Lawn grasses pass through different growth cycles related to seasonal day length, temperatures and moisture fluctuations. Our lawns consist of cool-season grasses that grow best under cool spring and fall temperatures when we usually have adequate moisture.

As summer heats up and moisture becomes more limited, these cool-season grasses go through a stress period. Many of the plants that make up a lawn will die over the summer  season,resulting in a natural thinning of the lawn. These will be replaced with new daughter plants during the fall growing season and lawns will increase in density.
The most important management practice for the lawn during this period is to raise your mowing height to reduce stress of frequent defoliation from the mower. In addition to retaining more foliage for photosynthesis, the taller grass blade will better shade the soil surface to conserve moisture and to compete with warm-season weeds such as crabgrass.
In addition, raising the mowing height in the summer can actually eliminate the need for crabgrass herbicides. A height of 3-4 inches in the summer is desirable. On most residential mowers, the highest height setting will be in this range. Lowering mowing heights to  approximately 2 inches in early September will promote maximum density prior to winter.
Watering lawns in summer is optional. Left unwatered, cool-season turfgrass will naturally go into dormancy during hot, dry weather. This is a mechanism to conserve moisture and energy within the plant so it can resume growth when conditions become more favorable. In the case of extended drought, lawns do benefit from a light watering about once a week to keep them hydrated.
Forcing growth by watering during the summer is an option if you desire a green lawn throughout the season. However, watering should be done as infrequently as possible and irrigation should be run in the early morning hours to conserve water and promote rapid drying of foliage after irrigation. Watering in the evening should be avoided as it promotes summer lawn diseases.
The frequency and intensity of irrigation at a given time will depend on soil type. If you have a professionally installed irrigation system,consult your irrigation technician for assistance on setting the system for optimum efficiency and effectiveness. A rain sensor on these systems will avoid unnecessary watering when rainfall is adequate.
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