The drought this summer has left some parched, brown lawns. However, despite our grass, shrubs, trees delicate structures and appearances, they can be surprisingly resilient. Most types of grass can survive extended periods of drought, and while it may look dead—visibly brown, dry and limp—it’s often only dormant, awaiting the next fall of rain.
To determine if a lawn is dormant or dead, inspect it down at the soil level. Lawns that have gone dormant will have brown leaves, but the crown at the base of the leaves will still be green, and the roots will have a healthy cream color. If a lawn is completely dead, the entire plant—leaves, crowns and roots—will be brown and brittle. If the lawn is in fact dead, the only options are to either reseed or lay sod. Barring that fate, you can help save your troubled or dormant lawn, but it won't be easy.
Once the drought ends, most types of grass slowly recover on their own. You can help speed along the process with a few steps.
Water. Once water restrictions are lifted, soak the lawn to restore the soil's moisture and to initiate new root growth. It's especially important to water grass that's growing on tops of hills where the wind can dry out the lawn, and on sloped areas where water tends to run off before it can soak in. Water in the early morning before the sun gets high in the sky and starts evaporating the moisture. Be careful not to use too much water:
- 1. Deep watering — done infrequently and to the right amount — encourages your lawn’s roots and will help keep it from withering during dry spells. (Good watering practices also have the added bonus of encouraging plant health.)
2. Over-watering can ruin your root depth, meaning that your grass and plants will be more vulnerable to disease, pests and drought.
3. Timing is everything — when to water is as important as how much.
4. Heat and wind work together to suck the moisture out of your lawn, so it’s important to keep an eye on both the clock and the weather report. With the sun beating down, the evaporation rate — the speed at which moisture in your lawn disappears into the air — can be more than 50% higher than it is in the early morning. If you can, it’s important to get the water onto your grass before the sun gets too high in the sky.
5. Evaporation increases when it’s windy, too, so check the forecast before you get out there with the hose.
Should You Consider Irrigation?
Using an irrigation system is one of the simplest ways to make sure your lawn gets watered properly. If you would like an estimate about installing one, please contact us.
Fertilize. After about two weeks of watering, use a broadcast spreader to apply a balanced fertilizer with proportions as close as possible to 4-1-2 for nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. (High-nitrogen fertilizers could hurt the lawn if extremely hot, dry weather returns.)
Kill weeds. Once the grass is growing strong, treat individual weeds—not the entire lawn—with an herbicide. By eliminating weeds, there will be more moisture and nutrients available for the grass. As the lawn thickens, it will eventually crowd out the weeds on its own.
Return To Routine Maintenance.
Return to routine maintenance. Resume your regular lawn maintenance schedule, which should include consistent watering, mowing, thatch removal and aeration.
Should you consider lawn maintenance?
Routine lawn maintenance is one of the simplest ways to make sure your lawn gets the proper attention it needs. If you would like an estimate, please contact us.