Summer Lawn Care Guide

Lawn Mower
Summer is a maintenance season for lawns. (MariuszBlach/Getty Images)

If spring lawn care is about getting your lawn healthy and green, summer lawn care is about KEEPING it healthy while temperatures soar and rainfall becomes a fleeting memory. It’s also about maintaining a lawn that can withstand all the barbecues, games, parties, and running feet that summer has to offer. Here are some tips for keeping your lawn in shape over those long, hot days of summer.

If you are unable to water regularly, allow your lawn to go dormant. (marcuttie/Getty Images)

About Summer Lawns

After the spring growing season, summer brings quite a bit of stress to lawn grasses. Not only are the heat and drought damaging, but we aren’t as forgiving in the summer as we are in the winter. We want our lawns lush and green for outdoor activities, and we try to fight nature by continuing to fertilize, water, and coax new growth out of our lawns no matter what the weather. However, by understanding and respecting the seasonal changes of turf grasses, you can take steps to care gently for your lawn as the mercury rises.

  • Cool-season grasses (such as fescue, bluegrass, and rye) grow best when temperatures are in the 60s F.
  • Warm-season grasses (including Zoysia, St. Augustine, Centipede, and Bermuda) like temperatures in the 70s.

Once temperatures get into the 80s and above, lawns will begin to struggle a little, with cool-season grasses having the hardest time. Growth will slow, color may fade, and lawns will show signs of wear and tear as they are less able to recover from stress and traffic. Some cool-season lawns will even go dormant in the summer, looking brown and brittle until early fall.

Tuna in Grass
Small tuna cans make a good temporary water gauge. (Chris Kennedy/Pexels)

Water Wisely

  • Lawns need at least one inch of water per week, and more when the heat is severe. Use a rain gauge or straight-sided can to keep track of the amount of water received from rainfall and irrigation.
  • Water deeply and less frequently to encourage drought-tolerant roots.
  • Water early in the day to reduce evaporation and fungal growth.
  • Either water your lawn regularly and deeply, or don’t water at all. Don’t let your lawn go brown and dormant, then try to “water it back to life.” If your lawn goes dormant in summer, it should stay that way until fall – don’t worry, it should recover once the weather changes.

Measure Grass
Mowing higher means mowing more often. (Milan Markovic/Getty Images Signature)

Mowing Tips

  • Raise your mower blade in the summer. Taller grass is more drought-tolerant, grows deeper roots, and helps shade the earth to prevent weed seeds from germinating. Cool-season grasses should be mowed at 3”- 4” during the summer, or as high as your blade will go, while warm-season grasses should be mowed at 2”- 3”.
  • Mulching grass clippings helps keep moisture levels steady.
  • Mow regularly, to prevent cutting more than 1/3 of the grass blade at a time. This keeps your grass healthier and prevents the clippings from smothering the grass.
  • Keep mower blades sharp. Make sure your mower is cutting your grass, not tearing it, to minimize stress during hot temperatures.

Organic packaged fertilizers are becoming more widely available. (KatarzynaBialasiewicz/Getty Images Pro)

Don’t Over Fertilize

If your lawn is looking straggly in midsummer, resist the urge to fertilize. In fact, it’s best to stop fertilizing about 30 days before your area’s summer temperatures arrive. Applying extra fertilizer in the heat of summer can burn your lawn and create a flush of tender growth that will struggle in the hot summer weather. Never fertilize dormant lawns – wait until they green up in the fall.

High-Traffic Areas

By summer, many lawns begin to show signs of wear, especially in a few popular pathways. Consider installing stepping stones to minimize damage to your grass, and try to minimize traffic on dormant, brittle lawns. If you’re getting plenty of rainfall and your lawn is actively growing, you can apply a bit of fertilizer to these areas to help the blades recover faster.

