August was a brutal month for many Elkhart County’s lawns.

It was mostly humid, hot, and dry. Encouraged by the weather, the three lawn diseases necrotic leaf spot, summer spot and pythium took over a number of lawns. Then at the end of August, armyworms marched across many lawns, pastures and feeding places across the county, eating plants except for one nubbin and moving on to eat.

So what to do There is a chance your brown lawn is recovering and needs water to do so. I would start with a good deep soak. Lawn needs water and we haven’t had a lot lately. When watering lawns apply 1 to 1.5 inches in a good, thorough soak. Shallow watering promotes disease and shallow roots. Deep watering promotes deep roots, and deep roots are key in a healthy lawn.

For those with an irrigation system, it takes a while to apply an inch of water. Once you get used to spraying on a daily basis, you will need to adjust your mindset. Put some coffee cups on the lawn to measure the amount of water, and don’t turn off the water until you have more than an inch of water in it. Remember how long it took to apply that inch of water and reset your irrigation system to apply that amount every 3-5 days.

If the brown lawn is still alive for a few days after deep watering, you should see some offspring appear. If not, you may need to consider re-sowing. This Purdue publication describes the steps to successful reseseeding:

September is also the most important month to fertilize a lawn. For established lawns, it’s best to use fertilizers with 25 to 50 percent slow-release N. This promotes summer recovery, displaces weeds, maximizes green color, and prepares the lawn for winter, all without a spurt of growth.

September is also a great time to work on pesky broad-leaved weeds like dandelions, violets, clover, and plantain. An application in mid-September of a three-way mixture of 2,4-D, Mecoprop, and Dicamba commonly sold in many garden areas will do a lot more for these weeds than an application in May when the dandelions are in bloom. Just remember: do not apply this herbicide on newly sown grass, areas that are planned to be re-sowed, or just before watering or rain is expected.

Mowing is also important. The key is to mow high. The higher you mow, the deeper the roots and the healthier the plants. Mowing at 3-3.5 inches is recommended. Mowing high also helps to displace weeds.

Try to mow more often than just on weekends. The rule of thumb for a healthy lawn is: never remove more than 1/3 of the knife in any given mowing process. A yard that has been mowed to a height of 3 inches should be mowed again when it is 4.5 inches. And don’t forget to sharpen the blade several times during the summer to give the cuts a nice crisp look.

Purdue Extension has a large number of lawn care publications on these topics and more at

Jeff Burbrink is a Purdue Extension educator in Elkhart County. He can be reached at 574-533-0554 or at [email protected]