Dry and Mighty: Tips for a Drought Tolerant Lawn

Can’t bear the sight of your once-sturdy grass starting to wilt and fade to brown because of a long period of dry weather? First, find relief in knowing that grass is tougher than you think, and will likely return to its green and lush state once conditions improve (and more little league games get cancelled). But while you wait for Mother Nature to do her part, you can do your own thing to bring on more lawn-favorable conditions – and encourage drought resistant grass.

When to Water 

While it’s definitely an option to let your lawn go dormant and hold out for rain to water the lawn, an expanse of straw-like grass might be too much for the squeamish homeowner. In this case, you can combat the impact of drought and keep your lawn growing by watering the right way and this means watering the lawn just enough for a good drink – not too much or too little. Not only is this healthier for your lawn, watering efficiently also makes the most of limited natural resources. Here’s what to do to be lawn watering smart:

  • Give your lawn about one inch of water per week with a few deep drenchings instead of less frequent sprinklings. Light sprinkles can weaken your lawn, creating shallow rooted plants.
  • Water the lawn in the morning when the temperatures are cooler and the winds are lower to prevent evaporation. Dr. Trey Rogers, Ph.D. (a.k.a. the Briggs & Stratton Yard Doctor) estimates that watering during the afternoon can waste up to 60% of the water applied.
  • Make sure you’re watering the lawn – and not the concrete. Angle your sprinklers correctly so your water does its job on the grass instead of going down the drain. Depending on your property, you might want to consider an underground lawn irrigation system to be absolutely sure your water lawn time isn’t going to waste.

Get the Soil on your Side

Good soil creates stronger, healthier, more drought resistant grass with extensive root systems. Practices like top dressing can give your soil system a boost for better growing conditions in any weather.

Start with the Right Seed

Especially if you live in a climate prone to droughts, choosing a species of grass that tolerates hot, dry conditions is a smart start. Consider seeding with one of these types of drought resistant grass, able to stand tall to long periods with little or no water:

  • Oysia grass
  • Bermuda grass
  • St. Augustine grass
  • Buffalo grass
  • Bahia grass
  • Fescues

Other Tips for Trying to Beat the Heat

It’s important to remember that during a drought, your lawn is stressed. So it’s best to give it a rest. During drought periods:

  • Don't apply herbicides
  • Don't fertilize
  • Don't aerate
  • Keep your mower height high and don’t cut off more than one third of the grass blades


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