Preparing for Summer Lawn Care: Mow High, Mow Often, Water Deeply
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 23, 2013
URBANA – As homeowners are having the annual over-the-fence
discussion with neighbors on whether or not to let lawns go dormant, University
of Illinois Extension horticulture educator Richard Hentschel offers mowing and
watering advice for summer lawn care.
"Our cool-season grasses will naturally go dormant as the
summer heat and lack of rainfall triggers that dormancy," said Hentschel.
"What went wrong in 2012 is that the extended drought did not supply even the
minimal rains that the crown of the grass plants needed to remain hydrated and
able to return again in the late summer, into fall as we expected."
Hentschel added that 2013 has also seen the need for a lot
of reseeding and re-sodding in order to get lawns back into
"This unfortunate weather did provide an opportunity to
improve the lawn as we rebuild it by using grass seed that is more disease
resistant and more vigorous than those seeds used even 5 or 10 years ago,"
Hentschel explained. "Weed populations have also been higher because lawns are
thinned and not nearly as competitive as they typically have been."
How do homeowners then continue to aid in the recovery of
their lawns? Hentschel said by using a variation of methods they are
already used to doing.
"As the summer weather comes along, mowing the lawn at a
higher mower setting leaves a longer grass blade that can produce more
nutrients for the roots and at the same time shade the soil, keeping those
roots cooler," he said. "Moving the blade up just takes a few minutes and the
results are long lasting.
"Another mower-related item is to make sure the mower blade
is sharp and doing a better job of cutting the grass blade, not just tearing or
shredding. If you are able, sharpen the blade at least a couple times during
the growing season. That taller grass blade also helps the lawn compete better
against existing weeds and prevents others from germinating from seed."
Hentschel also suggested that mowing frequently helps
maintain a better-looking lawn. "If the lawn is mowed more often, the grass
clippings can often be left on the lawn, and that can return 1 pound of
nitrogen per 1,000 square feet or more to the soil," he said. "That is free
nitrogen that does not cost anything and clippings that do not have to be collected
and put out for pickup."
As for the question of whether to water or not, Hentschel
said it depends on the homeowner's desire to have a green lawn all summer long
and the commitment to watering enough to keep it actively growing.
"Watering the lawn deeply will promote longer roots, which
in turn allows the lawn to be more drought tolerant during brief dry periods.
This also means that the lawn will use more fertilizer as well, no matter if it
is a commercial product or organic in nature," he said.
Even in a dormant state, Hentschel said the grass plant
crowns will need to receive about one-half inch of water a couple of times a
month even while the lawn is dormant and brown or straw colored. "The
lawns will resume their fall growth once appropriate weather returns no matter
what part of the state you live in. In summary, mow high, mow often with a
sharp blade, and water deeply when you do," he said.
Source: Richard Hentschel, Extension Educator, Horticulture, email@example.com