Dormant Grass

Drought Lawn Care

Over 70% of the country has been classified as abnormally dry, or worse. What about the oasis in your own backyard?

Lawn Care Do’s and Don’ts During a Drought

Dormant Grass

DON’T water your lawn at night.

Grass left wet overnight, or for long periods of time, can encourage fungal diseases that cause discoloration. Water in the early morning so your lawn isn’t damp for long periods, when the sun isn’t high enough to evaporate the water before it penetrates the soil.

DO raise your mower deck.

Cut at the maximum height to enhance stress tolerance. Mowing on the high side encourages roots to grow deeper into the soil, absorbing water from the insulated soil. As a rule of thumb, remove only about 1/3 of the grass blade each time you mow. If you cut too much at one time, the long clippings can cause stress on the grass, inhibiting healthy growth.

DON’T water a little bit every day.

The water will not be able to penetrate deep enough into the soil to maintain moisture and promote greater root depth. This will also encourage weed growth and spread of disease. Instead, water infrequently, but deeply, to encourage a strong root system. Aim to apply about an inch of water to the soil each week – but always be mindful of local watering restrictions if in place.

DO let it go dormant.

During drought, always follow local water restrictions when applicable. It is ok to let your lawn go dormant, as most turf species can tolerate some periods of time without water from rainfall or irrigation. Most species will recover relatively quickly when water is applied from rain or irrigation. During any period of dormancy caused by drought, monitor the turf to ensure that it shows some sign of green color, though it may be faint. During this period, waterless frequently for longer periods of time, as possible and as allowed by any local watering restrictions. If you have questions about your type of grass or its drought tolerance, the local university extension service or landscaper are great resources.

DON’T fertilize your grass.

Though it may seem like it needs more nutrients at this time of year, putting fertilizer down on dry soil can actually burn the grass. Improper fertilization can also help promote disease, so always follow proper fertilization practices for your area and the time of year.

DO plan for next year.

In the fall however, one of the best practices to follow is proper fertilization. If you have a cool season lawn that is breaking dormancy from the summer stress, fall is a great time to prepare it for the potential stresses of next summer. Similarly, early fall is also a good time for a final fertilizer application on warm season grasses for the same reason. Regardless of your turf type, be sure to follow recommended fertilization practices for your specific grass and climate to provide the best possible benefit. If needed, your local garden center can be a good source of advice on how fall fertilization can promote root growth and dense turf coverage to help it withstand any potential stress in the coming year.

Thanks to our friends at John Deere for these  lawn care tips during a drought!

7 thoughts on “Drought Lawn Care

  1. I think I screwed up the watering. I thought I was doing deep watering, but I think in some places I wasn’t paying attention and ended up with too little, too often.

    Much of the grass that went dormant never woke back up!

    I hadn’t thought of the no-watering-at-night either. The problem becomes, not having a timed system, so it’s hard to water enough in the morning before I have to leave for work!

    Good tips, thanks!

  2. I had no idea that you’re not supposed to water your lawn at night during a drought! I’m surprised that I had any lawn left at all then since I live in Houston. Thanks for the great tips, no hopefully I won’t kill my grass come the next Texas drought.

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