By Richard Hentschel
Urbana, Ill. – Summer lawn care decisions should be made in early spring, according to a University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator.
“By planning ahead, managing the lawn becomes easier,” explains Richard Hentschel. “Decisions on lawn feeding and watering schedules will influence your lawn maintenance for the remainder of the season.” For example, feeding the lawn and watering will change how often the lawn will need to be mowed. Watering can be helpful if feeding the lawn with organic fertilizers, but it is not required. If the lawn is only fertilized once in the season, it is best to apply the fertilizer in fall, when rain and cooler temperatures return. “Lawns that receive limited or no feeding will not need to be watered to take advantage of those feedings,” Hentschel says. If the decision is made to keep the lawn green throughout the summer, there is a commitment to water the lawn beginning as the spring rains slow in order to keep the lawn growing through the hot summer months. “The lawn will also need to be fed, so the decision of watering and feeding go together,” Hentschel says. Whether or not it is fed and watered, the lawn will need to be mowed more often during periods of vigorous active growth. Mower clippings should be left in place to recycle nutrients back into the lawn. Many homeowners wonder how high to set the mower blade. Research indicates that the taller the grass blade, the deeper the roots. Deeper roots allow the lawn to resist drought damage and stay greener longer into the summer. This is partly because the taller blade will shade the soil from the sun, keeping the soil cooler and conserving soil moisture. “Setting the mower deck up just one notch can make a big difference,” Hentschel says. “There are only a couple of times a year that the lawn should be cut slightly shorter: in the spring to clean up the lawn from the winter, and when you are going to top-dress the lawn with black dirt or organic matter while it is actively growing.” Hentschel concludes by sharing his mowing mantra: “Mow high, mow often, with a sharp mower blade.”
For more information on home lawn care, visit U of I Extension’s LAWNTalk website, at http://extension.illinois.edu/lawntalk/index.cfm.