In Utah, lawns tend to go dormant in the summer months because of the heat. High heats put stress on the lawn, making summer the ideal time for grubs to munch on roots, diseases to attack grass blades, and weeds to move into thinning, yellow patches. To make matters worse, we’re currently in the middle of the worst drought Utahns have seen in over 40 years. Though the odds seem stacked against us, you can keep your lawn green and healthy in the summer by following a strict watering, fertilizing, and mowing agenda. Find out how in this post!
In the long run, the key to strengthening your lawn is deepening the root zone. The deeper and stronger your lawn’s roots are, the more likely your lawn will retain its green color and keep weeds out. Proper watering is integral to growing a deep, healthy root system.
When temperatures consistently exceed 85°F in the summer, you’ll need to increase the amount of water you’re giving to your lawn because the lawn will start to go dormant if it is too stressed. Experts recommend watering three times a week or every other day in the summer, depending on the temperature. Try to avoid watering daily because this will create a shallow, weak root system.
When you water, follow our cycle-and-soak watering guide for deep, effective watering sessions:
- Run each of your sprinkler stations through one cycle (but shorten the time to half of a normal cycle).
- Allow the water to soak in for 60 minutes.
- Run the sprinklers through another cycle (half the time of a normal cycle again).
This will train the lawn to grow deeper roots, but determining the right amount of time to water your lawn can be difficult. As long as your lawn is receiving around 2.5-3 inches of water a week in the summer and 1.5-2 inches of water/week in the spring and fall, it should thrive.
Different sprinkler heads give different amounts of water, so the sprinkler head type will affect the length of your watering cycle throughout the year:
- Spray heads: watering sessions should be 20-30 minutes per station (the cycle and soak method should be 10-15 minutes per station twice).
- Stream heads: watering sessions should be about 40 minutes long (20 minutes per station twice for the cycle and soak method).
- Rotary heads: watering sessions should be about 60 minutes per station (30 minutes per station twice for cycle and soak).
Following the cycle-and-soak watering method throughout the year (especially in the summer) will help your lawn thrive.
Check out our video for more information:
In the summer, frequent fertilizer treatments combined with proper watering is the key to keeping your lawn out of dormancy, and timing is vital. Your lawn should be fertilized every four to six weeks in the summer for the best results. Try to fertilize a few hours before watering to help the fertilizer sink into the roots, and use specially formulated fertilizer for each season for the best results. Summer fertilizer should help your grass survive the hottest months, while early spring and late fall fertilizers will help strengthen your lawn in milder temperatures.
In the summer, try keeping your lawn longer to help the roots stay cooler. Three inches is usually the sweet spot for lawn length in the summer months. Anything four inches or longer becomes too difficult to manage and may invite fungal growth.
If you choose to cut your lawn shorter than around 3 inches long, your lawn will be more susceptible to a variety of diseases and grub problems, and it will be more affected by drought-related stress. Additionally, some types of fungi (like summer patch) prefer to attack shorter grass and the shallow root systems that accompany it.
Summer Lawn Diseases
Lawn fungi hide dormant in the soil or thatch layer of the lawn during the winter months, spread rampantly during the rainy spring months, and often start to show their work in the heat of the summer. Diseases generally display damage in patterns—like necrotic ring, which creates brown patches or rings in the lawn. Other diseases, like ascochyta, often appear suddenly after summer storms and only affect the grass blades. Summer patch fungus, on the other hand, kills the roots of the grass, creating splotchy dead areas.
In Utah, we most commonly see ascochyta and necrotic ring in Kentucky bluegrass lawns. Ascochyta lives in the thatch layer of the lawn and spreads when it’s disrupted by raindrops or lawnmowers.
It causes the grass blades to turn yellow in patches, but it does not affect the crown or root system. Because of this, the grass usually turns green again two or three weeks after an outbreak of ascochyta.
Necrotic ring creates circular brown patches or rings on the lawn that spread quickly, especially in the summer when the lawn is weak from the heat. Because this disease lives in the soil, getting rid of it is very difficult. Like other fungi, necrotic ring prefers damp, swampy soil conditions, so aerating and overseeding with disease-resistant ryegrass is one of the best methods to combat it.
Summer patch fungus can also create splotchy, circular dead areas in the lawn, but patches of this fungus may look dark yellow or orange as it spreads. This disease attacks lawns with compacted soil that are mown very short and watered too much.
It lives in dead lawn debris and can cause major damage to your lawn because it kills the roots. If you pull the grass in affected areas, the roots will be black and rotten. The only way to help your lawn recover from this root-destroying fungus is to aerate and overseed with disease-resistant grass types.
Grubs generally damage lawns the most in the warm summer months, especially July and August.
They feed on the roots and crowns of the lawn, creating uneven, splotchy, dead areas. The grass in these areas will pull up easily like a floormat. Billbugs, cranberry girdlers, and white grubs are the grub species Utah lawns struggle with the most. These grubs are the larvae of adult beetles or moth species (like June bugs, Japanese beetles, cranberry girdler moths, billbug beetles, etc.). Specialized grub control treatments are the best way to get rid of grubs. Most lawns easily recover from mild grub damage, but extensive damage may require overseeding or re-sodding.
Weeds are worst in the summer because they thrive in the heat. While other plants struggle, weeds (with their hearty root systems) take over weakened gardens and lawns. This is part of the reason strengthening the root system of your lawn is so important. If your lawn has a strong root system, it can combat invasive weeds easily and choke them out before they become a problem. Thin, old lawns, on the other hand, are very difficult to keep weed-free.
If your lawn is thinning out, aeration and overseeding can help it to recover. Consider aerating and overseeding in the spring or fall to reduce the thatch layer, open up the soil, and add new growth to the lawn. When aerating, remember to use a clean, sanitized aerator to prevent soil diseases from spreading to your lawn.
Stewart’s lawn care program takes care of the fertilizing, weed control, and grub control for you, so all you have to worry about it is the watering. Call or text our office at 801-226-2261 for a free quote!