Turf Care Under the Hot Sun – Part 2

My GROBigRed post in the first week of June introduced the concept of caring for turf under hot, sunny conditions, and focused on efficient irrigation practices.


Here’s an excerpt to set the stage for this week’s post – “In summer, in Nebraska, it’s hot.  So hot that caring for turf requires a full set of strategies…in fact 4 pieces or parts.  And, like McNuggets, they’re fused together for success.”

Part 1 – Efficient Irrigation

Part 2 – Appropriate Fertilization

Part 3 – Mowing Considerations

Part 4 – Miscellaneous Factors


This week, part 2 – appropriate fertilization.  Lots of fertilizer produces lots of growth, which creates lots of leaf surface area to lose water from.  Each grass blade has pores, called stomates, which open and close, allowing water to escape from the atmosphere.  The greater the number of grass blades, the greater the moisture loss.  Moisture loss, aka transpiration is a good thing for the lawn, as it’s nature’s way of cooling the plants, but when the growth is excessive, it causes problems.


Instead of using a “full rate” of fertilizer for the early summer application, dial it back and apply a reduced rate.  For example, a “summerizer” product may call for a full pound of nitrogen per 1,000 sq. ft. and recommend moving the spreader setting to say, 7 or 8.  (this is just a typical setting, not exact, because each brand of spreader products uses different numbers.)  To reduce the rate, divide the desired amount by the first number in the analysis.  Relax, it’s simple.  So, rather than 1.0 lbs per thousand, use 0.3 or 0.4 pounds and divide it by the fertilizer concentration, which is typically in the 22-25% range.  The math would work out to something like 0.4 divided by 0.25 equals 1.6 pounds of the product is needed.  Multiply 1.6 times the number of 1,000 sq. ft. units in your lawn and that’s how much total product is needed.  Since we’re dropping the rate by a little more than half, the spreader setting would be dropped proportionally.


One final note on summer fertilization…be sure to choose a product that contains slow release nitrogen with active ingredients such as sulfur coated urea, urea formaldehyde, IBDU, feather meal or corn gluten meal.  They will release the nutrients slowly and evenly over the summer and produce the results we’re looking for.

John Fech
Horticulture Extension Educator at Nebraska Extension
John Fech is a horticulturist with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and certified arborist with the International Society of Arboriculture. The author of 2 books and over 200 popular and trade journal articles, he focuses his time on teaching effective landscape maintenance techniques, water conservation, diagnosing turf and ornamental problems and encouraging effective bilingual communication in the green industry. He works extensively with the media to extend the message of landscape sustainability, making over 100 television and radio appearances each year.
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