appearance of your lawn, it can make grass more susceptible to disease.

4. Do not bag grass clippings. Grass clippings are actually a great, natural, slow-release fertilizer for your lawn.

NEVER FERTILIZE OR AERATE IN HOT SUMMER

No matter how tempting it is to fertilize and aerate in summer, that is not a good idea.

During the hot summer months, the cool season grasses are consuming more than they can produce. Fertilizing stimulates more growth, which consumes even more energy further stressing lawns during periods of high temperatures.

This goes for aerating as well as it causes damage that is difficult for the grass to recover from during heat stress. Much better to aerate in fall or spring when grass is vigorous and can heal the damage more quickly.

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