Wrote this for a potential customer and wanted to share it in case others have been having the same problem:
“Thank you for contacting us in regards to your lawn and a couple of tips which may help your property thrive this coming season. Without knowing exactly what stressed your lawn, I am going to offer a wide variety of options for your lawn:
First and Last mow of the season: Mow on a low setting without scalping the lawn (about 1.5″). This will allow warmth to reach the crown of the plant in spring promoting growth and in fall will make it less likely for the lawn to develop snow mold because the leaf of the grass will be short and not matte down under winter snow. during spring and fall: keep the lawn about 2.5″ – 3″. During the heat of summer, keep your lawn 3.5-4″ high. Keeping the lawn high during the heat of summer will shade the soil causing less evaporation.
Unfortunately there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to watering. Factors such as natural moisture conditions, heat, turf-type, soil-type and sun exposure will modify what tips we might make for one lawn to the next. With that being said, based off of our conversation, I will make the following watering recommendations:
During summer: Watering later in the morning (around 9 – 10 am) will allow the turf to dry from the morning dew before the leaf gets wet again. If your lawn has disease activity, watering the in early morning will prolong leaf wetness which promotes disease activity. Also, heat stress in the full sun areas are more likely to develop disease activity because the turf is weakened; so during days where temperatures exceed 85 degrees we would recommend watering in the middle of the day (just the full sun areas) to help relieve the stress off the lawn – thus allowing the turf a better opportunity the correct itself without the need of a fungicide. The lawn generally wants 1-1.5″ of water a week, it is better to water your lawn deeply (during the morning watering routine), this will promote deeper root development.
Possible Insect Activity:
Some insects, like the bill bug, become very active during the summer month and do cause browning. There is a chance that your lawn is being attacked by insects and not disease (however, if it’s the whole lawn that being affected, chances are more likely that it is fungus). Bill bug larvae eat near the crown of the plant, if you pull up on the damaged grass you will note hollowed out blades near the crown.
Possible Fungus Activity:
Fungus can damage a lawn, causing it to discolor, thin or even die-back. Microorganisms live on all lawns, usually in or near the thatch zone, when the correct conditions are met, these organisms can spawn off spores which spread (via wind, foot traffic, mowing, rain, etc.) and target their host – in this case, turf grass.
Full sun areas that experience extreme & prolonged heat are susceptible to going dormant (especially Kentucky bluegrass & Rye). This is the turf natural defense to survive a condition that is too much for it to handle as it moves nutrients from the leaf to the root. Sometimes the conditions may be such that even watering it does not produce a visual bounce-back of the lawn. We have had abnormal weather patterns since 2010, once the weather stabilizes, this reaction by the turf may stop and you may not experience it during normal seasons. You may also consider introducing a hardier turf-type like a variety of tall-fescue which is better adapted for heat and sun.
Thatch is normal, though anything over 1/2″ may become a problem as it could become a harbor for disease, insects and not allow proper leaching to occur. If you have a spreading/creeping turf type like fine fescue, bluegrass or bent grass your lawn is more susceptible to heavy thatch build up. An aeration, de-thatching, or slicing may help – though each has it’s own pros and cons and is really only needed if the thatch build up is over that 1/2″.”