Starting midway down the Atlantic seaboard and extending across the country to Kansas and Oklahoma runs a belt of territory known in the turf industry as the “transition zone.” Temperatures there fall low enough to cause trouble for warm-season grasses in the winter, then rise high enough in the winter to make cool-season grasses equally difficult to maintain. As the joke goes, if you live in the transition zone, you can grow any grass you’d like—just none of them particularly well. That’s not entirely true, of course, but living in the overlap between warmer and cooler zones means you have to pay closer attention.
If you’re not sure to what season the grass in your lawn is best adapted, now’s a good time to find out. For a solid start, check out our articles on identifying warm– and cool-season grasses. Once you know what grasses you’re dealing with, you can work on tailoring your lawn care.
The best defense against brown or wilting grass is to ensure that your lawn gets enough water to sustain it. Make sure that your sprinkler heads are strategically placed so as to cover your entire lawn, without wasting water by redundantly watering the same area multiple times. You need only water a couple of times each week, but water deeply each time and watch carefully the first time or two to ensure that you’re not losing valuable water to runoff. Watering early in the morning or after sunset will allow your soil to soak up more of the water before the heat and sun can evaporate it.
Keep a close eye out for newly active insects that could damage your lawn. Our guide to common lawn pests will help you recognize the signs and apply the right countermeasures. While you’re on the lookout for grass-hungry bugs, bear in mind that a well-watered lawn can also harbor damp pockets where mosquitoes breed. To head off an infestation before it gets started, level any depressions where water may pool and tidy up any yard refuse (like leaves or grass clippings) that might retain enough water to harbor mosquito eggs and larvae. If you’re already beginning to notice mosquito activity, or if your yard is prone to infestation, a lawn treatment that works as a garden hose attachment, like Cutter Backyard Bug Control Spray can help kill emerging pests for up to eight weeks.
Be careful to avoid “scalping” your lawn. Because it works harder to build blades, grass that is cut too short actually ends up being thirstier than grass that’s allowed to retain some blade length. Setting your the height of your mower blades to 1 and 1/2 or 2 inches will not only help lower your lawn’s demand for water, but give your grass a competitive edge against invasive weeds.
Be sure to space fertilizer applications at least three months apart, using a spreader to apply the product evenly across the landscape and adjusting your watering habits to accommodate for the increased growth. To fight lawn pests while you fertilize, consider using a combined solution like Scotts Turf Builder Summerguard Lawn Food with Insect Control.
(Not sure if the Transition Zone is the right zone for you? See our zone map for more.)