Droughts are no fun for anyone, especially those who take pride in their beautiful landscaping. But, when the summer highs hit, and water restrictions are being enforced, there are a few things you can do to keep your lawn looking healthy and vibrant. Of course, the best offense is a good defense, so preparing for drought season before it starts will set you off on the right foot. Read on to learn tips on saving your luscious grass blades from a dehydrated demise.
Improve Your Lawns Drought-Tolerance
Keeping your lawn healthy is the number one way to protect it from drought. When you follow a regular feeding and water schedule, your lawn will build up a better immunity to drought conditions. In addition, taking the time to ensure that your grass is well-established and healthy will safeguard it against periods of low water, high temperatures, and other problems.
Watering Your Lawn
Building a healthy root system is the first step to creating a healthy lawn. Water in heavy doses rather than more frequent light sprinklings to encourage a healthy root system. It’s essential to water the lawn in the morning, when temperatures are cooler, to prevent evaporation, as afternoon watering is estimated to waste up to 60% of the water applied.
During periods of high temperatures and low watering, grass will wither, wilt, turn brown and die. Although spring can provide plenty of rainfall, it is often not enough to last throughout the summer. This is why it’s essential to water your lawn during the hot summer months regularly.
Grass enters a natural dormant phase after a few weeks without water, and most lawns can survive drought conditions for four to six weeks. Your grass may turn brown during this period, but its root system is still alive and well. However, beyond six weeks, you are risking your lawn’s health.
If your grass is brown, but the root system is still alive, then a few watering cycles should return it to its regular beauty. Unfortunately, if your grass is dead from lack of water, there is no way to revive it.
Best Grass for Drought Conditions
Your best option for keeping your lawn looking healthy and vibrant during periods of drought is to install the correct type of turf. There are many types of grass that you can plant, and a few of these are well-known for being drought resistant. The best drought-tolerant varieties are Bermuda and Zoysia and are commonly found in the yards of warmer states like California. Other popular types include Oysia, St. Augustine, Buffalo, and Bahia.
Bermuda grass has dense, dark green blades and is known for being the most drought-resistant variety. Thanks to its low water needs, it can survive and thrive on only one inch of water weekly, either through rainfall or irrigation. In addition, because it has such a deep root system, it can stay alive longer than varieties with short root systems.
Bermuda grass can survive for up to seven weeks during a drought before going dormant. From there, it can make it an additional three or four weeks before drying up and dying. Altogether, that’s ten weeks of drought that Bermuda grass can withstand and still spring back to its luscious green appearance when watered again.
Zoysia grass needs even less water than Bermuda grass, requiring only .5 inches per week. After three or four weeks of drought conditions, it enters its dormant phase, where it can sustain for another three weeks. Zoysia has a complex system of underground stems called rhizomes, which allow it to self-repair once it is watered. Zoysia grass survives so well because it quickly shuts down active growth and puts its energy towards conserving resources. Once the lawn receives moisture, it will soon spring back to its light-green color.
Best Time to Plant Grass Seed
The best time to plant your drought-resistant lawn is late spring and early summer. The months of May and June are prime periods when the temperatures are usually over 65-degrees. Planting during this time ensures faster seed gemination for drought-resistant varieties.
Fertilizing your lawn is an essential aspect of keeping a beautiful-looking yard; however, you want to discontinue your fertilizing schedule during periods of drought. Because fertilizer increases the growth rate of your grass, when your lawn lacks water, this can cause severe stress. In addition, the fertilizer will not be absorbed correctly, and once watering resumes, it can oversaturate your lawn and cause a nutrient burn.
The best time to fertilize your lawn is during the transitional seasons: early and late spring and the fall. This is dependent on your climate and your grass variety.
You will not have to mow as often because the grass will stop growing and go dormant during a drought. It is essential to keep a good length on your lawn to protect it from the sun and to help maintain moisture levels. Grass that is too short can easily be scorched, so be careful not to remove more than one-third of the grass height.
Because dull mower blades can rip the grass, leaving torn edges that dry out and turn brown, this is a good time to do blade maintenance. If your drought lasts longer than a few weeks, reduce your mowing frequency or completely stop until you start watering again.
There is only so much you can do to protect your lawn from a drought, but with consistent effort and attention to detail, you can elevate your chances of success. While it will depend heavily on how long the drought lasts, what grass variety you are growing, and the health of your lawn, the best method for longevity is preventative care. Using quality soil, selecting the suitable grass variety, and building a healthy root system will improve your chances of making it through a drought.