Tips for a Lush Lawn During Summer

By Jaime Staufenbeil - Milorganite Agronomist
June 22, 2024

It’s summer, and you want a beautiful lawn. Here are some tips to get the lush, green summer lawn you dream of.

Lawn Mowing

Keep Mower Blades Sharp

Mowing with a dull mower blade is like cutting your hair with dull scissors. The grass blades may not feel the discomfort you would, but they’re not going to like it. Sharp blades cut the grass blades cleanly. Dull blades tear or rip the grass blades, leaving a ragged edge. This damage makes the grass more susceptible to pests and diseases. Ripped grass blades also dry out more quickly.

Sharp mower blades improve fuel and water efficiency, saving up to 22% of fuel and up to 30% less water needed to keep your lawn watered.

If your mower blade is currently sharp, keep an eye on it. You may have to have it sharpened again mid-season or maybe even twice. A sharp blade and a clean cut will also give your lawn a neater appearance.

Mow High for Deeper Roots

Mow high and at the proper height for your grass species to encourage deeply rooted grass that is more drought tolerant and resistant to disease problems. Tall grass also helps keep weed seeds from germinating—especially crabgrass seeds that need light to germinate. Keeping the lawn tall throughout the summer will keep the surface of the soil from drying out and reduce the need for watering.

Graphic showing deeper grass roots the higher you mow your lawn.

Follow the One-Third Rule

You may be tempted to cut your lawn on the short side to save time, but it’s not healthy for the turf. Follow the 1/3 rule of lawn mowing: only remove 1/3 of the grass blade in a single mowing. I know this is especially difficult and frustrating when the rain has been plentiful, and the lawn is growing like crazy. If cutting off 1/3 of the blade in a single mowing still doesn’t get your turf to its optimum height, wait a few days to mow again to the proper height.

Mow the Lawn Only When It’s Dry

Mowing while your lawn is wet is never a good idea. Like mowing with a dull blade, it can open the turf up to a variety of diseases or further spread diseases that may already be present.

Wet grass can clog your mower and may require it to be cleaned out mid-mow, and it can be dangerous. (NEVER clean a mower while it’s running!) Even mulching mowers can accumulate and create large chunks of clippings in the undercarriage. And those chunks of grass will need to be removed after mowing to avoid killing the grass beneath. Wet lawns are slippery and you don’t want to fall while mowing—both dangerous and embarrassing.

If the soil is particularly wet, you may create ruts and footprints in the soil. Roots can be damaged or completely torn from the ground by the mower wheels. This is especially true if you use a riding mower. Wet soil can’t compete with the weight of a riding mower.

Change Your Mowing Pattern Every Time You Mow

Change your mowing pattern every time you mow. Mowing in the same pattern repeatedly can cause ruts and compress the soil. Ruts are unsightly, and if they’re deep enough, they can be a tripping hazard.

If you have a large yard, mow according to the points of the compass and change the pattern each time: north/south, east/west, then diagonally, southeast/northwest, and southwest/northeast. Mowing smaller yards will require some creativity, but it can be done.

Water Deeply and Infrequently

Lawns require 1” of water from rain or irrigation in a seven-day period. Some believe that watering lightly and frequently is best because it keeps the soil moist. It does but at the expense of the turf.

Grass responds best to infrequent, deep watering. This encourages root growth, the base of healthy turf. You can use a rain gauge to determine how much water your lawn has received. Another easy method is to place an empty, flat can, such as a tuna can, on the lawn when it rains and when you irrigate.

Warm Season Water Lawn -900x450-min.jpg

If you have an irrigation system, have a rain sensor installed. This prevents the irrigation system from turning on when there’s been ample rain. You can also use the same low-tech, tuna-can method to monitor your system. Place several cans throughout the yard to see what areas may be receiving too little or too much water.

Always follow community irrigation schedules and restrictions. Some communities can fine residents up to $15,000 for violations!

Add Organic Matter to Your Lawn

Healthy lawns start with healthy soil. Adding organic matter—topdressing —to turf adds nutrients and conditions the soil. It encourages a lively soil ecosystem and helps retain water. Decomposed materials such as compost, rotted leaves, aged/composted manure, and other degraded materials such as straw are examples of good organic materials to use.

Eradicate Weeds

Anyone striving for a lush lawn hates weeds and wants to kill them all. My first recommendation is to come to terms with the fact that there may always be some weeds in your lawn. One’s tolerance for how many weeds are acceptable varies. Personally, I accept the fact that my lawn has some weeds. Here are some suggestions for those not as accepting as me.

Mow down weeds before they go to seed. If they’ve already gone to seed, well, you’re sowing weed seeds throughout your lawn.

If there are only a few weeds, pull them by hand. They’ll be much easier to remove when the soil is moist after rain or irrigation.

If there are more weeds that can be pulled by hand, consider using a prepared, spray-bottle herbicide rather than applying weed and feed on your entire lawn.

If there is an overwhelming number of weeds, an herbicide may be necessary, but this shouldn’t be your first option.

Grass with Black Medic weeds.

Black medic is an invasive weed in the lawn.

Not all herbicides are created equal. Choosing the correct herbicide requires you to first identify the weed. Not all herbicides kill all types of weeds. You also need to know what variety or varieties of grass you have in your lawn. Some herbicides will also kill specific grass varieties. How frustrating and what a waste of time to find out the herbicide you applied doesn’t kill the weeds in your lawn, but instead killed all the grass.

Purchase small amounts of herbicide so you don’t end up with a lot of extra product and need to find a way to dispose of it. When it comes to application, fully follow the manufacturer’s directions. When it comes to herbicides and pesticides, the label is the law.

Mowing to the correct height for your grass variety helps to keep the weed population down.

Fertilize Before It Rains, if Possible

The best time to fertilize is before it rains. The rain will help to move the fertilizer into the soil. Hold off on fertilizing if the forecast calls for a significant amount of rain. Excessive rain can cause nutrient runoff and contaminate local waterways.

An advantage of fertilizing with Milorganite is that it doesn’t need to be watered in to prevent burning, like chemical fertilizers. Although it doesn’t need to be watered in, the rain will help the microbes in the soil begin digesting the Milorganite pellets and releasing the nutrients, making them available to the grass.

If you’ve been experiencing hot, dry weather it’s still okay to fertilize with Milorganite. It’s non-burning and will remain in place until there’s enough moisture. If you’re experiencing drought conditions, hold off on fertilizing until drought conditions have passed.

Always follow the fertilizer manufacturer’s directions.

Wait to Overseed the Lawn until Early Fall

Overseeding your cool-season grasses creates denser turf or introduces a new grass variety of grass. In warmer climates, you may want to overseed in the fall using cool-season grass to compensate for the summer grass going dormant.

The cooler weather in early fall is the best overseed for your cool-season grass lawn. If you can’t get out there to overseed this fall, spring is the second-best time to overseed.

Achieving a lush, green lawn this summer is easy with a few key steps. Keep mower blades sharp, mow only when dry, and follow the one-third rule for healthier grass. Change your mowing pattern to prevent soil compaction, and water deeply but infrequently to encourage strong roots. Enrich your soil with organic matter, manage weeds promptly, and fertilize before rain to boost growth. Lastly, overseed in early fall or spring for a dense, thick lawn. Follow these tips, and you'll enjoy a beautiful summer lawn for seasons to come.