When it comes to caring for your grass, summertime represents both an opportunity and a challenge. The bright sunlight and warm, wet weather of a Michigan summer give your grass all the energy and moisture it needs to thrive. But excessive exposure to the sun and high heat can damage your grass while drying it out. The result is heat stress, which severely damages your lawn by itself while raising other risks. By understanding what heat stress or drought stress is and how to prevent it, you can keep your turf safe during even the most sweltering of Michigan summers.
What is Heat Stress in Lawns?
Heat stress is damage that occurs when your lawn is exposed to heat while getting insufficient moisture. Its most common symptoms include:
Discolored Patches– The more heat stress your grass is under, the larger a portion of it will be discolored. This discoloration doesn’t occur evenly across your grass, but rather will happen in patches, which grow more numerous the farther away you get from water sources. The specific color it turns will depend on the variety of grass you plant; Kentucky bluegrass, for example, tends to turn grey, while most other varieties turn brown.
Tough Soil– Once you’ve identified brown patches, try pushing a screwdriver into the underlying soil; then do the same in green areas of the turf. If the screwdriver easily slides into green areas but can’t make it into brown ones, heat stress is likely the culprit.
Lingering Footprints– When grass becomes stressed by heat, your footprints will linger in it for longer when you walk across it.
Wilting Blades– Heat stress causes grass blades to wilt. When wilting and discoloration occur together, the evidence is especially strong that you’re dealing with drought stress.
Drought stress tends to be especially bad if the soil beneath your grass becomes compact, which is one of the reasons you should try not to walk on it during the summer. Once you know you’re dealing with stress, you should work quickly to reverse the effects and protect your lawn in hot weather going forward.
Tips for Lawn Care in Drought Conditions
Heat stress is especially common during a drought, so you must be especially vigilant about protecting your lawn when rain is scarce. You can reduce the risk and severity of stress by:
Watering Deeply– Water your lawn less often but to a greater depth. Typically, you should water half an inch two times a week or a full inch once a week. This way, the roots of the grass will grow deeper, allowing them to access water under even the hottest, driest circumstances. You should also try to water between 6 and 10 AM, as this prevents moisture from evaporating before it makes it down to the roots.
Sharpening Your Mower– When your mower blade is dull, it will tear the grass, leaving lots of little openings for moisture to leak out of. But a sharp blade will cut it clean, minimizing the amount of lost moisture. Sharp blades also make your lawn less likely to develop fungal infections after you mow.
Avoiding Feeding– If you’re experiencing a drought or especially high heat, don’t feed your lawn until it’s over. Your turf won’t be able to use the fertilizer until it has sufficient moisture to go with it.
Aerating the Soil– By opening up the soil, you allow moisture to move through it more easily, so your grass is able to use whatever water is available.
These tips will both prevent your lawn from becoming stressed and help it recover if drought stress has already occurred. In this way, you keep it healthier and stronger for the long haul.
Lush Lawn Water Maximizer Program
Sometimes your grass needs a little help to overcome the effects of severe heat stress. Lush Lawn is happy to provide that help through our Water Maximizer program. This involves treating your turf with a substance that loosens up the soil so that water can more easily filter down to the roots. This allows you to irrigate your lawn more evenly, meaning no matter how far your grass is from the sprinklers, it won’t become stressed. It may also help you save water by reducing the amount you need to fully moisturize the turf.
For a free estimate on Lush Lawn’s Water Maximizer program or other options to protect your grass all summer long, contact us today.