View: National Drought Monitor

Once your geographic area is in the midst of a drought, it’s too late to apply preventative measures (these will be discussed at the end of this guide). It’s now time to take damage control measures. Here are the tips if you’re already in a restricted water use condition:

  • Don’t over-fertilize your lawn. Studies have shown that lawns on regularly scheduled fertilizer applications recover faster than those that aren’t. Don’t apply fertilizer to your brown lawn in hopes of turning it green like your neighbors down the street that are secretly watering their lawn at night.
  • Avoid all excessive foot traffic on the lawn.
  • As the weather heats up, mow your lawn at a higher than normal height, that is if it’s still growing. This increased height shades the roots and slows down soil evaporation. It also helps trap any dew that forms during the night.
  • As the lawn turns brown, weeds will continue to thrive as green patches. Now is a good time to apply spot applications of weed-killer to these areas. Avoid spraying it on the lawn as best you can, even for lawn-friendly weed-killers.
  • Don’t water a little here and there — or now and then — it just makes the lawn worse. Lawns are designed by nature to go dormant under extreme conditions. Putting a little water on the lawn fools it into thinking, “Hey, maybe things aren’t so bad,” instead of preparing itself for a continued period of no water.
  • If you’re allowed a little watering, concentrate on making certain your important trees and shrubs have an adequate water supply. These costly investments won’t die right away from a drought and you may not see the damage for a year or so. Weakened woody plants are more susceptible to insect damage, which may go unnoticed until it’s too late.
  • Don’t overseed or try to rejuvenate the lawn until fall when rainfall is usually more plentiful.

Making a lawn more resistant to droughts

You obviously can’t control extended droughts, but you can minimize the damage they cause if you act before they occur. The biggest factor in why lawns fail during extended dry spells is that they weren’t healthy going into the drought. Therefore, you need to do everything you can to make your lawn as healthy as possible when conditions are good for growing lawns.

  • Regular fertilization that develops strong roots enables your lawn to better survive the dry days. Don’t over-fertilize or use a fertilization that encourages more top-growth (which means more mowing).
  • Keep water-hungry weeds out of the lawn.
  • Aerating your yard regularly helps turf develop stronger root systems and reduces thatch buildup. If you have a thatch problem, aerate twice a year for several years (once in the spring and again in the fall). If aerating in the spring, do so before applying a pre-emergence herbicide, typically used to control crabgrass. Thatch buildup reduces the amount of water penetrating the soil and encourages shallow root development.
  • Increase your mowing height as the temperatures increase. This will conserve soil moisture and strengthen root development.

Just as lawns turn brown from extreme water shortages, they will also return to their natural thick green state when conditions improve, usually in the fall — just don’t panic.

Have questions about drought stress?

Contact NutriGreen — your local fertilization & weed control experts.