Dakota Farmer

Keep your lawn green and fresh

Having a healthy, lush lawn in the summer starts with spring preparations.

Sarah McNaughton, Editor, Dakota Farmer

May 7, 2024

3 Min Read
Lawnmower in yard
LEAVE IT LONG: Taking care to leave grass about 3.5 inches long can help your lawn resist drought and keep soil cool during the summer heat. Jan Hakan Dahlstrom/Getty Images

Everyone desires a lush, green, healthy lawn. But how can homeowners keep their turf in top shape all summer long? Proper preparation in the spring followed by ideal summer care can keep your home’s lawn the talk of the neighborhood for all the right reasons.

Watering, weeding, applying fertilizer, managing pests and mowing are top categories to manage your lawn from the first thaw in the spring until the first snowfall come winter. The North Dakota State University Extension shares that the first lawns to turn yellow in the summer were cut too short in the spring.

Spring into lawn care

When you pull your lawn mower out of the shed for the first time of the season, do a quick check of the blades. A sharp blade will make a clean cut, whereas dull blades will tear the blades of grass. These torn blades will turn brown and become more susceptible to disease.

Leaving turf long will protect the soil from the incoming heat of summer and help grass develop a deep root system. This will help save your lawn, and water bill, in times of drought. The NDSU Extension recommends mowing lawns to between 2.5 and 3.5 inches, and avoid removing more than one-third of the grass blade at any one time. This means that in the spring, lawns may be mowed every five days but could need to be mowed every five weeks in the summer.

If it’s been a while since you aerated your lawn, spring or late August into early September might be the best time to do it. Solid time or spiking aeration tools can compact the soil, so go for the hollow time or core aerators instead. Overseed or fertilize as desired right after aeration, then leave the cores out to dry for a few days before mowing your lawn to break them up.

To keep lawns lush and green, they will need about an inch of water a week, whether from rainfall or from you. Give your lawn a big cup of water to achieve deep-rooted turf rather than shallow sprinkling, which can create a shallow root system.

Stick it to summer drought

South Dakota State University recommends that just like in the spring, long lawns resist drought from developing deeper roots, which stay green longer in the summer. Leaving lawn clippings on the grass will help keep the soil cooler and more resistant to drought stress. A mulching blade on clipping recycles fertilizer nutrients back into the soil to be utilized.

Pay attention to any community guidelines for water during drought. Efficiently using water will maintain a green color and good growth. The 1.5-inch recommended amount should be applied in two to three applications rather than all at once. Water your lawn just long enough for the water to slightly run off the lawn.

Weed control in the summer can have various levels of success, so the SDSU Extension suggests waiting until the fall to begin a weed program. Mowing can keep some weeds in check and, for minor weed issues, hand or tool removal is a great option to mitigate herbicide damage during hot temperatures.

While the hot sun and drought conditions may do their best to turn your lawn brown and brittle, use these tips to keep that lush, green lawn all summer long.

About the Author(s)

Sarah McNaughton

Editor, Dakota Farmer, Farm Progress

Sarah McNaughton of Bismarck, N.D., has been editor of Dakota Farmer since 2021. Before working at Farm Progress, she was an NDSU 4-H Extension agent in Cass County, N.D. Prior to that, she was a farm and ranch reporter at KFGO Radio in Fargo.

McNaughton is a graduate of North Dakota State University, with a bachelor’s degree in ag communications and a master’s in Extension education and youth development.

She is involved in agriculture in both her professional and personal life, as a member of North Dakota Agri-Women, Agriculture Communicators Network Sigma Alpha Professional Agriculture Sorority Alumni and Professional Women in Agri-business. As a life-long 4-H’er, she is a regular volunteer for North Dakota 4-H programs and events.

In her free time, she is an avid backpacker and hiker, and can be found most summer weekends at rodeos around the Midwest.

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