Despite the brutally cold winters in Chicago, the summer months can bring stifling heat, excessive humidity, and conditions that may make your lawn miserable. Below are some expert tips for keeping your lawn nice and healthy, even when the climate isn’t cooperating.

Water Appropriately

Watering your lawn appropriately is one of the most important things you can do to keep it healthy and green during the summer. The best time to water your lawn is early in the morning, ideally sometime between sunrise and 10 AM. Make sure that you are watering when the sun is up to trigger photosynthesis, but not when the sun is high overhead as this can cause much of the water to evaporate before the plants can take it in. In some cases, it can even burn your lawn. Finally, water thoroughly but infrequently to help your grass develop strong, healthy roots. Soak your lawn three times per week, applying about an inch of water with each application. Skip days when you receive one inch of rain or more.

Check Your Mowing Habits

If you’re mowing your lawn as short as possible so you don’t have to mow as frequently, you’re certainly not alone. However, cutting your grass too short can lead to shorter roots, which become problematic during the dry months. Short roots can’t take in the water and nutrients the lawn needs to stay green. Aim for a lawn length of about 3.5 inches for the best results all year long.

Feed Your Lawn

If you really want a healthy, thick, bright-green lawn, apply a slow-release fertilizer to your lawn. The best time to apply is early in the spring season once your lawn has had a chance to revive after being dormant during the winter. For the proper interval, follow the fertilizer manufacturer’s instructions on the package. You need to fertilize regularly to keep the grass thick and prevent weed growth.

Aerate Your Lawn

If your lawn isn’t getting enough air, it can choke and turn brown. Aerating your lawn regularly not only keeps the soil looser and aerated, but it also makes the soil better able to absorb water. This means less runoff, better absorption of fertilizer, and an overall healthier lawn. To aerate on your own, use a garden fork and push it into the ground at intervals of about one foot. You might also choose to rent an aerator or call a landscaping professional.

Get Rid of Weeds

Finally, weeds can really take the life out of your lawn if you don’t keep them under control. You should be diligent about removing and preventing weeds from spring through fall. Don’t apply weed killer to your entire lawn all at once; rather, check your lawn for weeds about once every week and spot-treat as required. Pulling weeds manually is always the best practice, but if you prefer to use a weed killer, it’s best to use it only on small areas at a time.

Keeping your lawn healthy during the hot summer months is all about knowing how and when to water, mow, fertilize, aerate and weed. Once you have these five basics down, you can enjoy a beautifully lush and green lawn all year round.