Current Conditions Lawn Tips
Summer Turf Stress
Brown spots popping up everywhere
Well, it’s finally happened - the weather has turned full force towards summer which brings on common Summer stress for our climate and turf varieties. Some of you are wondering if your lawn is burned in areas, dead, or you are just baffled as to what is going on. We will do our best to shed some light on your concerns. But before we do let me mention a few things.
1. For 99.9% of you, the lawn is not burned or dead, it's just stressed.
2. Grass almost always comes back! Grass on the side of the highway gets no fertilizer, is only cut every 2 weeks, and yet is still green every Spring and every Fall. Grass is resilient.
Cool Season Turf and Heat - The turf varieties we have in our area are referred to as cool-season turf. In the beginning of the season it becomes what I call "Spring drunk". In other words, the grass gets spoiled in spring with overcast skies (no direct sun), mild temperatures, and rain, usually lots of rain.
Then, every single year, there comes a time when you get your first taste of the summer weather which is direct sun all day with zero clouds and temps over 80, up to 85 and heading towards 90, and almost no rain.
Your grass is hungover from all the partying in the rain and the hot, direct sun zaps it. It kind of likes this change for 2 or 3 days but then on days 4 and 5 of the heat and sun, it gives up and decides to go into dormancy in some spots. If the conditions continue, larger areas if not the whole lawn will continue into dormancy.
Cool-season turf goes dormant during extremes. You expect this in winter and you rarely think about it in summer but it’s the same thing. It’s your cool-season turf’s way of protecting itself (or being lazy) during extremes.
Kentucky bluegrass is the worst for this. Perennial rye isn’t much better. Turf Type Tall Fescue is the best at handling the heat in summer but even it gives up when temps near 88F or higher.
If you look at the pics, it’s the “hot zones” that are first to brown and that is just classic dormancy in cool-season turf due to heat. The grass is not dead, it’s just gone dormant to protect itself against extremes.
Hot zones or hot spots can be randomly throughout the lawn, no one knows what is in every area of your soil. Turf can have multiple things going against it creating those seemingly random spots.
Radiating heat from the concrete and buried pipes. Those areas stay hotter longer even into the evening because of this.
Underground debris, rocks, old tree stumps, and roots.
The grass roots will tend to be shallow in these areas due to less room to spread.
All of these factors contribute and there really isn’t much you can do about it. This is just one of the challenges we have to deal with during periods of summer heat and dry weather.
Watering can help minimizes browning and dormancy, but even with regular irrigation, we are at the mercy of mother nature. Nothing can replace natural precipitation.
Your lawn needs 2-3" of rain or watering every week. Closer to 3" when temps are mid 80's and higher.
Water deep & infrequent.
2-3 times a week, for 45 min- 1 hr in each area. About 1" in each area, per watering.
Early morning is the best time.
Avoid watering past 7:30 P.M. Doing so will invite fungus and disease as the grass blades would not have a chance to dry and stay wet overnight.
DO NOT water shallow and infrequent. Watering daily for 10-15 min in each area will be worse for your lawn then not watering at all.
Irrigation Systems - Be sure it is set to water deep & infrequent, a lot of irrigation companies will set it up for daily quick waterings. This is NOT the proper watering for our climate and grass types.
Our Summer guard fertilizer is specially formulated to not cause harm or burning if not watered in right away. The granules are encased in a poly coating that inhibits breaking down or releasing of nutrients until it has been water activated.
Does it have to be watered in? NO
Will it help activate and give you better results if you do? Yes
For more accurate watering, use a rain gage.
Set a rain gage in the middle of your sprinklers coverage area, this will let you know how much you are watering. You can find them at most box stores, home improvement stores, and garden centers. Here is a link to an inexpensive one on Amazon.
Mow High 3.5 to 4" Especially in the Summer months
Keeping the grass taller, helps shade the soil from the sun, keeping it cooler. The taller you keep the grass the deeper the roots will go, helping it cope with the heat and other stresses.
Adjusting your mower height
Don't go by the numbers or letters on your mower. Set the mower on level ground and measure from the ground to the bottom of the mower blade. This will give you an accurate measurement of your actual mowing height.
Try not to mow on a set day every week, mow when the lawn needs it. In the Spring this might be every 4-5 days. In the Summer it could be every 10-14 days.
Avoid cutting off more than 1/3 of the grass blade
Doing so puts added stress on the entire plant, we want to avoid this if at all possible, especially in the Summer.
Avoid leaving clumps
It is better to mulch than bag, however, if mulching is going to leave clumps you may need to bag this time or rake out the clumps.
Keep Your Mower Blades Sharp
Dull Mower Blade Damage:
Now that we have gotten through the heavy and wet spring mowing season, you should consider having your blades sharpened again to get you through the rest of the season.
Issues caused by dull mower blades: As you can see in the photo, the grass blades on the right are what they should look like and the ones on the left are from a dull mower blade. This can cause several problems that you want to avoid.
*It gives the lawn almost a brown cast over the whole lawn and will not look as green as it should. You should be able to tell that something is wrong.
*It will lead to water loss and increased disease susceptibility.
*If the condition persists into the hot summer months your lawn will have a much more difficult time coping with heat stress and could lead to severe damage.
Just a reminder - Weed Control is a killer, not a preventer.
Weeds need to be actively growing in order to spray and kill them. We spray any and all weeds we see on every visit, aside from the first application. Your first application includes fertilizer and crabgrass preventative, as it is generally too cold for weeds to be actively growing and be able to be killed.