Between the high temps and the low precipitation, summer can be notoriously tough on your lawn. But where there’s Sunday, there’s a way to get your lawn back in shape! Read on to learn about the causes of summer damage—and what you can do about it.
Hot, dry conditions can take a real toll on your turf. Parched grass may react by wilting, turning brown, and going dormant, which means the lower portion of the plant—the crown—is alive but not actively growing. And while this scenario is one of the most common, it’s not the only explanation for summer stress. Here are all of the causes you’ll want to consider:
Dormancy. When your lawn goes dormant, it’s normal to miss that lush, green turf. But dormancy is a pretty impressive survival mechanism! Without access to regular water—like what lawns experience during drought—cool-season lawns will go dormant to reduce their energy needs. Unless the crown of the plant is damaged by heat or desiccation (drying out), your lawn should recover when conditions improve.
Sunday ProTip: Think you may be dealing with drought? Take a walk across your turf and observe how long your footprints remain visible. Healthy grass will perk right back up, while stressed grass will still appear “trampled” for a while.
Heat. Unseasonal heat can cause damage or, if the crown of the plant dried out, plant death.
Flooding. If your grass is under standing water for too long, it can be damaged by debris and lack of oxygen. If it’s especially hot during that time as well, it may suffer even more.
Sunday ProTip: If you have recurring issues with flooding, consider installing a rain garden to divert water away from your turf.
Weeds. In their quest for survival, weeds compete with your turf for water, nutrients, and space—and when they get the upper hand your grass may respond by turning brown and bare. Maybe you’ve pulled or treated weeds already this summer, in which case you might be seeing some bare spots too.
Traffic. Your lawn dislikes traffic as much as you do! Healthy turf can easily bounce back from average foot traffic. But excess amounts related to barbecues, lawn games, slip & slides, and other summer activities can weaken the turf and cause soil compaction. This makes it harder for roots to soak up water, leading to thirsty grass.
Pests. Usually, bugs are just a nuisance, but severe infestations can damage or even kill your turf. Some of the common offenders are grubs, sod webworms, billbugs, and—this year especially—armyworms. To check for pests, grab a handful of dead turf and see if you can pull it up. If it lifts easily like a carpet, then you may have grubs, which cause damage by tunneling under the roots.
Disease. If you tried the turf-lifting test and your sod held firm, then you may be dealing with lawn disease. Take a look at the live grass surrounding the dead area to determine if the issue is spreading, then consider if your lawn care routine may be allowing disease to flourish. Consistent watering after dark and mowing with dull blades can make your lawn more susceptible.
Sending an already stressed lawn into winter is like going into battle without armor. Luckily, fall showers and moderate temperatures give your turf a great chance to recover. The key? Bringing back green growth, because a higher rate of photosynthesis will build up those carbohydrate reserves and strengthen the root system for overwintering.
Spotting summer stress early is a great way to help your lawn before the damage gets too bad. If, after a little detective work, you’ve determined you’re dealing with insects or disease, your local extension office can provide the best, most comprehensive care plan. But if your lawn is under pressure from weather or cultural practices, there are a lot of steps you can start taking now to get it back on track:
Your lawn may be dealing with summer stress, but you don’t have to be! Taking action now by following the steps above will go a long way. Want one-on-one support? Remember that every Smart Lawn Plan comes with unlimited access to our in-house experts.