Watching your lawn turn brown during drought conditions can be disheartening. There is good news, grasses are resilient, and with a little care, can be kept green and healthy even in dry conditions.
Maintain Lawn and Soil Health
A deep and healthy root system is the key to keeping lawns green and beautiful during a drought. Neglecting regular maintenance can inhibit root development, leaving grasses with little defense when the weather turns dry. Regular maintenance should include:
- Soil Enrichment – This may include top dressing with fertilizer, lime or both according to the conditions of your soil.
- Dethatching – Removing old, dead grass allows new grass to absorb nutrients and expand roots
- Aerating – Allows water, nutrients and air to enter the soil easier and strengthen grass roots
- Reseeding – Occasional over-seeding where necessary prevents bare spots and helps prevent soil from drying out
Shade is Your Friend
You probably don’t need to be told that shade helps protect grass and soil from the sun and heat. Good landscape design can help protect lawns in a drought. Trees and shade structures like gazebos and pergolas reduce the drying impact of the sun and protect grasses.
Choose the Right Grass
Cold winters and potentially dry summers require lawn grasses to be particularly hardy. Resist the temptation to try grasses best suited to other regions of the country.
Grasses that grow well in the Midwest include:
- Tall Fescue
- Perennial Ryegrass
- Kentucky Bluegrass
- Creeping Red Fescue
It is common to see lawn sprinklers wildly spraying water around a yard all day when the weather is hot. This type of watering weakens a lawn.
Correct watering should force roots deep into the soil where they will be protected when the weather dries out. With that in mind, here’s how to correctly water your lawn:
- Determine how long it takes your watering system to put an inch of water on the ground by placing a pan on the ground near a sprinkler and measuring the water collected in it over a watering period.
- If there is no rain in the forecast, water for the period of time it takes to put an inch of water on your lawn, then turn it off.
- Repeat a second time during the week and then stop. Don’t water if there is rain in the forecast.
Leaving your lawn a little thirsty will naturally push roots deeper to find water. Your grass will remain green longer during the driest conditions.
Mowing correctly is one of the most important steps to protecting lawns during a drought. Short grass loses moisture and can’t provide shade and protection to the ground underneath. Mow high- three to four inches. Higher grass, neatly trimmed, is much more appealing than brown, dead stubble.
A great lawn is a great asset to your home. Healthy, deep roots and proper care will keep it green and beautiful in the driest conditions.