Late Summer Turfgrass Management

Image of healthy turfgrass in the late summer

Your turfgrass survived another hot, dry summer. With a lot of hard work--and a little luck--it still looks pretty good.

Great! Keep the momentum going. As we near the end of summer, we're easing into a critical time for turfgrass. It's an opportunity to provide the conditions to help lawns recover from summer and grow stronger as the cooler weather arrives. 

Plan these tasks to grow more resilient, durable, and healthy turfgrass:


Restart or Continue Mowing

If your area suffered a dry spell and the turfgrass went dormant, you may have temporarily halted mowing. As cooler air--and hopefully some rain-- comes, grass goes out of dormancy. 

In the summer, it's best to keep grass about 3 inches high. Longer grass prevents sunlight from reaching the soil surface. If sunlight reaches the soil, it may promote the germination of weed seeds. Also, higher turfgrass retains soil moisture. 

Your team can mow the turf about a half-inch lower as the weather cools. Continue cutting until late fall, when the grass once again goes dormant. 


Aerate Compacted Soils

Traffic from high-use areas compacts the soil. The compaction makes it harder for turfgrass to establish a robust root system. 

Soil aeration removes plugs of compacted soil from the ground. As a result, root systems are more likely to get air, water, and nutrients, helping them thrive.  

Early fall is perfect for completing this task, but be sure not to aerate dormant turfgrass.

After aerating, let the soil plugs dry where they fall. They'll break down during the next mowing or rainfall. 

Aeration prepares the area for other tasks--like overseeding--that can further improve turfgrass health. 


Remove Excessive Thatch

Thatch is the layer of plant material between the soil and top of turfgrass. It benefits the turf by maintaining moisture and providing nutrients from decomposing organic materials.

If thatch gets more than a half-inch thick, it may create problems similar to compaction--less flow of air, water, and nutrients. Aeration can help remove some of the thatch. Combining aeration and dethatching gives a solid one-two punch providing turfgrass roots the environment they need for better root systems.   



In cooler weather climates, fertilize turfgrass in the early fall. Schedule this task during the first two weeks of September if the conditions are right.

Use a nitrogen-rich fertilizer like 20-8-8. However, you may want to choose a fertilizer based on soil testing and observations of your soil's specific needs. 

You may also consider fertilizing in late fall when the foliar growth stops, but the grass is still green. Do this 2 to 3 weeks before the ground freezes. Using a mixture with extra phosphorus helps stimulate root growth until the turf goes dormant again.   


Control Weeds

Broadleaf herbicides do a better job of controlling weeds like dandelions and plantain in the late summer. 

During the fall, perennial weeds move carbohydrates to their roots. When herbicides get applied at this time, the chemical also reaches the roots. The result: more weeds completely destroyed. 



Early fall is the time of year to bulk up your turfgrass. As the summer ends, grass seeds get less competition from weeds. Cool-season grasses germinate best as the daily temperatures begin to decrease.

Apply the grass seed and set up a watering schedule. With some help from Mother Nature, you'll get the extra precipitation and lower temperatures to create thicker, healthier turfgrass.  


Other Considerations

Your team doesn't have to do all these tasks in every area each late summer. Schedule tasks based on the needs and problems with a specific turfgrass area. Assess each site to determine the most appropriate care needed. 

Some tasks cannot be done together. For example, don't apply herbicide and reseed at the same time. Similarly, new seedlings may not survive when using fertilizers meant for established turf.

These suggestions are meant for cooler weather climates. If your agency operates in the southern part of the country, these tasks may need scheduling at different times.   


Stay on Task for Better Turfgrass

Don't miss opportunities for establishing better turfgrass. Keep your team aware and focused on effective late summer turfgrass management. Schedule out late summer lawn maintenance tasks 

More parks and recreation departments rely on maintenance management software to schedule essential tasks. CMMS software provides a central hub allowing maintenance teams to effectively communicate and understand what needs to get done to improve their assets.