Across the USA, extreme drought has become a far too familiar foe for homeowners and agricultural farmers. In the suburban setting, the obligation for reduced water usage has forced lawn care and maintenance to become more strategic. It demands a conscious approach when attempting to maintain an attractive property. To preserve the health of your grass during such harsh conditions, consider these tips to help you make the drought more manageable.
The average recommended grass height during cooler seasons is generally 2 ½ inches. As your lawn transitions to cope with warmer weather, especially drought, it’s strongly recommended to up the height of the mower to 3 to 4 inches. Changing the height helps the lawn in several ways. By leaving the blades long, the root system strengthens and establishes a longer and deeper subterranean reach. Higher grass cuttings also help to defend against weeds. In seasons of drought, weeds compete against turf to stay alive, often stealing necessary nutrients from the lawn. Eliminating weeds will give your grass a higher chance of survival. Continue cutting only the top 1/3 of the grass throughout the dry season once it reaches an undesirable level. When you mow, instead of bagging cuttings, mulch the clippings and allow them to remain on your lawn. This action helps to trap moisture and offers nutrients for the soil.
There are advantages and disadvantages to watering during extreme drought. For some, the primary concern is the cost of city water. For others, it’s the beauty of the lawn and how green they can keep it. For those who opt to maintain the appeal and color of their grass, it is strongly recommended to water deeply and infrequently. Two to three times per week should be the maximum when using the deep treatment method. Allow your lawn to be fully saturated, soaked with a minimum of 1 inch of water. Take note of pooling and run-off and adjust sprinklers to avoid water waste. It’s best to water in the early morning between 5:00 to 8:00 am. This allows the moisture to settle into the soil, eliminating concern for evaporation. It is strongly recommended not to water midday. Evening watering schedules are satisfactory, although this may encourage disease, mold, and pests.
Please Note: When creating a watering schedule for lawns during drought, always refer to your city or town’s extreme drought and water conservation measures.
Harvesting rainwater is a unique method of conservation during periods of extreme drought. This involves setting out large barrels or containers to store the collected rain from gutters, rooflines, or other determined sources. The use of this water can offset the cost of city water and assist with keeping landscaping foliage alive and groundwater at a reasonable level. Although this method does not offer the simplicity of a sprinkler, finding ways to irrigate your lawn with collected rainwater can keep it alive when watering options are limited.
In some cases, the only option is to allow the lawn to go dormant. In the direst of circumstances, dormancy may be inventible when weather conditions grow too hot and dry. If the turf begins to turn brown and noticeably dry, opt to stay off the lawn as much as possible. Consistent foot traffic or mowing equipment can cause significant damage to grass in this vulnerable state. Decrease watering to once every two weeks, saturating only 1/2 an inch. Please note that this will not bring back the color of the lawn but will increase the probability of survival. An advantage to this option is a reduced cost of water usage and a decreased risk of city water depletion. Once rain returns, assess the state of your grass and consider altering your watering schedule.
Consider these lawn care tips as you develop your own plan for coping with extreme drought.