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Handling Heat Stress on Lawns

Protecting Your Turf During Hot, Dry Weather

School is out, summer plans are underway, and backyard season has officially begun! The last piece of the puzzle needed for summer enjoyment is a lush, green, healthy lawn. Unfortunately, the extreme temperatures of the season can often cause a formerly vibrant lawn to dry out and wither.

One of the most common conditions lawns succumb to in the summer is heat stress. Heat stress occurs during consistently hot, dry weather when a lawn is experiencing moisture loss. Although it’s not always easy to diagnose, here are a few common indicators that your grass may be under stress:

Ghost prints. Have you ever walked on your lawn only to have the grass remain flat and not bounce back right away? This is usually the first sign that your lawn is drying out and needs immediate attention. Ignoring the problem will only cause the issue to spread until the entire lawn is affected.

Discoloration. Lawns suffering from heat stress often experience discoloration – either to entire blades of grass or just the tips. However, this symptom can be a tricky one. Many other turf issues – such as insect damage and disease – can also cause grass blades to turn straw-colored or brown. Try watering your lawn to see if the color improves. If there are no signs of re-greening, contact your local Weed Man professional, as you may an insect problem on your hands.

Compaction. Try pushing a screwdriver into the surface of your lawn. If you can easily insert the tool, then your yard likely has adequate moisture. If you face resistance, then the soil requires additional water.

If you’re fairly certain your lawn is suffering from heat stress, don’t delay. Take the following steps to help your lawn bounce back as quickly as possible:

  • Confirm that there is not another issue at play, such as chinch bug or grub damage. To verify, take a close look at your turf. If chinch bugs are the culprit, you may be able to see small black and white insects crawling between the grass blades. Grub-damaged turf, on the other hand, will roll back like a carpet when tugged on. 
  • Water deeply and infrequently (2-3 times per week). Morning watering is highly recommended, as afternoon watering can lead to early evaporation, while night watering can cause various forms of turf disease. 
  • Refrain from mowing too low. Cutting too short can impact the lawn’s ability to produce the energy needed for growth. Never remove more than one-third of the leaf blade in a single mowing session. 
  • Keep your mower blade sharp. This will help the grass plants heal faster while preventing a brown appearance in the lawn.
  • Avoid compacting the soil further. This means no heavy foot traffic or heavy mowing equipment.
  • Provide light nutrition in the form of fertilizer to help your lawn recover. 
  • Allow your lawn to go dormant if the stress is severe. With the right care, your lawn should green back up again and make a full recovery.
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