7 Tips For Having A Green Lawn In Warm, Dry Weather

It’s been a hot, dry summer for most of the United States.  if you’re in an area where you have a lawn, chances are it’s not thriving.  Lush lawns are pretty rare in our neighborhood and for those who have chosen not to water at all, they are pretty much brown.

Here are a few tips to keep your grass green even when it’s dry:

  1. Cut higher – Taller blades of grass will do two things.  They’ll retain moisture (instead of letting it evaporate) and they’ll provide shade to the roots.  Typically, I raise the deck on my lawn mower starting in the spring, then start lowering it again in the fall (as short grass is good for the dormant winters).  The important this is not to scalp your grass.
  2. Frequency – You should never cut more than one-third of the length of your grass in a single cutting.  If you do, you’re putting unneeded stress on the grass and it will begin thinning out the root system.  In the spring, I find myself cutting as often as every three days, and by the mid-summer I can often go a week or more.
  3. Fertilize properly – Some people have gone to organic fertilizers or skip fertilizing altogether.  I haven’t gotten there yet.  I use a good quality fertilizer four times per year, each which accomplishes a particular task: The first one in early spring prevents crabgrass from taking root.  The second, around Memorial Day, attacks weeds taking root.  The third, around the Fourth of July, is a straight up fertilizer.  The last one, around Labor Day, provides nutrients and weed preventives for the upcoming winter.  Dropping your fertilizer around holidays is a good way to remember.  One bonus tip is to make sure to follow the instructions when it comes to fertilizer and water.  Make sure to pay attention on whether the grass should be damp or completely dry when putting it down, and when to water afterward.
  4. Prevent bugs – Our area is prone to grubs.  The grubs will live around the root system, which is bad for the grass, and it also attracts animals which like to tunnel in the grass, further destroying your grass.  If you suffer from pests, add the appropriate measures to keep bugs down.
  5. Mulch – Some people collect clippings, but I prefer to mulch.  I even mulch the leaves that cover the grass during the fall.  A good mower will put fine clippings back into the grass, which will break down and put nutrients back down into the grass and roots.
  6. Water – Grass needs water to grow.  The best kind is rainfall, but short of that, you’ll have to add water.  I’ve heard multiple pieces of advice, so I’ll lay them both out: One camp says to water regularly (every 1-2 days) at shorter intervals.  Others say to water at a longer interval every 4-5 days, saying that a good soaking will water the roots completely, allowing the to grow deeper.  Personally, I have found that this doesn’t work.  I think it has to do with the soil (if you have harder soil, water will just run off), temperature, and type of grass you have.  I’ve found that watering more often at shorter durations works best for me, so I’d suggest you experiment with what works best for your lawn.
  7. Don’t obsess – Most grass is very resilient, and even if it gets brown or doesn’t look that great, the nice thing is that it will come back again next spring.  The biggest thing is not to let weeds take over, so even if you’ve given up this year, at least make an effort to keep the weeds down.

15 thoughts on “7 Tips For Having A Green Lawn In Warm, Dry Weather”

  1. We’ve been having an issue with our yard turning brown and dying but we had a little rain the other day which really helped. We also stopped mowing as often. It’s helped bring back a lot of the green. Our neighbors next door to us mow their grass so low that it just looks awful.

    • The neighbors across the street cut their grass really low. They were gone for about a week and a half during which point the grass grew, was really awesome looking, got really green. You’d think maybe they’d get the hint once they came back? Nope. Cut it right down again. *sigh*

  2. During what hour(s) is it best to water the lawn? As you mentioned temperature is important, which correlates with the time of day.

    Curious to know what you found during your research!

    -Christian L.

    • Most agree that the best time NOT to water the lawn is during hot, sunny times. A good portion of the water will evaporate before it even gets to the soil, and can actually ‘burn’ the grass if the sun is intense. The times I’ve heard are either early morning or overnight. Some will say that overnight is best because it allows for the most time for the moisture to hit, and the least evaporation. Others will argue against overnight, saying that this can allow mildew to form in the grass. Personally, we water overnight because we have a municipal ordinince that requires watering to take place overnight (to reduce the ‘peak load’ upon which water rates are based), so it’s an easy choice. And I’ve never found any issues that tie back to mildew.

  3. All good tips!!

    We fertilize 3 times a year. It has been raining here since the end of May and our grass grows tall very quick. We rarely get a chance to mow the lawn because it is always wet, but we did manage to get it done on the weekend. It was so tall.
    A few years ago we had the critters you were talking about, but they are gone now, thankfully. At our last home we had mice that burroughed through the lawn in the winter under the snow and ate all the grass.

    • In the fall I have squirrels dig holes all over the place to bury nuts. They dig them up by spring, so come spring the backyard looks awful. Luckily the growing season seems to take care of it so that by summer it looks ‘normal’ again. Critters in the backyard are no fun.

  4. I really should share this with my landlord. We haven’t had green grass in 2 years..haha!

    • Here at work, they are doing a bunch of renovations. Last fall they dug up the sprinkler boxes and redid all the valves. Then, this spring they still never turned them on! What a waste.

  5. This subject is maddening to a perfectionist like myself. We have no big trees in the front yard (storm took down 3 big 25+ y/o trees last year and we haven’t been in a good financial place to replace them yet), and the front yard gets the full sun most of the day. Our yard still looks better than most in the neighborhood because I obsess about pulling weeds at least. I go out every day while the kids are playing and just pick a place to sit down and pull weeds. Yes, I’m old school and I don’t use weed killer! This is not because I’m cheap…this is because I have a baby that will literally eat grass! Great tips, MB. I didn’t know that about the length. I always thought short grass was better, but I guess only in the beginning and end of the season…good to know!

    • That’s funny about the weeds. Do you fertilize with weed & feed in the spring? That should knock a lot of them down during the prime growing season.

  6. Great tips! We’re experiencing quite the drought here in Ottawa, and I’ve been purposefully trying to conserve water… and have avoided watering my lawn. Just today, the mayor was on the news asking that people DO water their lawns… because the grass is so dry, it’s a big fire hazard.

    … and here I thought I was doing my part in helping to conserve water!

    • Yeah, I think they want it watered enough so that it isn’t crackling dry, but I’m sure that they’d want the people that soak theirs like crazy to cool it. Moderation is key with weather like this!

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