Surviving Drought

Surviving Drought

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10 Steps to Summer Lawn Drought Survival!

Drought and heat often coincide during the summer. When drought occurs, lawns turn tan or golden brown instead of the green we’d really like to see. The undesirable browns are not a sign of outright dead lawns, rather it’s drought-induced summer dormancy. Most of our southern grasses (Zoysia, Centipede, Bermuda) are simply slowing down (by going dormant) to minimize the long-term negative effects of drought. When rainfall returns or irrigation restrictions are reduced these lawns will recover their green color and normal growth.

Summer dormancy is similar to winter dormancy, as seen in Zoysia, Centipede, and Bermuda lawns. As we know, those lawn grasses recover each spring. 

Our experience has shown that certain lawn care practices reduce the risk of permanent drought damage to most warm-season grasses adapted to the South. The following 10 Steps to Summer Lawn Drought Survival will insure a healthy green lawn once rainfall and permitted irrigation returns.

MOWING: Reduce frequency or completely curtail mowing on stressed grass that is not irrigated.

CUTTING HEIGHT: If you do continue to mow, raise the cutting height by as much as 50% of normal, even on irrigated lawns, and make certain the mowing blade is sharp.

FERTILIZATION: Cease fertilization on stressed lawns. Fertilizers will only increase the rate of growth and, because of the lack of water, severe stress can result.

WATER DEEPLY: When permitted, water as deeply as possible without causing run-off. Light, frequent irrigation is not only less efficient but can result in a shallow rooted, stress-prone lawn.

BEST TIME OF DAY TO WATER: The efficient and ideal time to irrigate turfgrass is between midnight and 10:00am.

WIND: Do NOT water during windy times; reduce water loss due to evaporation by watering when winds are calm.

PERIODICALLY INSPECT: During drought inspecting your lawn becomes even more important. Early detection and control of weed and insect problems is essential to insuring the return of a healthy lawn once rainfall occurs or water restrictions are lifted.

GROW DROUGHT-TOLERANT GRASSES: If you are growing a Zoysia, Centipede, or Bermuda lawn – consider letting the lawn go dormant – these grasses will recover once rainfall occurs or water restrictions are lifted.

FOLLOW THE LAW: Obey all state and municipal ordinances and restrictions that apply to your lawn and landscape watering.

TEMPORARY IRRIGATION EXCEPTIONS FOR NEW PLANTINGS: Most states and municipalities have made temporary irrigation exceptions for newly installed landscapes. The exceptions are adequate for establishment of sodded drought-tolerant turf. (Example: In many areas of the state of Georgia irrigation can be applied to newly sodded lawns for a period of 30 days. This is enough time to root sod, such as Zoysia, Centipede, St. Augustine, and Bermuda.)


How Much Water Does My Lawn Need?

If turfgrass receives 1 inch of rain in the southern and eastern US, that is plenty for a beautiful green and growing lawn. Remember to reduce irrigation by the amount of rainfall each week; if you receive ½ inch of rain in your rain gauge, you will need to apply only ½ inch of water by irrigation that week. Remember: infrequent deep irrigation is preferred. Avoid run-off and waste. For more information, read How and When to Water.