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Summer lawn care

‘Hot’ tips for summer lawn care

Summer arrived on June 21. As weather patterns change day-to-day, Johnson County Research and Extension offers steps to help your lawn survive an onslaught of summer heat.

Mow high

First, check your mowing height. Cool season grasses such as bluegrass and tall fescue should be mowed high during warm periods. The recommendation is no lower than 3 inches. Mowing high decreases heat and drought stress by increasing the natural defense mechanism. Longer leaf blades provide a shading of the soil helping to reduce the soil temperature and moisture loss. These conditions favor root growth which is vital for increased summer tolerances.

Mowing higher reduces the amount of water used by the plant, and the grass stays green longer. In fact, if you do not believe this is beneficial, do your own test. Mow a strip at 2 inches and another area at 3 inches. Wait for the first signs of stress to appear and see which wilts first. You will be amazed how this works and it is so easy.

Keep the mower blade sharp

In addition to the proper mowing height, make sure the blade is sharp. A dull blade rips the grass blade resulting in increased moisture loss and excess browning to the grass leaf. A dull cut often leaves the grass with a whitish appearance to the lawn. Sharpen or replace the lawn mower blade on a regular basis as a part of regular overall turf and mower maintenance.

Don't fertilize in summer

Lastly, for summer maintenance, avoid the use of fertilizers. Fertilizing cool season grass during the summer greatly increases the lawn’s need for moisture and decreases its adaptability to high temperatures.

The best time to fertilize bluegrass and tall fescue is in the fall months, September and November. In fact, spring applications should be avoided unless the lawn will be well watered during the summer months. Spring fertilization provides little benefit to the grass plant except to make the grass green, often resulting in lush growth. This lush growth increases mowing requirements.

Learn more at the extension office’s website.