The thermostat tells the story, but we can all feel what the next page of the calendar will bring.
The summertime heat is on in Iowa, which means the sun is declaring an intense all-out war on your lawn.
Friends, welcome to June, named for the Roman goddess of youth, who must have loved a good, hot day. It’s this intensely hot time of year where even the best kept of lawns can start to lose their green shine and wilt to brown under the immense humidity and power of a sometimes merciless sun.
“It’s a familiar story – we work hard all year keeping our lawns finally manicured and neatly mown but when the heat of summer arrives, our grass turns brown and seems to die,” Free Plants notes.
And if your lawn is enduring a dry June with little or no rain (slim chances of rain were expected in Eastern Iowa during the first week of June) and without help from a professional lawn service like Creekside Turf Management, it’s fighting the sun alone.
“If you can’t stand the heat, you’re not alone,” Golf.com’s Josh Sens writes. “Scorching temperatures, like the kind we’ve seen in recent weeks from coast to coast, are tough on grass as well.”
Feeling the Heat
The Iowa Department of Agriculture & Land Stewardship reports Iowa temperatures averaged 71.2 degrees in June 2022 with a statewide average maximum temperature of 82.7 degrees. The state averaged below average rainfall last June, a trend that has continued into June 2023.
“All (grass) are likely to suffer as the thermometer rises during the hottest months of the year,” HGTV.com’s Mick Telkamp writes. “Keeping the lawn healthy can be a challenge.”
Lawn heat exhaustion is real.
A Brown Lawn ‘Not a Reason to Panic’
You may notice it first in patches that seem to multiply by the day.
The promising news: A brown lawn is not necessarily a sick lawn, but a reactionary measure your lawn takes to protect itself against heat and drought.
“If your lawn turns brown, it isn’t a reason to panic,” Free Plants notes. “Unless conditions become too extreme, your grass will quickly spring back into life as soon as the rains and cooler temperatures return.”
Keys to a Green June Lawn
We can’t do anything about the sun’s wrath, but there are simple preventative measures homeowners can take in June to help your lawn keep its natural green color during the first month of summer.
- Keep Grass Longer: Cutting your grass at blade height of 4 inches enables its roots to extend deeper into the earth and keeps weeds from coming up and competing for water. Because the turf is less dense, your grass will require less water.
- Sharpen Mower Blades: Always important, a sharp blade is never needed more than during the hottest days of summer. Dull blades cause grass to gray. Frayed grass is far more likely to turn brown.
- Mow Less: Freshly cut grass is more susceptible to sun damage. Mow less frequently and mow in the morning or after the sun begins to set. This will cut down on brown spots.
- Mulch: Rather than bagging grass clippings, consider using a mulching mower. Mulch mowers allow grass to settle into the lawn, enabling it to trap moisture, stay cooler and be better hydrated.
- Fertilizing: Since its effect will be minimal, most lawn experts advise skipping fertilizing during the summer.
But what about a lawn’s most essential defense against a June Iowa sun’s immense heat?
When to Water
Lawn hydration means everything to grass staying green during the summer. Iowa lawns usually need about an inch of water per week to stay healthy. The time of day you water your grass can make a big difference.
Morning watering allows moisture to be effectively absorbed by your grass’ root system. Avoid watering at high noon when the sun’s powers are at their peak.
“Watering grass is a waste if the water dries up before it reaches the roots,” Angi.com’s Nick P. Cellucci writes. “The best time to water your lawn in the summer is at dawn, just as the sun comes up.
“If that’s too early for you, definitely water before 9 a.m. Morning temperatures are cooler and winds are calmer, giving grass roots time to absorb the water before it evaporates or blows away.”
During dry conditions, watering two to three times per week will give your grass the hydration it needs to weather the Iowa June sun healthy, well and green.
Remember, during summer’s hot opening month, mow wisely, keep your blades sharp and water smartly to ensure your beautiful lawn can keep its natural lush green color against the sun’s most scorching power.
“Knowing the basics of (summer) lawn care can help you maintain and enjoy a beautiful lawn,” This Old House stresses.