Keeping Your Lawn Alive When It’s Dry
I mentioned in last month’s article that we’re already facing water restrictions. This summer, it looks like Utah can expect to see a pretty heavy impact from the drought. Given that most of us have big lawns, this raises the question of how we’re going to manage our lawn during the drought. Luckily, there are a few things you can do.
1. Water Smarter, Not More Often
Lawns need water to survive, but they don’t need as much as you think. Most people over water their lawns by a lot. People should focus on watering efficiently rather than watering more often. First, avoid watering during the day. The heat of the day will simply cause most of the water to evaporate before the soil absorbs it. The best time to water your lawn is between 3-6 AM, before the sun even comes up. Automatic sprinklers can help you with this. Watering at this time will ensure that the water has enough time to sink into the soil and get absorbed by the roots instead of evaporating in the heat of the day.
When you water your lawn, water fast and hard for about 60 minutes per area of the lawn. If you do this, you can get away with watering your lawn far less often. Once a week or less can be enough with this practice. The grass gets much more water and can last longer. What for puddling or run-off, though. If you check your lawn after watering and find that water is forming puddles or running in streams, you’re watering more than the soil can absorb and that water is wasted.
2. Smart Mowing Practices
Taller grass is better in the summer. For one, when grass is tall, it grows deeper roots. For another, tall grass shades the soil better, keeping the sun from evaporating moisture out of the soil. If you keep the grass at 2.5 to 3 inches tall, you’ll find it gets by with less watering. This also cuts down on how often you have to mow the lawn, which means the grass gets stressed less often, letting it grow stronger. When you do mow, make sure your mower blades are kept sharp. Sharp blades make clean cuts, which damages and stresses your grass less.
3. Avoid Fertilizer and Pesticides
While you want your grass to have the boost from fertilizer in early spring, when it needs the extra strength to recover from the cold, never fertilize during the summer. Growing takes a lot of energy and if you lay down fertilizer, you’re signaling to the grass that it should grow. This means it will need more water to keep up. If you fertilize it, but can’t provide the water, it will die quickly.
The same applies to pesticides and weed killers. Even the best weed killers will still stress the grass and that’s the last thing you want to do. Apply pesticides in the spring, when there’s more water for the grass to use for recovery, but stop once the heat kicks in. If you do need to get rid of weeds, try spot treating the area rather than general applications.
4. Keep Off The Grass
Making sure your lawn survives the drought is all about reducing the stress the grass suffers. Anything that damages the grass is going to make it work double time trying to recover and that demands more water. One more effective way to minimize this is to avoid walking on your grass. Avoid activities on the grass. Build dirt or cement paths to walk on if you have an area of your yard you need, such as a shed or trampoline. Move picnic tables underneath trees closer to your house so you don’t have to walk on the grass to get to them. Anything that minimizes the amount of time you walk on the lawn will help.
5. Try Lawn Alternatives
Grass is just one way to build a lawn. We have this idea that a large, grassy lawn is pleasing and beautiful, but that’s purely a cultural norm. There are plenty of ways to make a lawn look good that don’t require lots of grass. We’ve talked about xeriscaping before as one alternative. This can be very effective, but it’s not the only option. Native grasses, carefully spaced between with flowerbeds that use native flowers can also look good. You can also look into artificial grass and turf. This won’t need any watering at all to stay green.
6. Learn To Love The Brown
We like the image of a green lawn, but brown grass doesn’t mean dead grass. When grass turns brown, it’s going into a dormant state to conserve energy. If there isn’t enough water, it shuts off chlorophyll production to slow its growth and reduce its water needs, causing its color change. It’s not dead, it’s just adapting to the situation. If you cannot keep up with the watering, or if water restrictions from the drought make it impossible, don’t be afraid to let grass do its thing. Good, drought resistant grass can survive a couple of months in this state without dying. Letting it brown over summer will not only save water, but as soon as there’s more water to go around in the fall, it will perk right up on its own. This may seem like an extreme solution, but it’s actually just taking advantage of the natural adaptations grass has. It’s the most natural way to handle a drought.
The Drought Is Going To Be Bad
While one can never exactly predict how the weather will be long-term, all signs are pointing to this year being a pretty extreme drought. Utah isn’t the only place that will be suffering from it. If we’re going to get through this, we’re all going to need to more carefully manage our water use than we have in the past. These six steps to managing your lawn during a drought will definitely help you do that. It will keep your grass healthier and stronger while saving you money on your water bill.
We’re Here To Help
Lawn care and maintenance is our job here at CV Lawn King. If you need some help keeping your lawn in order, talk to use. We can help you rethink your landscape to be more water efficient, help you find the right tools to keep things in order, and even help reshape your lawn for this purpose. If you have any questions, or would like us to help you with anything don’t hesitate to ask!