The UK summer always brings uncertainty. Needless to say, however, most of us are enjoying the hot and dry spell we’ve had recently – and arriving just in time for the start of the summer holidays.
However, if you’re a homeowner whose lawn is as much a feature of your property as the living room or windows, too much heat can be a reason to worry.
Areas that are particularly susceptible to the harmful effects of hot weather include freshly-laid turf, poorly shaded areas, grass growing on hills or slopes as well as close-mown lawns.
Unfortunately, there’s no SPF 50 sun protection for your lawn, but there are adjustments that you can make to your existing lawn care regimen that will help defend it against sun damage.
Your instinct to keep your lawn looking tip-top over summer may be to step up the hydration with daily watering.
However, overwatering is something that many don’t consider when their grass is looking dry. Watering your lawn too regularly starves the roots of oxygen and encourages your grass to develop shallow roots that won’t feed it properly as the soil gets dryer.
Believe it or not, watering your lawn once or twice a week in the summer heat will almost definitely be enough to keep it looking and feeling healthy. Doing this in the early mornings or evenings will allow sufficient time for the grass to absorb all the hydration it needs before the water eventually evaporates.
Again, it’s important to encourage deep root growth, so you want to let the water soak at least 6" deep, which you can check by digging a screwdriver into the ground.
Mowing too frequently in any weather can cause physical and environmental stress to your grass. If you’ve overdone it on the lawnmower in the spring, your grass will be poorly equipped to handle higher temperatures in the summer.
Thankfully, all is not lost, as skipping the odd trim during the hotter months, when combined with proper application of fertilisers and well-planned watering, should help encourage the strength of your grass’ roots.
When you do venture out with the mower, it’s important to not remove more than a third of the length and to appropriately adjust the cutting height to suit the speed of your lawn’s growth. Do this infrequently and sparingly for a lawn that has the best chance of remaining luscious, even when it gets unseasonably hot.
Being careful with fertiliser products when it’s hot outside is very important to the health of your lawn. If you’re not generous enough with fertilisers, your lawn will be lacking in essential nutrients and will start to turn yellow. Using too much of these products can burn the roots, leaving the grass scorched and potentially causing even more damage than under-fertilising. It’s a tricky balance to strike.
Always follow the instructions that come with your fertiliser very closely, and use as little as you can when the sun is at its hottest. The objective here is survival, not additional growth. As well as hydrating the grass, the deep watering we recommended earlier will help soak the fertiliser products into the soil for maximum effect.
There are some less risky alternatives to using fertilisers and weed killers if your grass is really struggling. Adding a pound of sugar per 300ft2 to your lawn, for example, will feed the microbes that your grass needs to restore its much-desired green colour. If you’ve gone overboard on the fertiliser, applying activated charcoal to the affected areas can help reverse the harmful effects before your lawn is ruined.
Despite your best efforts, you may find that some areas of your lawn are beyond repair. In this case, your only option may be to resow all or parts of your lawn. Starting afresh can seem both daunting and frustrating, but could be the best choice for achieving the look you want.
If heat damage has created bare spots in your grass, you may be able to plug these areas with sod or seed. However, getting this right is tricky and could cause your lawn to look patchy if done incorrectly.
Your last resort is to reseed your entire lawn. It’s best to wait until the heatwave subsides, usually nearer the autumn months, before reseeding your lawn, so that your soil is less dry and you can truly start anew. When your grass regrows, make sure you heed our advice for preventing sun damage in the future to avoid being trapped in a vicious cycle.
Ultimately, preventing and curing a heat damaged lawn isn’t as difficult as most people might think. All it takes to protect your grass and care for it in the summer months is some basic TLC and appropriate adaptations to your lawn care regimen.