Grass is a highly resilient plant, but even the healthiest lawn will require some TLC to help it keep up with the high-traffic summer recreation season. Follow these three tips for improved summer durability to make sure your yard bounces back quickly from whatever you throw at it—whether your activity of choice is a rowdy game of flag football or a leisurely backyard dinner party.
• Don’t stress; cut less. As a rule of thumb, when you mow your lawn you should never cut more than one-third of the grass blade height at a time. Scalping a lawn will cause stress, which can create problems all summer. To best protect your lawn before a high-traffic activity, mow at the tall end of the recommended range. For most grass species, this means increasing the mowing height to around three inches. Leaving a little extra length will also provide more cushioning for the soil and your guests’ feet.
• Fertilize correctly. When your lawn starts to brown in the summer, don’t throw fertilizer on it. Fertilizing in the spring and summer favors shoot and leaf growth at the expense of root growth, which is key for creating a healthy, hardy lawn. Feed your lawn twice per year (plan for mid-May and mid-September), with the spring application featuring slow-release nitrogen fertilizer to minimize excess growth. Still feel the need to fertilize? Simply leave the clippings on your lawn after you mow. This not only saves time, but can provide up to 25 percent of the lawn’s fertilizer needs.
• Water properly. Instead of watering a little every day, water more deeply twice a week—aiming for a total of about one inch of water per week, including rainfall—to help the water penetrate the root zone and then dry out a little in between waterings to keep good oxygen in the soil system. This will create a resilient, low-water lawn with a strong root system that will thrive and require less watering during the hottest months. If you’re planning to host a large gathering on your lawn, avoid watering for two or three days beforehand, but then water immediately after. A drier lawn will help protect guests’ shoes, better support furniture and other structures and minimize damage from heavy traffic—especially if you’re playing yard games.
“A natural grass lawn creates the perfect setting for a whole host of outdoor activities for the entire family,” said Bryan Ostlund, executive director of Grass Seed USA, a coalition of American grass seed farmers and turf specialists. “If you’re lucky enough to have a grass lawn, use it! Spending time outdoors is good for both mind and body.”
So take advantage of your green oasis and gather on the lawn to eat or play together. If you’re looking for games, children’s classics like tag or flag football might be the first activities that spring to mind, but a quick search on Pinterest will show that the possibilities are truly endless. Bring out the bubbles, Frisbees, Hula-Hoops and kites. Pitch a tent, spread out a blanket or just lie on the grass.
Whether you’re playing, entertaining or relaxing, there are countless reasons to get out on your lawn, and a bit of maintenance will make sure your grass is up for whatever the summer may bring. With proper mowing, fertilization and irrigation, a healthy lawn can stand up to a surprising amount of traffic.