5 Essential Strategies for Maintaining a Gorgeous Lawn This Summer
Getting your lawn into the best possible shape always requires time and care. Maintaining your turf in the summer, however, requires a bit more attention, since the blazing sun and hot temperatures can turn green, lush yards into dried out brown patches of grass. To find out how to keep your lawn healthy this summer, we tapped landscape and garden experts; ahead, they share everything you need to know about summer lawn care.
When to Cut Your Grass
An essential part of summer lawn care is cutting your grass, and when it comes to this chore, timing is everything. Ryan McEnaney, a landscape and garden designer and the author of Field Guide to Outside Style ($30, target.com), says to mow your lawn when it reaches between 1 to 3 inches, but it all depends on your climate and the type of grass you have in your yard.
"The key is to not cut back more than 1/3 of its length with each mowing," he says. "Cutting it too short can stress the grass and increase the available space for weeds to make their way into the turf. Leaving the grass a bit longer results in a stronger root system, as well, helping grass stand up better to periods of drought or other stressors."
This is particularly salient during the hottest months of the year: A deeper root system allows your grass to access water in the earth, which ultimately keeps it cooler. As a standard rule of thumb, Sadie Oldham of the natural lawn care company instead suggests mowing weekly. If you have fast-growing grass, you may need to cut it more often.
How Much to Water Your Lawn
"Watering a lawn is dependent upon grass type, climate, and time of year," explains McEnaney. The key here is to find a balance: You don't want to oversaturate the area with water, but you also don't want to supply too little. In the event that you just seeded the grass or laid sod, then you will need to water more than usual, however.
"When this is the case, watering in the morning and early evening will help the turf establish well—just be sure not to over water and let the soil get soppy," he adds. "For established lawns, aim for roughly 1 to 1 1/2 inches of water per week, either naturally (by rain) or applied."
Again, the conditions in your area will dictate the watering, but this game plan is a good starting point. If you're unsure about your turf's hydration levels after you water, simply check the soil and make sure the first couple inches are moist to the touch. Oldham recommends watering your lawn early in the morning (by 10 a.m. at the latest) to make sure the water doesn't evaporate, which usually happens by midday. On the other hand, watering too late could be a knock to your yard, too, since the moisture at night could lead to lawn fungus and disease.
When to Aerate Your Lawn
Aeration is another step towards a healthy yard; it sends air, water, and nutrients to the roots in your lawn. McEnaney suggests tackling this task in the late spring or fall, though, so turf has the opportunity to recover. If you aerate in the summer, you can stress the lawn and cause your grass to die altogether.
"If you notice that your grass feels spongey and like it's not absorbing moisture, it might be that there's compacted soil and other organic matter called thatch that is prohibiting water, nutrients, and air to reach the roots of your grass," he says. "Aerating is generally done every few years, depending on how much use your lawn gets."
How to Fertilize Your Lawn
Summer lawn care wouldn't be complete without fertilization, since your grass needs nutrients to grow during this season. "Slow-release fertilizers are preferred for the summer to maximize nutrient absorption," says Oldham. "Slow-release nutrients are also less likely to burn if applied when the temperatures are very hot." McEnaney notes that keeping grass evenly watered will also help with nutrient absorption; give your lawn another feed in the early fall, when temperatures cool down.
Regardless of the season, "before heading out to apply fertilizer on your lawn, be sure to check the local weather," McEnaney adds. "Don't apply fertilizer when there is rain anticipated in the coming two days, as you want to allow it to soak into the soil and avoid runoff."
How to Save Dying Grass
Keep in mind that grass could go dormant altogether during an intense hot or dry period. "If you see your lawn turn brown in this situation, continue to water once every couple of weeks, and as temperatures drop, you should see the green come back," shares McEnaney. If you're struggling to maintain the health and moisture of your grass throughout the summer, it's best to water deeply (for about 20 to 30 minutes) and less frequently, instead of opting for regular, lighter waterings. Oldham adds that this process brings hydration deep into the soil and encourages strong root development. And despite common belief, your yard really can handle periods without water. Another pro tip? Mow higher during the summer, as this is yet another helpful way to grow a stronger lawn that experiences less stress.