It’s easy to go a bit water crazy in the summer, dashing out to water our lawns at the hint of a brown blade or two.
But would our lawns care if we took some time off to hit the beach or play some golf?
How important is watering turf in the summer?
Put down the sprinkler and let’s take a look.
Is Your Grass Brown? Don’t Panic
Just because your grass is turning brown doesn’t mean it’s dead.
Grass has a life cycle, and that includes going dormant when water is scarce.
The grass blades might turn brown, but the plant is still alive. It’s just conserving water so it can survive the drought.
Here in our area, we have a mixed bag of turf types, mostly fescue and perennial rye grass.
Neither are drought tolerant, so they need water to stay healthy. But not constant water.
Watering Grass in Summer Heat: Why Do It?
There are advantages to watering turf in the summer:
- You’ll have a green, lush lawn.
- Your turf stays healthy, so you don’t have to battle weeds as much. When turf dries up and gets weak, it’s easier for weeds to germinate and take hold.
What Happens if You Stop Watering Grass in Summer Heat?
It’s not the end of the world.
Here’s what happens:
Your lawn won’t stay that bright springtime green all summer. But how green do you really need it?
Once grass is established, it adapts to its environment. It knows the seasons and changes how much energy it puts out.
When it turns brown, that means it’s putting its efforts into strengthening its root system, as opposed to greening up its leafy blades.
When you dash in to “rescue” your lawn with water, you’re suddenly raising its expectations. It realizes it’s going to get water, so it starts depending on it.
Now you have to keep it up.
You’ve kind of created a monster.
Leave it alone, and it will live its normal life cycle, shutting down a bit when it gets hot and dry, and bouncing back if you follow good maintenance practices. (More about that in a minute.)
Tips for Commercial Property Managers
While a few class A properties have irrigation systems, most commercial properties don’t.
Watering turf in summer heat? Consider these tips:
- Commercial properties that have irrigation systems should make sure their controllers are set to deliver the least amount of water possible to keep their turf healthy. That’s one of the big perks of an irrigation system — exactly the right amount of water. Take advantage of it.
- If you’re watering your turf, consider cutting back a bit. If you manage an apartment complex, does all the lawn need watering? Maybe focus irrigation on high-visibility areas, but let those strips of grass on the sides near the woods fend for themselves.
HOA Residents? We See You
Here at Level Green, we do the maintenance at many HOA properties, and while our crews are on site mowing and weeding, we see lots of homeowners pouring on the water.
If you’re hand watering, you’re wasting a lot of time and water.
Chances are, if you’re watering grass in summer heat, you’re watering too much.
Too much water encourages a variety of lawn fungus diseases this time of year.
It’s OK to cut back on the watering.
The time to think about watering turf in summer heat is actually way before summer — in the previous fall.
That’s when you establish the healthy lawn maintenance habits that help your lawn get through a summer without watering.
Aeration and overseeding set up your lawn for future success. Fall fertilizing gives your lawn a big nutrition boost as it heads into winter.
All these help your lawn establish a healthy root system, so it can endure a dry spell in the summer.
There’s enough rain in the spring to green up your grass nicely.
If you tended to its needs in the fall, your lawn will be healthy enough now to crowd out any weeds trying to take hold.
That, combined with proper mowing height, should set it up nicely for whatever summer dishes out. Which brings us to....
Don’t Mow So Low
Most people mow their lawns too short. These aren’t golf courses. Give your blades a break.
Level Green Landscaping crews mow at a height between 3.5 and 4 inches. The height is tailored to the type of grass in this area — tall fescue. (Note the word “tall.”)
When you have taller grass, it’s harder for weeds to grow. Taller grass provides shade, and weeds hate shade. They need sun to sprout and thrive, so keeping grass taller helps keep your turf weed free.
Let it grow higher, and it won’t need as much water. The longer grass offers a nice protective canopy.
Some Tips for Watering Grass in Summer Heat
If you decide to water your lawn in the summer, follow these tips:
- Water deeper, longer, and not as often. That encourages deeper, stronger roots. If you water too often, it encourages roots to hang out near the surface. Why should they head deeper in the soil to search for water when you’re serving it up so readily every day? You don’t want shallow, quarter-inch long roots. You want sturdier, healthier roots 3-4 inches long.
- If you’re watering seven days a week now, cut back to three days a week. But double the length of time you water.
- Water early in the morning. Watering in the evening encourages diseases and pests.
- Wait until your grass starts to dry out a little before you water again. It’ll be fine, trust us.
Watering Grass In Summer Heat? Consider the Environment
There’s only so much clean water on the planet.
How about cutting back a bit?
Especially in urban environments, you could be washing out fertilizer and chemicals meant to stay in one place.
If you apply fertilizer then water too much, it will run off. Instead of benefitting your yard, it will run into the closest tributary and cause water pollution.
Change your maintenance routine to adapt to the natural life cycle of your grass.
Just think about all the fun stuff you can do instead of obsessively watering your lawn.
Trust Your Turf Health to Level Green
Questions about watering turf in the summer?
Just ask. We can help you with an irrigation plan that works for your property, conserves water, and helps the environment.
If you’re not already a Level Green Landscaping client, we’d love to add you to our growing list of happy customers. Our focus is on commercial properties like offices, mixed-use sites, HOAs, municipalities and institutions in Maryland, Washington DC and parts of Virginia.
Contact us at 202-544-0968. You can also request a free consultation online for a virtual meeting.
We’d love to hear from you.