Scorching heat. Severe drought. It’s not Mad Max; it’s now. For much of the country, anyway. The heat has many lawns looking, shall we say, crispy.

Even if your climate has been status quo, lawns need as much care as ever to hold up through the end of the season. So whether your summer’s been typical, dry as bone, or somewhere in between, let’s look at how to care for the grass as fall approaches.

Lawn Care for a Typical Summer

Generally, from September into October, lawn care means:

  • Mowing the grass high about once a week. The ideal grass length is 2-3 inches.
  • Weeding regularly and, if possible, by hand. It’s healthiest for your space overall to avoid the sprays.
  • Watering before 8 a.m. or after 5 p.m., provided you’re not in a drought, in which case you have more variables to consider. More on that below.
  • Emptying and clearing away containers that hold standing water. They make dream homes for mosquito mothers . . . and nobody wants a skeeter nursery on their property.

For many homeowners, the lawn may have gone gray and dry in places, due to foot traffic or a kiddie pool that stayed out too long.

Unfortunately, once grass is dead, it can’t grow back. Good news: Planting new grass is totally doable. More on that below!

Lawn Care after a Drought 

Give your grass a close inspection. If the crown, base, and roots are all brown, parched, and thin, your grass is dead.

Here are some tips before taking action.

  1. Know your grass type before you water. It may seem intuitive to water more frequently during and after a drought. But you should carefully weigh this option against allowing your grass to go dormant. You can find a slew of grass identification guides online – here’s one. Some grasses use the dormant process to “wait out” a drought. Cool-season grass varieties, for example, shouldn’t be watered once they’ve lost their color and stopped growing. Going dormant is part of their natural life cycle.
  2. No buzz-cuts! When you mow, set your mower to a long length. You want to preserve the root system. Even if your grass is looking gray, a little length up top will help the roots weather the drought.
  3. Limit foot traffic. If your grass is already suffering, compacting the soil with your footsteps will make it even more difficult for the grass to absorb water.
  4. Consider aerators and overseeding. A core aerator is a useful tool that homeowners can rent or buy. It punches holes into compacted soil, creating passageways for air, water, and nutrients to reach and engage the area.

Similarly, overseeding is a common treatment process for restoring brown, thin lawns to their former glory. It involves preparing the soil, seeding it, fertilizing it, and watering it over time. The process helps new seeds germinate and take root in newly healthy soil.

 Thoughts for a Lawn Refresh

A dry end of summer may be a good time to soul-search and consider a lawn do-over. Homeowners always have the option to lay sod and re-seed the lawn. You could even take this opportunity to plan ways to outmaneuver the effects of drought for the future.

  • Go grass-less. Traditional grass lawns have shallow roots that dry out quickly and, as we all know, need frequent watering. But xeriscaping is a style of landscaping that requires very little irrigation and could reduce your summertime watering load drastically. Many options are gorgeous and feature little or no grass at all.
  • Install a water collection system. With a water storage and irrigation set-up, you could capture rainfall, store it, and move it wherever you need it. This certainly relieves your water supply line, which might be a plus if your area is facing a water shortage. If you’re intrigued, read up on your local regulations concerning the use of rainwater. And make sure your storage solution has a cover and no cracks where mosquitoes could get in.
  • Rearrange your lawn furniture and shake the mosquitoes and ticks. These pests favor shady, damp places, like under lawn furniture or garages. Similarly, ticks may venture near, searching for a host, if your lawn adjoins a dense, wooded area. So consider shaking up your lawn arrangement so that you and the bloodsuckers don’t share the same happy place.
  • Look into native and drought-resistant grasses and plants. Grass varieties and plants that are native to your region (in other words, the types that grow there naturally) are well-suited to thriving in your local climate and require less watering.

However your grass is looking this time of year, there are plenty of ways to rejuvenate your lawn and achieve your backyard dream. You got this!