We are well past the easy times of spring when lawns all looked good just from the rain and mild temps. Many of you have been through the last week where temps were hot and dry and your lawn got it’s first taste of the long summer ahead.
I’m talking mostly to those of you with cool season lawns right now. Over-bye-da Chicago land area, you guys were hit with heat and dry days back to back to back that sent your lawns into immediate dormancy in many cases.
Here is a photo of the “Speed Castle” lawn in Munster, IN, June 6. It’s completely checked out during the hot spell, even in the shaded spots. It was lush and green just 3 weeks earlier. (photo courtesy TheTurfKing) This is a lawn at a gas station, a public place. Lawns like this are usually the first to let go in summer heat. (follow me on Instagram to watch me review lawns on stories. I review the Speed Castle lawn every time I go to NW Indiana)
Water Your Way Out Of It
So if your lawn is completely checked out like that one, then you have a decision to make about bringing it out of that dormancy, or just allowing it to go with the will of nature. If you decide to go ahead and try and get the lawn to recover from this (there is a cooling trend hitting with some rain this week) then you for sure want to get your irrigation strategy going now. Review this video so you understand exactly how much water is going down.
To get it to come out of dormancy, give it 1” of water on day 1. Then on days 2-5 give it ½” of water everyday. From there, get on your regular watering schedule of ½” of water every 2-3 days. You want to aim for 1.5” of water per week and hope that you get some of that from rain. Rain is magical - much better than any sprinkler. Either way, 1.5” per week and keep it there. Again, review this video of the famous “Tuna Can Challenge” to understand exactly how your irrigation (manual watering or in-ground irrigation) is working.
It would also be a good idea to get some Hydretain (Moisture Manager Reduce Watering by up to 50%) down while you’re doing all this watering as it can help you moving forward. If you do the max rate of 9oz/1000 you get 3 months of effectiveness. Here is a video showing how to apply Hydretain, step-by-step. It will not burn the lawn or anything like that so you can spray it on the hottest day or the coolest, anytime here in summer. Water it in!
Once the lawn wakes up and you are back to mowing at least every 7-8 days or so, you can then apply Stress Blend to help the lawn through the remaining stresses of summer. Just keep in mind, water is the most important thing so whatever you do, keep that watering schedule up to date. And pray for rain too!
What if I can’t or don’t want to water the lawn?
Now it is ok to let your lawn go dormant and remain there, vibing with the weather all summer. I understand that once travel sports kick in for some of you, and then fitting in a summer vacation to Disney - you are probably not going to have a lot of time to work in the lawn. I see this every year and you are not the only Dad or Mom to face this decision of “letting the lawn go.”
Letting the lawn stay in dormancy is just fine. It’s normal. You can pick things right back up in the fall time and your cool season lawn will completely recover if you do at least this one thing: Water 1 time per week.
If you can give your lawn at least one decent watering of ½” every 7-10 days, even during the hottest months of July and August, it will survive just fine until fall when the weather turns mild again. That little bit of water is not going to turn the lawn green, but it will keep the crowns of the grass plants alive in dormancy so they can easily wake back later in the season. In short, dormancy in summer is a natural thing for turfgrass and it isn’t bad for it as long as you keep enough water on it to keep the crowns alive.
Also, it’s VERY important to keep any and all foot traffic off a dormant lawn. That crispy lawn you are walking on is the sound of the crowns cracking beneath your feet!
Your Lawn Is Doing Just Fine
There are also many of you who your lawn is doing just fine! Here is Luke’s lawn during the heat spell - he is able to keep it watered and his lawn is still thriving and dominating!
As you can see, the neighbors helped him out since they decided to go ahead and scalp their lawn pretty good. And if you think about it, isn’t that how most people treat their lawns? It’s that thing they have to cut a lot in spring because the rain makes it grow, but once they get to summer, they know they only have to scalp it down once every 3-4 weeks or so. So when it gets hot and turns brown, they scalp it down and don’t have to cut again for a month or more.
Seriously, that isn’t me throwing shade at this neighbor in this picture at all. It’s just the reality of how most people treat their lawns. Not everyone is a crazy lawn care nut like you and me! But isn’t it great when they make our domination look even that much more impressive?
So if your lawn looks like Luke’s (review the project lawn videos here and here) you can continue to apply fertilizer every 4-6 weeks. If you download my free app, it will give you a schedule based on your location and sol temperatures. Right now, for most cool season lawns, it’s recommending 7-0-20 Stress Blend with higher potassium. You can also apply Soil Fit natural based soil amendment in summer for a slow release green that also adds bio-stimulants to the soil.
With that, I hope you are enjoying your summer and I’ll see you in the lawn!