Home Improvement Expert Danny Lipford

Summer Lawn Care Guide


Summer is a maintenance season for lawns.

If spring lawn care is about getting your lawn healthy and green, summer lawn care is about KEEPING it healthy while temperatures soar and rainfall becomes a fleeting memory. It’s also about maintaining a lawn that can withstand all the barbecues, games, parties, and running feet that summer has to offer. Here are some tips for keeping your lawn in shape over those long, hot days of summer.

About Summer Lawns

After the spring growing season, summer brings quite a bit of stress to lawn grasses. Not only are the heat and drought damaging, but we aren’t as forgiving in the summer as we are in the winter. We want our lawns lush and green for outdoor activities, and we try to fight nature by continuing to fertilize, water, and coax new growth out of our 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 as the mercury rises.

  • Cool-season grasses (such as fescue, bluegrass, and rye) grow best when temperatures are in the 60s F.
  • Warm-season grasses (including Zoysia, St. Augustine, Centipede, and Bermuda) like temperatures in the 70s.

Once temperatures get into the 80s and above, lawns will begin to struggle a little, with cool-season grasses having the hardest time. Growth will slow, color may fade, and lawns will show signs of wear and tear as they are 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.

If you are unable to water regularly, allow your lawn to go dormant.

Water Wisely

  • Lawns need at least one inch of water per week, and more when the heat is severe. Use a rain gauge or straight-sided can to keep track of the amount of water received from rainfall and irrigation.
  • Water deeply and less frequently to encourage drought-tolerant roots.
  • Water early in the day to reduce evaporation and fungal growth.
  • Either water your lawn regularly and deeply, or don’t water at all. Don’t let your lawn go brown and dormant, then try to “water it back to life.” If your lawn goes dormant in summer, it should stay that way until fall – don’t worry, it should recover once the weather changes.

Small tuna cans make a good temporary water gauge.

Mowing Tips

  • Raise your mower blade in the summer. Taller grass is more drought-tolerant, grows deeper roots, and helps shade the earth to prevent weed seeds from germinating. Cool-season grasses should be mowed at 3”- 4” during the summer, or as high as your blade will go, while warm-season grasses should be mowed at 2”- 3”.
  • Mulching grass clippings helps keep moisture levels steady.
  • Mow regularly, to prevent cutting more than 1/3 of the grass blade at a time. This keeps your grass healthier and prevents the clippings from smothering the grass.
  • Keep mower blades sharp. Make sure your mower is cutting your grass, not tearing it, to minimize stress during hot temperatures.

Mowing higher means mowing more often.

Don’t Over Fertilize

If your lawn is looking straggly in midsummer, resist the urge to fertilize. In fact, it’s best to stop fertilizing about 30 days before your area’s summer temperatures arrive. Applying extra fertilizer in the heat of summer can burn your lawn and create a flush of tender growth that will struggle in the hot summer weather. Never fertilize dormant lawns – wait until they green up in the fall.

Lawn Tip

Organic fertilizers are naturally slow-release, and they are much less likely to burn your lawn (or pollute the environment) than chemical fertilizers.

Organic packaged fertilizers are becoming more widely available.

High-Traffic Areas

By summer, many lawns begin to show signs of wear, especially in a few popular pathways. Consider installing stepping stones to minimize damage to your grass, and try to minimize traffic on dormant, brittle lawns. If you’re getting plenty of rainfall and your lawn is actively growing, you can apply a bit of fertilizer to these areas to help the blades recover faster.

Control Weeds

Summer is the season to get those growing weeds removed before they bloom and disperse seed for next year. Targeted postemergent herbicides are designed to kill broadleaf weeds without harming turf grass, but they must be applied when temperatures will be below 85° F for a few days. Keep in mind that during the heat of summer, ANY product can be damaging to already-stressed lawn grasses, so use sparingly or hand-pull weeds instead.

Use weed control products when temperatures are under 85 degrees F.

Insects and Diseases

  • Dormant or drought-stressed summer lawns can be more susceptible to insect infestations, such as chinch bugs, cutworms, armyworms, sod webworms, fire ants, fleas, and mosquitoes. Minor infestations often take care of themselves, but severe problems may require attention.
  • Summer is also the time for fungal diseases, such as powdery mildew and brown patch. Apply fungicide if needed, and avoid watering in the evening to keep nighttime moisture at a minimum.
  • Grubs will begin hatching in your lawn over the summer. If grubs typically cause problems in your lawn, you can begin applying grub control around midsummer.

Use insecticides only if you have severe lawn damage.

Further Information

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15 Comments on “Summer Lawn Care Guide”

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  1. tracy myers Says:
    August 11th, 2009 at 9:39 pm

    We have brown patch in our back yard every year in the same spots. My husband has treated it with fungicide. We use grub control and fertilizer. Last year he bought a grass blend that was suppose to be more resistant to brown patch but our back yard looks terrible. We live in Clay Center,KS and bluegrass is commonly used in our area. What else should we do?