Control Weeds

Summer is the season to get those growing weeds removed before they bloom and disperse seed for next year. Targeted postemergent herbicides are designed to kill broadleaf weeds without harming turf grass, but they must be applied when temperatures will be below 85° F for a few days. Keep in mind that during the heat of summer, ANY product can be damaging to already-stressed lawn grasses, so use sparingly or hand-pull weeds instead.

Insect Killer
Use insecticides only if you have severe lawn damage. (RossHelen)

Insects and Diseases

  • Dormant or drought-stressed summer lawns can be more susceptible to insect infestations, such as chinch bugs, cutworms, armyworms, sod webworms, fire ants, fleas, and mosquitoes. Minor infestations often take care of themselves, but severe problems may require attention.
  • Summer is also the time for fungal diseases, such as powdery mildew and brown patch. Apply fungicide if needed, and avoid watering in the evening to keep nighttime moisture at a minimum.
  • Grubs will begin hatching in your lawn over the summer. If grubs typically cause problems in your lawn, you can begin applying grub control around midsummer.

Further Reading


  1. Hello,
    We have brown patch in our back yard every year in the same spots. My husband has treated it with fungicide. We use grub control and fertilizer. Last year he bought a grass blend that was suppose to be more resistant to brown patch but our back yard looks terrible. We live in Clay Center,KS and bluegrass is commonly used in our area. What else should we do?

    Tracy Myers


    THANK YOU. 7.2.10

  3. Terry, the same thing happens in my yard. Cool-season grasses really don’t like the heat, and many of them will go dormant (and turn brown) in the hottest part of the summer. Water will help keep it cool, as will mowing on the highest setting, but otherwise there’s not much you can do to prevent it. If you overseed in the fall, look for heat tolerant grass varieties.

    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts with the Today’s Homeowner community!
      TH community members helping other TH community members — we love it. 🙂

  4. Hi
    Please let me know if epsom salts will do any harm to lawn if you mixed the strength wrong and how often can i use the salts

  5. If you always have one spot that turns brown, you might check what is under the grass. Dig up a spot. Check for grubs. Also check for rocks. We had huge chunks of cement under the grass that caused the grass to overheat easier than everywhere else. I pulled the cement out, patched it up, and now the spot is gone.

  6. I live in Salem County, NJ, surrounded by woods. We had moles, but now are getting holes without mounds, multiplying overnight! The holes do not go down very far, but our grass is dying and the ground sinks if you walk directly around the hole. We have been unable to catch sight of the hole makers and are becoming frustrated by this. We have well water and that gives me pause in using some of the pesticides suggested. Does anyone else have these holes? What are the pests?

    • Hi, John. Some things you can only determine in person.
      We suggest contacting your local Master Gardeners association for a quick visit.
      Master gardeners make house calls and provide free advice to local people.
      Thanks for your question, and good luck!

    • I’m gonna guess you have skunks wandering in at night eating grubs. I have the same thing and that’s the most answer I get.

  7. I want to fertlize my lawn but we expect 100 degree temps for next 6 days. Should I wait and what temps are okay to feterlize lawn?

  8. Robert, you should definitely wait until things cool down before fertilizing your lawn. If you’re growing a cool-season grass (like fescue or bluegrass) you shouldn’t fertilize during the summer at all – wait until fall. If you’re growing a warm-season grass (bermuda, St. Augustine, centipede, etc.), ideally you should wait until temps are back in the 80s.

  9. I had sod planted along a strip in my yard (the area did not respond well to other kinds of grass). There are a couple areas that began to turn brown (down to the bare ground). Landscaper told me i have GOOD soil. The area of browning (again down to the bare ground) has spread two days after applying grub control (July 2nd). I don’t know if that caused the almost immediate reaction, but now i don’t know what I can do.

  10. the story doesnt really add summer lawn care, it talk more about spring and fall etc. i like to know how to fertilize in summer to keep the lawn green without burning it, the guy next door said use 16-16-16, i think that will burn it

  11. my spots are not brown they are yellow. i live in seattle and put weed and feed on the grass and and i have a few large yellow spots i water every day. its a new lawn what can i do?

