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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.