    Tracy Myers

    July 2nd, 2010 at 8:36 am


    THANK YOU. 7.2.10

  3. Official Comment:

    Julie Day Says:
    July 2nd, 2010 at 9:17 am

    Terry, the same thing happens in my yard. Cool-season grasses really don’t like the heat, and many of them will go dormant (and turn brown) in the hottest part of the summer. Water will help keep it cool, as will mowing on the highest setting, but otherwise there’s not much you can do to prevent it. If you overseed in the fall, look for heat tolerant grass varieties.

  4. Diane Says:
    February 28th, 2011 at 5:45 am

    Please let me know if epsom salts will do any harm to lawn if you mixed the strength wrong and how often can i use the salts

  5. Mark Says:
    August 13th, 2011 at 12:45 pm

    If you always have one spot that turns brown, you might check what is under the grass. Dig up a spot. Check for grubs. Also check for rocks. We had huge chunks of cement under the grass that caused the grass to overheat easier than everywhere else. I pulled the cement out, patched it up, and now the spot is gone.

  6. john goslin Says:
    June 7th, 2012 at 9:35 am

    I live in Salem County, NJ, surrounded by woods. We had moles, but now are getting holes without mounds, multiplying overnight! The holes do not go down very far, but our grass is dying and the ground sinks if you walk directly around the hole. We have been unable to catch sight of the hole makers and are becoming frustrated by this. We have well water and that gives me pause in using some of the pesticides suggested. Does anyone else have these holes? What are the pests?

  7. robert hughes Says:
    June 27th, 2012 at 5:43 am

    I want to fertlize my lawn but we expect 100 degree temps for next 6 days. Should I wait and what temps are okay to feterlize lawn?

  8. Official Comment:

    Julie Day Says:
    June 27th, 2012 at 6:47 pm

    Robert, you should definitely wait until things cool down before fertilizing your lawn. If you’re growing a cool-season grass (like fescue or bluegrass) you shouldn’t fertilize during the summer at all – wait until fall. If you’re growing a warm-season grass (bermuda, St. Augustine, centipede, etc.), ideally you should wait until temps are back in the 80s.

  9. Buz Bainer Says:
    July 5th, 2012 at 9:50 am

    I had sod planted along a strip in my yard (the area did not respond well to other kinds of grass). There are a couple areas that began to turn brown (down to the bare ground). Landscaper told me i have GOOD soil. The area of browning (again down to the bare ground) has spread two days after applying grub control (July 2nd). I don’t know if that caused the almost immediate reaction, but now i don’t know what I can do.

  10. larry Says:
    July 4th, 2013 at 2:16 pm

    please tell me best way to keep carpenter ants and other insects from my home in coca beach florida, with st augustine grass , saw large ants with wings around the house, just get insecticide and ortho pwder fire ant killer to put around the house? thanks

  11. kathi Says:
    July 29th, 2013 at 2:15 pm

    I just hired a lawn service who will be fertilizing my lawn over the next year. I got a call today saying they are coming to apply fertilizer and weed killer to my lawn. Its July and I believe I have bluegrass. Should I be letting them do these applications? It just doesn’t seem right to me. My lawn gets a lot of sun and gets watered daily but its full of weeds which is why I hired them. Should I tell them to cancel the application? What will happen if I let them go ahead with the application?

  12. steve Says:
    May 29th, 2014 at 9:30 am

    the story doesnt really add summer lawn care, it talk more about spring and fall etc. i like to know how to fertilize in summer to keep the lawn green without burning it, the guy next door said use 16-16-16, i think that will burn it

  13. Kevin Says:
    July 23rd, 2014 at 4:21 pm

    I understand summer fertilization of fescue is not advised, but would someone please explain to me why during the hottest part of this St. Louis summer my 100% direct sun open lawn seems to be the most vigorous and rich in the areas of high nitrogen such as granual fert spill points or the other Nitrogen rich areas as my fairy rings?

    Lastly, I’ve got fairy ring for the first time this year. I built the hope and there’s no carbon, no wood, nothing under. I bag my Lawn with a Deere 3 bag bagger and have zero mulch. These rings are 100% fairy ring but produce no puff balls or no mushrooms but they do produce the morning foam and bubbles as if my kids were out playing bubbles at night. There’s 10 of these things popped up the ass 6 weeks in the front of my 1 acre lawn and they somewhat coincide with brown patch. BTW, I’ve already sprayed about 2K worth of ProStar fungal control at the lower dosage for BP prevention. What are they doing here and is this possibly a case of disease that is weak and may not end up being a long term problem due to the nature of the symptoms? I hit the 2 acres w 4.5 oz of ProStar per 1000 ft today but will be a poor man if I continue this treatment.

  14. michael Says:
    July 31st, 2014 at 8:14 am

    my spots are not brown they are yellow. i live in seattle and put weed and feed on the grass and and i have a few large yellow spots i water every day. its a new lawn what can i do?

  15. Jim Day Says:
    September 1st, 2014 at 10:11 am

    Thanks Julie Day for the Tip. Nice last name,
    Happy Summer “DAYS”.

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