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During the heat of summer, keep your lawn cut higher! When it comes to how high or low to cut their lawns, people are all over the place. Some prefer it a little high while others want it as short as possible. The reality is – science should be the decider. If you have a St Augustine or Zoysia lawn, you should be mowing your lawn high. Your lawn should be between 3.5” to 4” after cut during periods where temperatures are in the upper 90s and 100s. That normally means the entire months of July and August in Texas, but this year we have to include June in the discussion because a string of 100s will welcome us this month. Why do we mow a St Augustine lawn this high? Mowing high promotes deeper root growth, a darker green lawn, fewer weeds and a lawn that can better handle the stress from drought, insects, etc. The less stress a lawn is put under, a healthier lawn with fewer weeds will be the result. Mowing high also enables the turf to hang on to moisture, longer. High grass hides sunlight from the soil surface, slowing down evaporation whereas shorter grass loses its moisture at times in a matter of hours. Once you’ve mowed, its great to follow it up with a watering. When a mower blade cuts a grass blade, a wound is created. If left that way, the tips of the blades will singe in the hot sun the following day. Giving the lawn a nice watering after a mow helps those wounds heal overnight and no tip singe will happen. Bermuda lawns can be kept at a lower height than St Augustine. However, you will still gain a deeper green, healthier lawn by keeping Bermuda cut high during the hottest months. You may even consider mowing only twice a month during July and August. What if I still want to mow it short? Well, you can do that. But know that weeds are going to become an off and on resident in your lawn because of the stress it will be put under. When turf recedes, weeds fill the void. Watering schedule You should change your watering start times to evening waterings. Start your cycles well after the sun has gone down, such as 10 pm or 11 pm. What this does is enable the turf to spend many hours more with the water as opposed to morning cycles where the evaporation process begins soon after. There’s no need to worry about lawn fungus in Texas during June-July-August. It’s just too hot for fungus to survive in most cases. We will return to morning starts on Labor Day. Mower Blades need to be sharp If you haven’t already done so this year, remove your mower blade and either sharpen it yourself (using an electric grinder) or take it to a mower service facility and have them do it for you. A dull blade will leave behind a slightly brown lawn because it tears the blades of grass instead of cutting them. The grass tips are shredded and become singed. This causes stress and opens up the risk of pests and disease. While you’re performing this type of maintenance on your mower, its always good to check the oil, make sure there are no leaks, and clean or change the spark plug. Mowing Patterns It is not good to mow in the same direction/method each time you mow your lawn. Doing so will create areas where the soil is compacted and ruts. Change directions. Mow in a diagonal pattern one week, back and forth the next week, and up and down the following week. Then repeat them all over again. Leave the Clippings! I highly recommend that you not bag your lawn clippings when you mow. If you don’t have a mulching mower, make one your next mower purchase. Even still, let the clippings stay on the ground. If they are clumping, use your blower and blow them around until they are dispersed. Leaving the clippings on the turf allows the nutrients in the grass to be returned to the turf. When you fertilize, those nutrients wind up in the blades of the grass. Clippings do not cause or contribute to thatch. Do not cut more than 1/3 of the grass height at a time Some people think they’re saving themselves some money without sacrifice by only mowing twice a month during the growing season. They may save money, but they’re sacrificing their turf as each time they mow, they’re having to cut more of the grass blade than they should. Cutting more than 1/3 of the grass blade height will cause problems. It causes discoloration of the turf, exposes the more delicate under turf to the sun, increases stress and eventually causes recession. Grub Control Grub worms are busy feeding on turf roots during late May and throughout the month of June. If you haven’t already applied a grub control product to your lawn, you really should do that now. There is no way to prevent grub worms from getting into your turf soil. They begin as larvae laid by Japanese Beetles (commonly called “June Bugs”) which are always bouncing around exterior light fixtures during the mid summer. The larvae are placed anywhere from five to six inches deep in the soil and stay there through winter. As the soil begins to warm during spring, they begin to climb to the surface. Once they’re at the three inch level, they’re feeding on turf roots. Grub damage can be pretty significant. It will appear at first as just weakening grass and will get progressively worse, no matter how much water you put on it. Mid-Season Fertlization Around mid-June is when we apply our mid-season fertilization to our lawns. This time, you will want to reduce your spreader ratio so that you’re not putting down as much product as you did during the spring application. You want to dial that down and apply more sparsely so that the lawn is not put into stress. Fertilizer and hot temperatures generally don’t mix so a lighter ratio will give the turf what it needs without causing issues. Safe to trim Oaks again The March through June 1 period where we discourage the trimming of Oaks is now past us. We do this because this is the period when Oak Wilt disease is in pollination mode so open cuts on an Oak can put it at risk of getting Oak Wilt. That risk is now diminished, so its safe to trim them. Sharing a Question A question from one of my readers last month asked why his Oak keeps trying to grow low on one side. He said he’s trimmed it several times over the years but always has to trim that one side where the limbs grow out and down. This is a self defense mechanism of the tree. It is attempting to put shade over its root zone on its west side in order to slow down evaporation from the sun. The tree does not know it has an owner who will provide water for it on an ongoing basis. Lol (Mark’s column each month is sponsored by Stagecoach Trailers, Inc., of Naples, Texas. Find them at www.stagecoachtrailers.com)