We all know that the growth and appearance of a lawn, or of any other outdoor plant for that matter, is heavily influenced by environmental factors, like light, weather, and soil composition. In this part of the country, the effects of soaring temperatures and high humidity can team up to cause some fairly severe damage. Additionally, since we all want our lawns to look their best during the summer, many try to fight nature by continuing to fertilize, water, and coax new growth out of lawns no matter what the weather. However, by understanding and respecting the seasonal changes of turf grasses, you can take steps to care gently for your lawn even in the scorching Georgia heat.
Once temperatures start to rise above the 80 degree mark, lawns can begin to struggle, with new seedlings and cool-season grasses having the hardest time. Growth will slow, the grass color may fade, and lawns will be less able to recover from stress and traffic. Some cool-season lawns will even go dormant in the summer, looking brown and brittle until early fall. Many believe that the best way to relieve that stress is by applying water, but that is only true to a point. While lawns do need more water when the heat is severe, water-logged soils can prevent oxygen from reaching the grass’s roots. If the roots can’t breathe, they cannot absorb nutrients and water and they may die. Smart summer watering means making sure that your yard provides adequate drainage, avoid over-watering, and above all don’t try to “water your grass back to life,” especially if it goes dormant. For certain species of grass, a dormant period is completely natural and they will recover once the weather changes.
Warm-season fungal diseases, like powdery mildew and brownpatch (Rhizoctonia), can become very active when night-time temperatures rise above 65 degrees and the humidity levels are high. While mature lawns can usually weather such attacks, younger seedlings can be killed off, which is why planting new grass during the summer months is seldom a good idea. Dormant or drought-stressed summer lawns can also become more susceptible to lawn insect infestations by pests like chinch bugs, cutworms, armyworms, sod webworms, fire ants, fleas, and mosquitoes. Minor infestations often take care of themselves, but severe problems may require professional attention.
Finally, during the summer months, intense lawn maintenance may actually do more harm than good. Resist the urge to apply extra fertilizer to cool-season fescue turf, as this can actually increase the severity of fungal diseases and may even burn your lawn or create a flush of tender growth that will struggle in the hot weather. Although Bermuda and zoysia grasses may need some fertilizer in the summer, never try to fertilize cooler weather turf types that go dormant in the heat. Instead wait until they green up in the fall. Keeping moisture levels steady is important during dry spells. Since taller grass tends to be more drought-tolerant and to grow deeper roots, raising your mower blade to the highest level, or even mowing less frequently, and mulching, rather than bagging, your grass clippings will give your grass an edge in beating the heat.
Taking care of a lawn can be complicated, and having a team of experienced professionals on your side can often make all the difference. If you have questions about your lawn, or about any of the customized lawn care treatment packages that we provide, please contact Turf Shield to get more information. Don’t forget to follow Turf Shield on Twitter or Facebook to get all the latest updates and lawn care tips.