June is a month of transition – the promise of Spring yields to the peak foliage of mid-June and the hot days of Summer begin to make their appearance as the month progresses. Many turf experts tell us that June is the single most-important month in the year to determine what your lawn will be like for the rest of the year.
Are you ready?
If you are, you’re bundling up the grass seed bags that you used for the patching and overseeding and putting them away in a cool place until late Summer. Face it – it’s over and done. Grass seed planted after June starts will not be established well before the mighty, brutal heat of July and early August are here. Turf experts tell us that statistically the odds of successfully getting grass established plummet if the grass isn’t down by now.
If you did seed the lawn, then chances are that you’ve been doing frequent light waterings to help it succeed. If so, now is the time to start the transition to watering techniques that will get the grass through the balance of the year in top shape.
So, what are the things to do in June?
Watering: the plentiful Spring showers of April and May are beginning to become a memory (fond or otherwise). Now is the time to begin the deep, infrequent watering that will encourage the grass to develop deeper roots that cannot be seared by the strong sun. Grass will always grow roots where it can get the most water and nutrients. If you water it often and perform shallow watering, the roots will stay near the surface. This will stress the grass when the hot weather comes. If you also fertilize with synthetic fertilizers a lot, it may also lead to heavy thatch buildup. The best way to water is one inch of water applied all at once. “Infrequent” means when the grass begins to show the earliest signs of stress. If you’re using an automatic (scheduled) watering system, “infrequent” means weekly, unless your soil is very sandy and dries out quickly. Soils heavy in clay may require adjustments in the application of the water (to avoid runoff or puddling), but the amounts remain the same.
Fertilizing: Last call!!! If you still have fertilizing to do, try to get it down by June 15th if you don’t want a struggle between growth and dormancy erupting on your lawn in early July.
The Dormancy Decision: many Northern grasses become dormant during the heat of Summer if left to their own devices. This is natural, and it will wake up and be itself again when the evenings begin to cool in late August or early September. If you have very young grass or just hate the look of dormant grass, then you need to make the commitment to keep the watering going for the whole Summer (even if you leave for a two-week vacation). You cannot pull the plug suddenly on the watering if you get tired of it or go on vacation – you will be creating an artificial environment for the grass that needs to be maintained. If you decide that dormancy is right for your lawn, you need to remember that dormant grass is still alive and will require enough water to keep it alive, but not enough to wake it from its “nap”. Dormancy is not death.
Mowing: The higher you mow the grass, the more you protect the roots and the soil from the sun. By the end of June, you want to have that grass at it’s maximum height for the year. Many lawnmowers can only go to 3”, but if your lawnmower will permit you to go higher and the grass doesn’t mat or lose it’s structure, then push it up ¼” per cutting to as high as 4” if you (and the grass) can handle it. Also, you will probably begin to notice a slowing in the growth of the lawn grass as the second half of June progresses. It is also important to remember that whatever the height of the grass is, never mow more than 1/3 of the height of the grass at once.
Weed Control: While later April and May were the best time to control weeds, people that did overseeding couldn’t use weed killers. Like grass, however, many broadleaf weeds slow their growth in later June, and the effectiveness of weed killers begins to diminish. It is also important to note that reading the label directions of the weed killers becomes more critical – many weed killers can harm lawns if the temperatures are expected to exceed 80 degrees within the first few days following application. Read the label!!!
Soil Management: if you got a soil test and made some adjustments in late March or early April, it’s time to start thinking about Round 2 of the adjustments. Also, remember to keep up those compost tea and molasses treatments. This is especially true if you are considering a late Summer renovation or significant reseeding down the road – you want that soil ready to deliver.
Renovation Planning: If you are considering a major renovation, June is the time to build out your timeline and begin stockpiling the materials.
So, that’s it!!! Go and enjoy the peak foliage that you earned for all your hard Spring work, and pat yourself on the back for the job well-done. Take a full ten minutes off to celebrate if you need it. Then, get back to work!!!