Heat Stress and How To Treat It

dry patch of yellow grass in the midst of green grassYou’re probably wondering, “what is heat stress and how does it relate to my lawn?”  Keep reading and I’ll explain everything you need to know.

Heat stress is caused by hot, dry weather as well as a lack of water. It’s pretty much the same thing that humans and animals experience if they spend too much time in the sun and it starts wearing them down. It stand to reason that this will happen to your lawn as well, right?

Once a lawn is adversely affected by heat stress, other issues like weeds, diseases & pests have a greater chance of popping up. 

 Things can get out of control quickly, which is why knowing the symptoms of heat stress and how to treat it are necessary for all lawn-owners. 

Identification- 7 Signs of Heat Stress

  • Footprints

If you walk across your yard and the grass stays down without bouncing back up, your grass needs water. Why? Because the lack of “bounce-back” indicates that there is not enough water pressure within the grass blades to keep them taut and resilient.

  • Discoloration

This is the most obvious sign of trouble with your lawn. When drought is just starting, your grass will appear bluish-gray before it turns completely brown. The tips of the grass blades will turn brown first, and then eventually the entire blade. 

Heat stress can be tricky to diagnose because many infestations and diseases also cause discoloration. We will discuss in more detail in a moment. 

  • Wilted Grass Blades

Once the grass blades have turned brown, they will begin to wilt or curl. You may have to get down low to the ground to truly notice the wilted appearance. No matter how subtle or obvious this feature is, it’s a definite sign of heat stress in the sweltering summer weather

  • Brown Patches

Left untreated, the wilted grass blades will turn into big, brown patches. You will be able to see the soil beneath the grass.

These brown patches mean severe damage has occurred. Usually, the grass can recover, but the repair process is tedious. 

  • Weeds

Weeds love the hot, dry Texas weather and they love damaged lawns. They see a heat-stressed lawn as an invitation to take over. 

Anytime you notice brown patches, weeds are sure to follow. This is because weeds are opportunistic, and often hardier than your turfgrass. They will happily take up any space that your grass isn’t already occupying.

  • Soil and Aeration

Clay soil, which is common in Texas can contribute to drought issues because the soil gets so hard that water cannot pass through it. Aerating your lawn can help mitigate this issue. 

Get a screwdriver and push it into your lawn.  If it goes in easily, your lawn has been watered properly.  If you struggle to insert the screwdriver, your grass needs water.

Learn more about how JC’s Landscaping can help address your needs by visiting our Aeration Service page.

  • Edges and Cracks

Examine the edges of your lawn.  A space between the soil and concrete indicates that your lawn is receding due to insufficient water. 

Cracked soil throughout your yard is yet another indicator of heat stress. Think of it this way: these observations are very similar to how our own skin reacts when we’re dehydrated: Cracking, shriveling, and “sucking in” are the natural response for a living organism in response to insufficient hydration. 

Treatment

Now that you know what you’re looking for, let’s talk about how to fix it. Here’s more helpful tips on How to Keep Lawn Green in the Summer Heat!

Water

First and foremost, a lawn that has been damaged from heat needs water. Find out how JC’s can keep your lawn hydrated with our Irrigation Services.

Water thoroughly for a few days and check how your lawn reacts.  If the extra water is not bringing any life back to your grass, there may be another issue at play.

Set a watering schedule and stick to it.  Summer heat requires more water.  You should water less often, but more deeply. 

Shoot for 6-7inches of water twice a week. It’s best to water in the early morning or late at night. Do not water mid-day or in the afternoon because the sun will evaporate the water before it can reach the roots of the grass.

Our friends at Texas A&M’s Agrilife Extension have a really helpful article about lawn water management.

Mowing

Keep grass tall in summer.  3-3.5 inches is recommended. Why? Because longer grass blades provide shade and retain more water. 

Mow in the early morning or evening. This helps reduce the amount of moisture lost from evaporation. Remember, your grass continues to “drink” from the topsoil long after you’ve watered. This means the ground temperature needs to be cool enough to allow for adequate absorption.

The weight of the mower can further damage a heat-stressed lawn. This concept harkens back to what we discussed above about wilted grass blades and the subsequent damage that can ensue if re-hydration does not happen quickly enough.  

Mower blades need to be sharpened regularly as a part of standard lawn maintenance. Slightly dehydrated grass can be more difficult to slice through, just like cutting a tomato requires more precision than cutting a squash. If you’re in “repair mode” with a mildly wilted lawn, be sure you’re using fresh and sharp blades in order to avoid further damage.  

handful of grass seeds with green grass in backgroundReseeding/Sodding

When only a few areas have been damaged, reseeding or “overseeding” those spots is an easy fix. Reseeding is planting grass seed on existing turf. This method does take time though because the grass has to grow from seed.

For large areas affected by heat stress, sodding will be most beneficial. Sodding is transplanting mature turf with roots. 

Sodding will instantly give your lawn the desired look, but it is also more costly. After seeding or sodding, frequent watering is crucial to foster adequate germination and growth.

Final Thoughts

Summer lawn care can be daunting.  Follow the above mentioned tips to have your lawn looking its best.  Or better yet, give JC’s a call and we’ll do the work for you!

 

 

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