University of Illinois Extension
Bruce Spangeberg

These articles are written to apply to the northeastern corner of Illinois. Problems and timing may not apply outside of this area.

Stateline Yard & Garden

Start Thinking Summer Lawn Care Now

June 7, 2001

Even though we have had an overall cool spring, the heat of summer may not be far away. Now is the time to be thinking about helping lawns get through hot weather.

Mowing height adjustment is probably the most important practice to prepare lawns for hot weather. Mow at heights around three inches or slightly higher. If in doubt, set the mower as high as it will go. Lawns maintained at higher heights usually develop deeper roots and dry out slower than closely mowed turf. Lawn growth will slow as the weather gets drier and hotter.

Questions also arise concerning lawn watering practices for the summer. Most lawns in our area consist of cool-season lawn grasses such as Kentucky bluegrass, perennial ryegrass, and fine fescue. These grasses naturally slow down and may go dormant in the heat of summer. Decide to water lawns all summer as needed to keep them green or let lawns go dormant. Do allow lawns to turn brown and then water them back to a green condition, as this depletes energy reserves and stresses the plant.

Water lawns deeply and infrequently, applying about 1 to 1 1/2 inches per application, depending on site variables. Water early in the day if at all possible. Water should soak down into the soil. If allowed to go dormant, lawns only need about 1/4 to 1/2 inch of water every 2 to 3 weeks to keep root and crown tissue alive. Once more favorable cooler and drier weather returns, the lawn should break dormancy and green-up again.

It's best to hold off until later in the season for most other lawn care practices, including fertilizing, seeding, thatch control, and applying weed killers. The period from late August through early September is ideal for many of these practices. For now, help your lawn by proper mowing, watering, and keeping foot and vehicle traffic off the grass as much as possible during the heat of the upcoming summer months.


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