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

Helping Your Lawn Through Summer

June 11, 1998

Even though June has started out with cool temperatures, hot weather is not far off. Heat and lack of rain during the summer can spell trouble for home lawns. Help your lawn by preparing now.

The vast majority of lawns in our area consist of cool-season grasses, such as Kentucky bluegrass, perennial ryegrass, and fine fescue. These grasses naturally slow down and may go dormant in the heat of summer; thus they do not need lots of extra care for the next several weeks.

Probably the best way to prepare lawns for hot weather is to mow higher. Mow at heights around three inches. If in doubt, set the mower as high as it will go. Grass maintained at a higher height of cut usually develops deeper roots and dries out slower than closely mowed turf.

Watering has a major impact on lawns during hot weather. Decide now whether to water all summer as needed to keep lawns green or let lawns go dormant. Do not let lawns turn brown and then decide to water them back to a green condition, then allow it to turn brown again. 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. Indications the lawn needs water include footprints remaining after walking on the grass and an overall dark color of wilting turf. 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.

Wait 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.


Click here for the full article index