A Brief Guide to Summer Lawn Care

Ten tips for keeping your yard healthy this season.

Maintaining a healthy lawn and thriving plants throughout the summer requires some know-how and diligence—especially in the face of southern Alberta’s unpredictable weather and potential water shortages. Here, we bring you a handful of tips for keeping your lawn and outdoor plants as healthy as possible throughout our hottest, sunniest season.

Keep your grass at the right height

It’s best to keep your lawn a little on the tall side, ideally two-and-a-half to three inches high. Cutting your grass shorter than that can weaken its root system and allow for weeds to grow more quickly.

Plus, leaving your lawn a bit longer during really hot and dry periods will help to retain crucial moisture in the soil and roots.

Mow regularly and follow the one-third rule

While you should aim to keep your lawn at three inches, it’s still important to mow it regularly—typically around three to four times a month in the summer, depending on how quickly it’s growing.

When it’s definitely time to mow, be sure to follow the “one-third” rule: according to lawncare experts, it’s best to remove no more than one-third off the top of the grass blades, as it helps to limit stress on the lawn and allows the roots to keep growing.

Water at the right time

When it comes to watering your lawn, it’s best to do it either in the morning (before 10 am) or in the evening to avoid wasteful evaporation. Try to water low and slow, at short intervals (around five to ten minutes at a time until water starts to pool), as this gentle approach helps to encourage deep roots and ensures your soil is able to absorb and retain the moisture it needs.

As for how often to water, it’ll depend on how hot and dry the weather is. But generally, grass needs water when it starts to look dull and wilted, or when you can still see footprints after it’s been stepped on.

Shrink your lawn

If you want to save water and reduce time spent on maintaining your lawn, consider replacing part of it with a rock garden, pavers, or native, drought-resistant grasses, shrubs and groundcovers.

Plants that are native to southern Alberta are already acclimated to the area, which means they’re accustomed to the amount of sun and rainwater that Calgary and Airdrie receive, so there’s no need to fuss too much over maintenance. Visit the Calgary Horticultural Society for more guidance on choosing native species, but remember that newly planted plants require additional water at the outset, so plan wisely.

Plant strategically

If you have planters and garden beds that you’d like to see thrive this season, be sure to group your plants and flowers wisely. You can simplify upkeep and reduce water waste by placing plants with similar water and sunlight needs together—that way, you use only the water you need for each group, avoiding overwatering or underwatering and helping to encourage greater plant health and vibrancy.

Placement is also key. Be sure to place your plant groups in locations that suit their growing needs. Put drought-resistant plants in drier areas of your yard, and those requiring more water in places where water naturally runs and pools.

Invest in a rain barrel

Not only will using a rain barrel help you to conserve water and save money, it’ll also lead to healthier, happier plants. Water from a tap or hose contains calcium carbonate, chlorine and other potentially harmful chemicals, while rainwater is all-natural and full of nitrates, which are the most bio-available form of nitrogen and help plants grow faster and look greener.

While the City of Airdrie and Green Calgary sell rain barrels every season, they’re often out of stock this time of year. So if you want to grab one in time for watering this summer, consider checking out your local hardware or home improvement store.

Optimize your downspouts

If you already have a rain barrel or two, then you’re likely using the downspouts on your home or garage to divert rainwater into those barrels. But if you don’t own a rain barrel, you can still optimize the placement of your downspouts so that they’re doing the most they can for the health of your yard.

Be sure to direct your downspouts away from your driveway or sidewalk, pointing them, instead, to your lawn, trees or other landscaped areas of your property. You can also try digging a small trench (and lining it with flat rocks) to direct rainwater from the downspouts to your plants.

Use mulch to retain moisture

Consider optimizing moisture-retention in your garden beds and around your trees and shrubs by adding a layer of mulch (ideally two to four inches thick) to these areas. While there are a variety of mulches to choose from (including grass, straw and even compost), shredded bark mulch is among the best for conserving soil moisture, cooling soil temperatures when it’s really hot outside, and reducing watering needs.

Mulching also provides rich, organic nutrients to your soil, helps to decrease soil erosion, and stunts weed growth.

Maintain your watering equipment

While rain barrels can provide a significant amount of water for your property, it’s likely your lawn and/or garden will require other sources of irrigation during a Calgary or Airdrie summer. Whether you rely on manual watering (i.e. a hose attached to a sprinkler or spray nozzle) or an automatic irrigation system, it’s important to check for leaks, clogs or other damage to this equipment on a regular basis.

If you do find damage, address it as soon as possible, as leaky hoses, sprinkler heads and irrigation lines can lead to substantial water waste. They can also be very harmful to plants and grass due to unintentional overwatering or underwatering.

Use a moisture meter

Finally, if you’re feeling uncertain about when your lawn and garden plants are in need of water, consider using a moisture meter before and after each watering session.

Available at most home improvement stores, these small, helpful tools take a lot of the guesswork out of watering and can help you avoid the various unfortunate outcomes that occur when your plants get too much—or not enough—moisture.