A pristine lawn is a source of pride for homeowners.
Even the most well-maintained lawns must confront a host of challenges in a given year, and perhaps no challenge is more daunting than drought.
Homeowners may feel helpless when drought strikes and begins to transform their lawns from green sources of pride to off-color eyesores. However, learning to identify signs of drought stress and what to do about it can help homeowners get their lawns through dry periods.
Signs of drought stress
The lawn care experts at TruGreen note that there are four common characteristics of drought stress. Perhaps the most noticeable is changes in color, but it’s important that homeowners recognize there’s a difference between a change in hue and a change in color. When a lawn changes its hue, typically turning from bright green to a dull gray or blue green color, it is in what TruGreen identifies as the first stage of drought stress. Regular watering, if it’s allowed (local drought restrictions may dictate how much water can be applied to the lawn), can help the grass regain its moisture and the lawn may recover within a couple of days. When lawns change from green to brown, this is indicative that the lawn is in a dormancy stage. At this point, the lawn is entering survival mode. Watering to save the lawn will need to be more extensive. Deep and repeated watering for two to three weeks may help restore the lawn, but some parts ultimately may not recover. And deep watering may not be allowed until drought restrictions are lifted, increasing the likelihood that a significant portion of the lawn turns brown.
Footprints in the lawn are another sign of drought stress TruGreen indicates that this is a result of lawns that are too tired to spring back up after they have been walked on.
Wilting also indicates drought stress is affecting the lawn. Wilting occurs when grass blades roll or fold because they don’t have sufficient water content.
What to do about drought stress
In addition to the watering techniques noted above, homeowners can try other strategies to help their lawns make it through a drought. TruGreen advises against mowing drought-stressed grass and keeping off the lawn as much as possible.
Removing tall weeds is another strategy homeowners can try. Doing so ensures the grass, and not the weeds, gets what little water is available during a drought.
Homeowners also should resist the temptation to mow too close, especially when signs of drought stress are just beginning to appear. TruGreen notes that mowing too close creates a shallow root system that makes lawns more vulnerable to drought.