9 Steps to Have Your Lawn Ready for the Summer
Even though there are places in the country that are still chillier than a homeowner would like, it is not too early to think about preparing the lawn for the summer. Here are nine ways to prep the grass for the hot weather:
1. Pick Up the Trash
The first thing to do is pick up and discard any debris found on the lawn, including twigs, leaves, fruit, nuts, dead flowers and even trash that blew in from the street. Cleaning up the lawn makes it that much easier to do everything else.
Thatch is a snarl of roots, stems and other debris that prevents water and nutrients from penetrating deeply into the soil. While some thatch is good for the lawn because it gives the grass some insulation, it shouldn’t be deeper than a half an inch. The owner can suspect too much thatch in an area where the grass isn’t doing as well as it should. The solution is to de-thatch the grass, which should be done well before the hottest days of summer. De-thatching can be done by hand or the owner can rent a de-thatching machine if the problem is really bad.
Aerating the lawn is not quite the same as de-thatching, though the goals of getting oxygen and nutrients into the soil are similar. With aeration, a machine is run over the lawn that pulls up plugs of grass and soil. The summer is the best time to aerate because the growing grass will quickly fill in the plugs that have been taken out. The owner can buy a hand aerator or, as with de-thatching, rent a machine. There are even special shoes with spikes in the soles that are used to aerate lawns.
4. Mow, Carefully
By the end of spring the lawn should be ready for mowing. The rule of thumb is to not cut off more than 1/3 of the blade, even if the grass has been allowed to grow long. Tall grass shades out weeds. The grass clippings should not be gathered up because they break down quickly, and add nutrients to the grass.
5. Water, Infrequently
Unless the weather turns very hot and dry, the lawn should be watered infrequently but deeply. A lawn that is watered frequently won’t send its roots deep into the soil when it knows that there’s water arriving every other day. Grass with deep roots is stronger than grass with shallow roots and can better withstand those inevitable stretches of drought. Water early in the morning before the heat of the sun causes the water to evaporate, but don’t water in the evening, which encourages diseases.
6. Control Pests
If lawn pests are going to flourish, they’ll do so in summer. The worst thing is that most of the pests that attack the lawn can’t be seen. Instead, they are underground chomping away at the grass roots. The more natural ways to be shut of these critters include attacking them with fungi, nematodes or parasitic wasps.
Lawn experts recommend a slow release fertilizer that neither stresses the grass with a sudden burst of growth nor burns it. Start fertilizing in spring, and fertilize every two months until fall, but hold off if there’s a drought or a period of intense heat that makes the grass go dormant.
Any bare spots in the lawn should be reseeded. Use a hand fork to loosen the soil then apply the seeds, and fertilizer and water deeply. This should be done as early in the season as possible.
9. Make Sure All Tools Are in Good Condition
If tools such as shovels, rakes and lawn mowers weren’t prepared for the warm weather before they were put away for the winter, now is the time to do so. Dull blades on mowers only crush the grass instead of slicing it cleanly, and rusty hand tools can come apart when least expected.
Preparing the lawn for summer may be a bit of work. However, the homeowner should consider that once these tasks are done, it will be that much easier to enjoy a lush, healthy lawn. Make sure, of course, to involve the kids.