It’s no secret that many parts of the United States are currently experiencing a drought. The government is even asking homeowners to cut back on their water usage, and it can be hard to know what you should do with your lawn during this time. This blog post will walk you through some lawn care tips for when water is scarce. We’ll discuss how often you should water your lawn, how much water each type of grass needs, and share some products that can help keep your lawn green!
As the spring and summer months seem to be getting drier with no natural rainfall, the gardener has to manage the lawn with little or no water. Local authorities will eventually implement hosepipe bans and water restrictions.
If this proves to be the case, it will have a detrimental effect on lawns and turf everywhere. Hosepipe bans will become the norm, and gardeners will have limited water resources to irrigate the lawn.
What Should You Do During the Drought?
However, several things can be done in the short term to help your lawn withstand the drought conditions.
- Raise the height of the cut on the mower to avoid mowing the grass too short. This leaves more leaves on the grass plant and reduces plant stress.
- Don’t box off the grass clippings. Most people prefer to remove the grass clippings from the lawn. However, during periods of drought, it is best to return them to the lawn as they contain vital nutrients that will help feed the grass during times of stress.
- A shallow spiking before rainfall or irrigation will also help the water penetrate the soil and reduce surface runoff. This also reduces the amount of water needed to keep the lawn in a healthy condition.
- When watering the lawn, water during the coolest periods of the day reduces water loss through evaporation. The ideal times to water are early morning or late evening as it generally cooler during these times. Again this practice will reduce the amount of water needed.
- Aim to water heavily and less often rather than applying a little water each night. This technique lets the soil dry out a little between each application. This will help the roots of the grass penetrate deeper into the soil profile as they look for water. If the lawn is watered every night, then the upper soil profile will remain constantly wet, and the roots will remain shallow as water is always available for them.
- Using a wetting agent during periods of drought can help significantly. Wetting agents are widely used by golf greenkeepers and the turf care industry. They help prevent dry patches, reduce surface water runoff, and aid water penetration into the soil.
- If possible, try and reduce traffic on the lawn during periods of drought, as excess wear and tear caused by machinery, people, etc., only add to the stress placed on the grass during these dry conditions.
- Avoid applying any chemicals such as weed killers to drought-stressed lawns as they can scorch the grass, adding to the damage of an already stressed lawn.
The above tips are short-term measures and can only be classed as damage limitations, especially if the lawn is already in poor condition.
A lawn that is in healthy condition will withstand drought conditions better than a neglected lawn. A healthy lawn will contain desirable grasses such as bent, fescue, dwarf rye, etc., producing a deep root system capable of tolerating long, dry spells during the summer. A lawn like this does not happen by chance, and it requires a lot of essential maintenance, including aeration, scarification, feeding, overseeding, topdressing, etc.
Wetting agent use on lawns during drought
The use of soil wetting agents or surfactants has been used in the professional turf care industry for many years now.
Although they can be used during most times of the year, a wetting agent is primarily used throughout the summer months as part of a water management plan to prevent and cure a condition known as a ‘dry patch.’
Dry patch is a major problem during long, hot, dry periods in the summer, which can seriously hurt the health of the turf on your lawn. The use of a wetting agent helps with the following:
Prevents and cures dry patches; as many soils become drier due to drought stress, localized patches of dry turf appear known as dry patches. These patches become hydrophobic (water repellant). These patches are tough to re-wet without a wetting agent (which removes the hydrophobic coating on the soil particles.
Aids water penetration into the soil profile reduces surface runoff on localized high spots and puddling in low spots.
Reduces the amount of irrigation or watering needed to maintain the health of the turf during dry periods.
It is always better to identify the dry patch problem before it occurs, as prevention is always better than cure. Applying a wetting agent early in the season following the manufactures recommendations will help your lawn cope with the effects of a dry summer. Avoid waiting until the lawn shows signs of drought stress, as curing this problem will always prove more difficult.
How often you should water your lawn during a drought
Many people are wondering how often they should water their lawn during a drought. You can use the following as a general rule:
- If you have turfgrass with deep roots, such as Kentucky Bluegrass, it’s usually ok to only water once every seven days when there is no rain. This will typically maintain healthy grass without creating any problems.
- If you have a lawn that doesn’t grow deep roots, like Bermuda Grass or Zoysia grass, then it’s recommended to water at least twice per week for an hour each time to maintain your yard’s health and prevent more serious damage from occurring over time.
So, as you can see from the above tips, there are some ways to keep your yard looking green and healthy even in times where water is scarce. Give these strategies for drought-stricken homeowners a try this summer, and let us know what you think!