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Summer lawn care


Summer is a stressful period for lawns in the Canadian climate. Home lawns are made up of cool season grasses which thrive when temperatures are cool and go through a dormancy period in the heat of the summer. Having a healthy lawn in preparation for this stressful period is the key to successful summer lawn care. Summer is the time to sit back and relax, for both you and your lawn.

Drought stress is the biggest potential problem for home lawns in the summer. Other problems are grubs, chinch bugs, crabgrass and other weed invasion. Making the lawn more drought-tolerant will also help to prevent these other problems. A drought-tolerant lawn has a deep root system, is grown on a soil which is constantly replenished with organic matter and has a 3/4 - 1 inch layer of thatch. These conditions take a bit of planning and preparation.

Ideally, the first step in summer lawn care is to fertilize the previous fall after the grass stops growing. The best fertilizer to use would contain a high quantity of controlled release nitrogen, preferably in the form of IBDU (look for this on the fertilizer labels). This nitrogen will be picked up by the roots and be stored for future use. Fall nitrogen applications have been proven to make grass more drought-tolerant. The fertilizer should also have a high potassium content. Potassium makes the grass hardier and more tolerant of cold weather injury. Fall fertilization is the most important application.

In late spring, the grass is still actively growing, but has slowed slightly from the madness of early spring. Fertilizing now will provide the nutrients the grass needs to sustain itself through the summer months.

Lawns should not be fertilized in the summer because there is a higher risk of fertilizer burn. With limited moisture in the soil, fertilizer salts are likely to injure grass roots. Anyway, grasses are mostly dormant in the summer and will not pick up applied nutrients.

Good quality lawn fertilizers will contain a portion of controlled release nitrogen which will extend the feeding period for 8-12 weeks. Fertilizer applications are more effective and efficient when applied during active root growth. The combination of proper timing and us of the extended release fertilizers will eliminate the need to fertilize in the summer months.

Proper mowing practices are important components to lawn care. When the grass is actively growing, mowing should be frequent and the grass can be kept quite short. Never remove more than 40% of the growing shoots at once. If the lawn was left for too long before cutting, raise the mowing height. Lower the mowing height and cut again after 2 or 3 days.

Home lawns are made up of grasses which can withstand mowing heights as short as 1 inch. Shorter than this and the desirable grasses will die out and be replaced by annual blue grass or other weed grasses. Short mowing heights should only be considered under ideal growing conditions because the shorter the grass, the more stressful for the plant. The best mowing height for home lawns is 2-2.5 inches.

The mowing height should be raised to at least 2.5 inches in the late spring in preparation for the summer. The longer grass will shade the root zone and conserve the moisture in the soil.

Grass clippings should not be removed when mowing. Many power mowers now contain mulching units which mulch the clippings down to fine particles. These fall easily through to the thatch/soil layer and provide a valuable, constant supply of dying organic material. The clippings also contain nutrients which will feed the grass in the future.

Chinch bug and grub damage are unfortunate problems when they arise. They should be treated with insecticides so that you can begin to rebuild your lawn. Re-seeding or sodding the damaged areas is possible in summer but will take a steady supply of water. Root growth will be very poor in the heat, so a full repair will not be possible until the fall.

The most important job with summer lawn care is to sit back with your lemonade and enjoy the fruits of your fall and spring labour. You may need the energy this fall!

Daisy Moore, 1998.




Other summer garden tips:

(click on the tip you want to read)


Extreme Conditions
Growing Roses
Summer Lawn Care
Propogation by Cuttings
Sources of Native Plants
Making Sense of Fertilizer Labels
Annual/Perennial Combinations
Climbing Plants
The Dry Garden
Ornamental Grasses
Chooosing A Good Gardening Book
Companion Planting
Preparing the Compost for Fall Use
Getting the Most out of your Vegetable Garden
Repairing Lawns From Summer Stress
All About Grubs
All About Onions
Useful Herbs for the Home Garden
Screens and Hedges




Home  |  Garden designs  |  Naturalized gardening  |  Help with your garden  |  Garden Tips Spring  Summer  Fall  | Contact Daisy


Daisy Moore 2005