How to Get Your Grass Through Summer
NORTH CAROLINIANS TAKE grass seriously.
We want to cultivate a lush lawn. We seed and water and fertilize and mow and edge and watch. We hope the grass is always greener on our side. But Charlotte summers are hot and relentless—and there’s a chance you’re fertilizing, watering, and mowing all wrong.
Barry Deal is a mowing specialist at James River Equipment in Matthews—he’s been there for 11 years, and before that, he spent 17 years as part-owner of a golf course in Indian Trail, where he managed the turf. When it comes to keeping your lawn lust-worthy in the summer, Deal says there are a few factors you should consider.
Cool- or Warm-Season Grass?
“We are in a transition zone in North Carolina, where both grasses can grow, but neither one is perfectly suited for the climate,” Deal explains. Common cool-season grasses, such as fescue and ryegrass, thrive in lower temperatures. Fescue turns deep green in the spring, but as summer rolls around, it goes somewhat dormant. Bermuda, zoysia, and centipede grass are warm-season types, which love the sun and are naturally resistant to drought, disease, and traffic.
Fertilize Fescue Sparingly
Once it starts to go dormant in the summer, untreated fescue tends to fade. “It’s not a good idea to force the hand of nature,” Deal says. “For a little color, you can spray some liquid iron, but it will never be as deep green and lush (as it is in spring).” Don’t overfertilize—doing so during the summer, while the grass is semi-dormant, can burn the roots and kill your grass. And once it dies, Deal says, cool-season grass doesn’t revive until fall, when you have to re-seed your lawn.
What’s Your Watering System?
For cool-season grasses, Deal says irrigation is key: “A lot of people who don’t have irrigation have fescue lawns, and (irrigation is) almost essential.” Warm-season grasses need much less water to survive, so these varieties are typically less expensive to maintain. For both types, Deal suggests you water early in the day. “To me, the best time to water is around 5 a.m., so it benefits the root system,” he says. The frequency depends on your grass variety.
Mow High and Dry
Deal advises you ensure the lawn isn’t wet and “mow as high as possible,” trimming only the top third of your grass. Doing so will allow you to mulch, spreading the clippings on the lawn, which releases some fertilizer and nutrients back into the ground. Also, use sharp lawn mower blades. If they’re dull—Deal says this offense is common—you’re ripping out your grass instead of cutting it. He says two-to-three blades should be enough to get you through the summer. “Get them sharpened,” Deal says. “It’s an investment that pays off.”