Lawn Dormancy

What is Summer Lawn Dormancy?

Many home-based lawns in the U.S. suffer during the dry and hot conditions during summer. The season brings in the heat for several weeks without getting rain. The seasons also witness drought during the peak season, and many homeowners now start becoming only concerned about the brown and lifeless lawns known as dormancy

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If you see such conditions, do not panic, as your lawns are not dead but dormant. The dormancy turns the lawn brown as it conserves energy, making the grass appear dead. The grass survives with its natural defense mechanism, which starts to secure itself. Once they get rain, they will become active again.

What are the causes of summer lawn dormancy? 

Listed below are the causes behind summer lawn dormancy:

  • Summer stress due to overwatering: As you enter the months of July and August, you can find tall fescue, known for being drought tolerant. We often see lawn owners adding extensive water to beat the heat. However, extensive lawn watering is a bad idea as it can prevent the grass from benefiting from the microbes in the soil. Sticking to the light and frequent watering option for smooth grass is always good. 
  • Stress due to dormancy: The grass becomes dormant during hot and warm conditions, which acts as a protective measure. The drought conditions will make the grass brown. At such junctures, it is always recommended not to irrigate; instead you have to reseed the lawn to address the dormancy. 
  • Stress due to insect and disease activity: You can find insects like white grips wreaking havoc on your lawn and making it brown. Several lawn diseases can come during the warm season. Addressing them with an effective solution can help keep the lawn cool and away from dormancy. 
  • Stressful cultural practices: These include the cool-season grasses fertilization, mowing the grass too short or cutting grass with dull mower blades. All these make the grass dormant. 

How to Identify Summer Lawn dormancy?

The best way to identify lawn dormancy is to consider visual lawn inspection. You can always check for grass leaves and stems that have become brown. It means that the buds and crowns have stopped their growth. The crispy and brown appearance on your lawn means summer dormancy. 

It is always a good idea to catch dormancy in its early stage. You can find the grass returning to a healthy state when the temperature goes down and good moisture returns. If you can take care of the lawn properly, you are likely to recover it or else you may see the grass die.

How to react to summer dormancy? 

If you find your lawn dormant during the summer season, you should leave it until the cooler weather arrives. Lawn owners tend to commit a mistake by overwatering the lawns to address the summer dormancy. But they end up adding stress to their yards. 

Instead, you should consider dormancy a natural phenomenon and bear with it until the temperature falls. Adding infrequent and light water can address damages due to dormancy, but you should avoid going overboard.

How to control summer lawn dormancy before it happens? 

Before summer strikes, you can carry out some maintenance activities before summer lawn dormancy happens.

  1. Watering – Experts recommend early morning watering, calling it the best approach. It helps in avoiding diseases. Also, you will not find the water remaining stagnant overnight, thus preventing the diseases from entering the roots of the grass and plants. Lastly, early watering only allows less water loss due to evaporation compared to watering during the middle of the day. You should water deeply once or twice a week, while many prefer watering lightly daily, which is not a good approach. The best thumb rule to follow is to apply 1.5 inches of water in a week. 
  2. Fertilization – Fertilization helps the lawn remain healthy, allowing the grass to survive during the extended drought and recover fast. As you see the grass growth slowing down or stopping during the summer heat, you should limit fertilization in summer as per the water availability. Generally, summer fertilizers are applied at a lower rate to match the natural slow growth. The fertilizers for summer lawn application maintain this lower rate with lesser spreader settings listed on their bags. They have 25-30% less nitrogen content used per application. The best time to fertilize is during the late summer (late August to early September). It is good to fertilize the lawns when the weather cools and there is also rainfall. You can find nutrients supplied during this time available for the grass plant as they enter an active growth period. 
  3. Mowing – If you fail to mow correctly, it can lead to stressed lawns. The mowing should be done with a sharp blade so you mow the grass cleanly without shredding and ripping the tissues. Failing to clean the grass blades are more likely to lose water. Also, you should know about the ideal summer mowing height, which is important to reduce plant stress. You should keep the height to around 3 inches, which helps the grass get a good shade, thus reducing the evaporation. Also, it regulates the weed seed germination for weeds like crabgrass. Lastly, proper mowing also offers a good leaf surface to catch the light and thus produce sugars, which are used for good grass health and growth. You need to cut the grass too often as and when required. Make sure to remove one-third of the grass growth at a time. Also, you need to leave grass clippings over the turf to break down and return nutrients to the lawn.
  4. White Grubs Control – White grubs are the most common problem in almost all the lawns in North America. The problem is more prominent during the summer when the lawns are dormant. The white grubs feed on the lawns leading to lawn damage. They often come out from the soil and start laying eggs in June last, thus hatching within two weeks. In the early weeks of July, the grubs start feeding over the grassroots. You can use several control measures to prevent egg hatching. Adopting the cultural practices on your lawn can address the problem of grubs. These can remain effective as an essential preventative measure. The watering during summers can keep the grub alive, leading to several infestations, which are not seen in infrequent watered lawns. Also, mowing your yard with a height of around 3.5 inches can lead to a good root mass, eventually impacting grub activity. 
  5. Reduce foot traffic – During the summer months, homeowners love to spend time in their yards. However, staying away during this season will help you care for your lawn the best. The summertime brings lawn dormancy, and calling too much foot traffic and adding several physical activities can harm your dormant lawn. Avoid all kinds of heavy foot traffic on your lawn. These include children and pets playing in the yard during the drought and damaging the stressed grass. You can plan to add some stepping stones to your lawn and confine them to the shaded area in your yard for most of your activities. Similarly, avoid this activity during winter when you face another dormant time. Learn more about winter lawn dormancy.

How long does the grass take to recover after being dormant? 

It often takes around 2-3 weeks to see the top growth returning and becoming lush green again. Seeing a green yard after a tough summer is always a pleasant sight. The summer lawn dormancy has brown grass, and the recovery often deals with bringing the lush green grass back. 

What is the difference between dead and dormant grass?

The grass goes dormant when it is stressed and requires to conserve energy to become live and active. When the grasses are dormant during summer, they use all their energy to sustain their crowns and roots instead of keeping the grass blades green. Extreme temperatures make the grass dormant. However, they quickly revive once the weather becomes cool again. 

However, the grass dies when we see them stressed and remain away from accessing the nutrients for longer. It often takes around a month for grass to die down completely. If you find the grass dead, the only option you have is a complete replacement. You only want a different variety of grass that should stand up as per your yard’s conditions. 

If you find your entire lawn brown, you can make out that the grass is dormant. However, if you find the brown grass in certain spots or circles, these only indicate that these spots are dead and not dormant. Check Dormant Vs. Dead Grasses for more. 

In conclusion, summer lawn dormancy is when your lawn appears brown and lifeless. You can easily sustain your lawn during summer when it becomes dormant. Consulting a professional lawn care company like Eden can help you get a proper service plan that can keep your lawn healthy and green as you want.

Lawn care is all in the details, and we take care of every single one to give you the lawn of your dreams. Contact us today!

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