  12. My back lawn is turning yellow. It is only green in spots. We go thru this every year. What can I do to help it. We like to sit out there. Needless to say I need help PLEASE.

  13. I live in a very hot Sacramento valley….we were for a week during a very hot spell (over 105) and my lawn did not get enough water…it is now brown. We want to sale our house in Aug. What can I do to help make the grass green again even in this very hot weather. Is sod my only choice?

    • Hi, Barbara,
      Lawn maintenance best practices vary by region. We suggest contacting your local Master Gardeners association for assistance. Master gardeners train on a range of topics so they can provide advice, at no charge, for people in their area.
      In the meantime, we recommend using Ironite Mineral Supplement as directed, only in regions the packaging recommends.
      Good luck!

  14. Hi. I have been watering my husband grave and the ones next to his twice a day. the lawn was a nice deep green. Now all of a sudden mine is turning all brown while the ones next to it are still green. I do all of them, why is mine only turning brown?

  15. Lorelei,
    Unfortunately, i have no answer but i suppose it could be “brown patch” or possibly even just going dormant in the heat. As with a yard, oftentimes one area will be quite green and the next, brown. I’m sorry i am of little help – i was reading this page as i have issues with my grass and when i came upon your post. i just wanted to reach out to you to say how sorry i am for the loss of your husband and how very loving you are to water his resting place daily. Your words just touched me. Take care.

    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts with the Today’s Homeowner community, Sandy!
      TH community members helping other TH community members — we love it. 🙂

  16. We just planted new kentucky grass about 3 weeks ago. Can we fertilize in 100 degree weather? I thought that we could water real good first, put out fertilizer, then water it again, maybe at night??? Don’t won’t to burn what is growing.

    • Hi, Connie! Best fertilizing practices vary by region.
      You didn’t include the location, so we suggest contacting your local Master Gardeners association. Master gardeners train on a range of topics so they can provide advice, at no charge, for people in their area.
      Good luck!

  17. A good weed control is a good thing in the summer. You have to make sure the lawn is wet so the weed control sticks to the weeds. Otherwise you might as well just give away the money you spent on it.

    Shallow watering will lead to shallow roots. You want to deep water so you get deep roots. The deep roots can tolerate a drought much better.

  18. It’s Aug. 4th and my lawn has lasted thru the 100 degree weather and now next week mid 90 degrees ….The grass is starting to go brown almost looks like thack or just dead grass only in parts of my lawn….Can I save these bad spots with fertilizer or just forget it….I water in the morning or in the evening…???? Help Needed…

  19. Hi i recently planted grass outside my house back in December, my grass was growing fine tell the weather started to get hot in the 100 here in south texas. It is now growing brown and brittle i have put fertilizers and i water it 2 or 3 times a week, Help me bring my grass back to life please

    • Hi, Crystal,
      Sorry to hear about your grass going brown on you! That said, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution for this matter. We would recommend contacting the Texas Master Gardener Association (, whose experts from Texas A&M University should be glad to help you — they may even come right to your house to verify the situation! (We’ve seen that happen numerous times.) Master gardeners are awesome and they expect nothing in return. Good luck!

  20. My lawn was real good nice thick healthy green, but in summer of July I noticed some areas became yellow. I try to water daily and use the lawn mower not low cut & not high either.. wheats were unnoticed but end of July I see some coming up. Your thoughts on use of fertilizer, water, etc…

  21. Now I know: STOP fertilizing approximately 30 days before summer since not doing so can burn your lawn. My husband and I just moved into our first home with a large yard in the back for our little ones to play on. Believe me, we need all the help we can get!

    • Congratulations on your new home! Sometimes, it takes trial and error, especially if you’re switching from warm-season to cool-season grasses and aren’t used to a specific lawn when you change homes. Glad you found the solution that works best for your geographic area.


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