For most of us, summer is not a season of stress. For lawns though, it is. Consistent hot and dry weather over a long period of time can lead to heat or moisture stress, which can cause your lawn to turn brown and even invite a variety of weeds and pests. To keep your lawn at its best and limit the hot summer damage, you should familiarize yourself with some of the basics of this issue:
Signs of Lawn Stress
On the bright side, heat stress is not that difficult to identify. Early on, your lawn may need a drink if footprints remain on the grass hours after walking on it or if the grass appears discolored (it usually turn gray or a darker shade of green before going brown).
When the effects of stress start to substantially impact your turf, grass blades may curl or turn brown at the tips. If you notice brown patches throughout your yard, this could actually be the result of a variety of different problems (all of which are worsened by drought):
- If the lawn in these areas can be lifted up like a carpet, you may have a grub infestation since these insect larvae eat at the grass roots.
- Push a screwdriver into your lawn. If it becomes difficult and does not go in smoothly, the lawn needs moisture and aeration.
- A brown lawn could also be the result of chinch bugs or other surface feeding insects.
In all of these cases, your lawn will experience great difficulty taking in the nutrients it needs. If you notice any of these signs in your yard during the hot summer months, it would be wise to take precautions against heat stress.
Treating Stressed Grass
- Don’t compact the soil. If your lawn experiences a lot of foot traffic or heavy mowing equipment, your soil will become compacted and it will be difficult for air to get to the roots. If your lawn suffers from this problem, you’ll need to aerate in order to relieve the stress.
- Water deeply, but not often. Watering lightly every day will produce shallow roots that won’t be equipped to handle hot and dry weather very well. Your lawn should receive 1/3 an inch of water every other day in order to remain strong and drought-resistant. Water in the morning to avoid the afternoon’s high evaporation rates and the possible fungus risks your lawn could face if irrigated at night. Shoot for 6-10 am.
- Adjust fertilizer applications to avoid damage. In high stress periods, light applications will keep your lawn healthy or assist in recovery.
- If the drought is severe enough, let it go dormant. In conditions when the heat is just too much for your grass to overcome, it will essentially shut down until cool, moist weather returns. During this condition, you should irrigate your lawn at least once per week.
- If you have a newly-planted lawn, don’t let it go dormant. Every rule has an exception. Allowing new turf to dry up and die can have crippling long term effects, as it has shallow roots and may not be able to recover from extreme stress. It is critical to keep up with irrigation and refrain from compacting the soil in order to keep these lawns alive and well.
When autumn comes, your lawn should begin to recover from heat stress. Keeping up with seasonal lawn care is an essential part of maintaining healthy grass and can produce a wonderful lawn if performed correctly.