Helping Grass Survive the Summer
Palm Beach landscape designer Keith Williams of Nievera Williams Landscape Architecture knows what the summer sun can do to lawns. The American Society of Landscape Architects Winner (ASLA) Award of Honor winner sees the effects of hot weather on residential lawns in South Florida, where the average temperature in August exceeds 90 degrees. Some types of grass do better in high temperatures, but all are likely to suffer as the thermometer rises during the hottest months of the year. Keeping the lawn healthy can be a challenge.
“In the summertime, it’s important to adjust the way you take care of the lawn,” Williams explains. “There are grasses like zoysia where we scalp it back to its root system in June or July. We top dress it and wait a few weeks for it to flush back out. It kills a month of heat and it all comes back in evenly. Unfortunately, you can’t do that with typical grass. It has to be maintained and that can be tough when it gets hot.”
“Other types of grass need special attention in the summer. If you have professionals taking care the lawn, it’s probably going to stay pretty green," continues Williams. “But there are things anybody can do to keep the lawn from turning brown [in the summer].”
For those battling hot days, scorching sun and the occasional drought, Williams offers suggestions for keeping the lawn healthy and green until cooler days return.
Keep Grass Longer
“Keeping grass a little longer in the heat of summer helps,” explains Williams. “The roots extend deeper into the earth, keeping weeds from coming up and competing for water. And because the turf is denser, it requires less water.” Williams recommends a blade height of about 4 inches during the summer months.
Sharpen Mower Blades
A sharp blade is always important, but never more so than during hot summer months. “Dull blades cause grass to fray. Frayed grass is far more likely to brown.”
When to Mow
Williams suggests mowing less frequently and cutting early in the day or holding out until the sun begins to go down. “Freshly cut grass is more likely to sustain damage in the hot sun,” says Williams, “and keeping the lawn cool will cut down on those brown spots.”
Instead of bagging grass clippings, use a mulching mower. Allowing mulched grass to settle into the lawn will help trap moisture, keeping the lawn cooler and better hydrated. A mulching mower can be beneficial to the lawn all year long, but is especially helpful for beating the summer heat.
“Depending on the type of grass, you can probably skip fertilizing during the summer," says Williams. "If your lawn is having trouble, before you get into fertilizers, have the soil tested first to see if there are deficiencies. If fertilizer makes sense, look at organic, time-release fertilizers to avoid burning your lawn.”
When to Water
Most lawns require about an inch of water per week to stay healthy. An irrigation system is ideal for lawn hydration, but no matter how the lawn is watered, time of day makes a difference. ”Despite what some say, watering during the hottest part of the day won’t damage grass,” declares Williams, but rapid evaporation can be an issue. Deep, infrequent watering during morning hours allows moisture to be more efficiently absorbed by the root system.