We all love a lush green lawn. But there’s only so much we can do when the dog days of summer arrive with record heat and lately, record drought.
It can be frustrating to watch our lawns turn from lush green to crumbling straw during a stretch without rainfall. When coupled with watering restrictions, it can be disheartening to say the least. But there are strategies we can use to get our lawns safely through the heat of summer and drought until rain returns and cooler temperatures prevail.
How much water does a lawn need in summer?
In the heat of summer, cool season grasses turn brown. It’s what they do and is not necessarily a sign of a dying lawn. Warm season grasses on the other hand will stay green during summer, assuming your heatwave isn’t extreme and you’re not in a severe drought.
You might be surprised to learn that lawns need very little water in the heat of summer to survive. As they’re dormant at this time (responsible for the brown color), growth above and below the soil line nearly comes to a halt. The grass slows its growth to conserve water so that when cooler temperatures return, it has the resources to start growing again.
How to maintain your lawn during a drought
This is the sort of thing that people who love to tinker hate to hear: do less.
If drought is a persistent problem, consider an alternative to lawn turf.
Turf planted in arid areas and areas prone to drought is no longer sustainable, and probably never was. Consider replacing your turf grass with native plants that are drought resistant and appropriate for your region. This will not only conserve water but will be much easier from a maintenance standpoint. See our suggestions for lawn replacement here.
Mow lawns higher in the summer heat and less often.
During the dog days of summer, only cut your lawn if it’s reached 3″. This might not happen for 3-4 weeks if it’s very hot and without rain. Set your mower deck to 2.5″-3″ (6.3-7.6 cm) so that mowing is less frequent, but regular. Taller blades of grass benefit the lawn by shading the soil to conserve moisture and insulate grass roots. If you have lots of thatch in your lawn, drought stress will show up a lot sooner. Rake out the thatch, aerate your lawn, and add compost to stimulate the biological activity at the soil surface to get rid of it.
Use a sharp mulching blade on your mower
Bagging grass clippings is such a waste. Mulched grass clippings feed your lawn, return organic matter to the soil, and insulate the soil.