Making Your Lawn Drought Resistant: What You Need to Know


No matter what part of the country you call home, there is likely to be a season of drought. Although some states have more naturally arid climates, all states experience warmer temperatures and increased sun exposure during the summer months. This can cause stress to your lawn and cause it to fall victim to drought.

How do you make your lawn drought resistant? There are several ways you can make your lawn more resistant to drought. It is important to choose a type of grass that is suited for your climate. By following specific mowing, fertilizing, and watering guidelines, you can ensure that your lawn will stay healthy during the warm, rainless months.

In this post, we will provide you with valuable insight on ways to improve the drought tolerance of your lawn. These simple steps will provide you a healthy, lush yard no matter the weather. 

What is Lawn Drought Tolerance?

Improve Drought ToleranceThere are many types of grass. Some types of grass have a greater tolerance for drought. This means that they are able to stay lush and green, even in dry seasons. The type of grass you have in your yard will impact the overall drought tolerance. However, there are also ways to improve the resistance of your lawn to drought. 

Most types of grass will go into a state of dormancy after two or three weeks without water. During this period, they will stop growing. However, after four to six weeks without water, grass will quickly begin to turn brown. Once your grass has turned brown, it may be a challenge to revive it to an ideal state.

A combination of the proper grass for your climate with appropriate lawn care techniques will provide you with a lawn that is drought resistant, eliminating the potential for a yard full of dead grass.

Identifying the Signs of Drought

There are so many outside and environmental issues that can impact the health and appearance of your grass. How do you know when drought is the cause of your lawn care woes? The following signs and symptoms are typical of stress caused by drought. 

Changes in the Overall Color of the Lawn

When considering drought as the cause of your lawn problems, you may assume that all grass under drought stress turns brown. However, this is not the case! Some types of grass actually become darker in color, others lose their beautiful green hue and fade to gray. Still other types of grass simply begin to wilt instead of changing colors. 

An overall change in the color of your lawn is a good indication that drought may be playing a factor in the overall condition of your yard. 

The Grass is Not Springing Back Into Place

A lush, healthy lawn will quickly spring back into place after it is trampled by foot traffic or the lawnmower. However, grass that is suffering from drought will not spring back to its original position. This is often one of the first signs of drought. Luckily, this is easy to observe if you are paying attention. By noticing this small change in the nature of your grass, you can attempt to reverse the signs of drought stress.

Soil is Dry Upon Inspection

The moisture level of your soil is the ultimate indication of drought stress. You can quickly and easily test the moisture of your soil using a screwdriver! Simply push the screwdriver into multiple areas of your lawn. If it is hard to push into the soil, drought could be the culprit. 

Brown Spots in Sunny Areas of Yard

If you begin to notice brown spots in your yard, take a mental note of their location. In many cases where drought is responsible, shaded areas of grass will remain healthy and green. If the dried brown grass is primarily located in the sunniest regions of your yard, you are likely experiencing a drought.

Things You Can Do to Make Your Lawn More Drought Resistant

Luckily, there are many things you can do to make your lawn more resistant to drought. In addition to choosing a type of grass that is suited for your climate, these steps will ensure that your lawn stays healthy throughout the year.

Aerate Your Lawn Regularly

With the changing of seasons and passing of time, your soil becomes compacted. When this happens, the roots of your grass are not able to receive the moisture and nutrients they need to thrive. The simple solution to this problem is to aerate your lawn. 

It is recommended that you aerate your lawn once in the spring and again in the fall time. However, do not aerate during seasons of drought. By aerating your lawn, you improve the oxygen flow to the roots. The grass is also able to fully benefit from any moisture it receives, something that is crucial during seasons of drought. 

Leave Your Grass Long

One mistake that homeowners often make during seasons of drought is cutting their grass too short. Mowing your grass to the highest recommended setting for that species will allow it to thrive. When the grass is left long, more surface area is exposed on each blade. This allows the plant to store more energy through polysynthesis, a process that is crucial for surviving the stress of drought.

Mow Your Lawn Often

Although you should leave your grass long, it is wise to mow often. Anytime you mow the lawn, especially during seasons of drought, it is crucial to cut no more than one-third of the blade length. Additionally, make sure that the blade of your lawnmower remains sharp. A sharp blade allows for cleaner cuts. This provides less stress to the blades and encourages quicker healing.

Reduce or Postpone Fertilization

Fertilizing your lawn is an important step to ensuring optimal conditions. However, it is wise to greatly reduce or even postpone fertilization until after the drought is over. When you use a nitrogen fertilizer, you are encouraging the grass to produce more shoots. While in a drought season, it is more important that the grass focuses the energy on strengthening and expanding the root system. 

It is wise to fertilize well in the springtime, taking a break during the dry summer seasons. If you would like to maintain the beautiful color in your grass, an iron application may be suitable during seasons of drought! 

Eliminate Pests Using Pesticides

Unwanted pests can wreak havoc in your yard during any season. However, especially during stressful seasons of drought, it is important to eliminate pests using pesticides if necessary. It is best to avoid applying pesticides on the entirety of your lawn. Simply focus on the areas where you are experiencing infestations. 

If you find that unwanted pests are becoming a serious problem, it may be wise to consult a professional pest control company for advice on how to proceed. 

Monitor the Seasonal Moisture Level of the Soil

One of the best ways to improve the drought tolerance of your lawn is to prepare it carefully for seasons of dryness. If you overwater in the springtime, the lawn will become accustomed to a higher level of moisture.

By monitoring the moisture level of your soil, especially during the changing of seasons, you can provide your lawn with a more steady moisture level. This will allow your lawn to thrive in many conditions throughout the year.

Can Grass Be Revived After Drought?

The ability to revive your brown grass after a season of drought depends entirely on the condition of the lawn. If the grass is completely dead, you will not be able to revive it. Unfortunately, the only option in this situation is to reseed your yard. (This time using a grass seed that is better suited for your climate.)

However, if your grass is brown but only in a state of dormancy, you may be able to bring it back to ideal condition! The primary factor in this equation is proper and regular irrigation. It’s important to provide your grass with appropriate amounts of water for three to four weeks to revive it from dormancy.

When you are watering your grass after a drought, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, remember that bringing grass back to lush condition after drought will require patience. This process will likely take several weeks.

Secondly, keep in mind that deep watering is better than frequent water. When you water your grass, make sure that it is thoroughly hydrated each time. Allow the soil to dry to an appropriate point and then complete the process. Watering for only a few minutes every day will not provide you with optimal results as the water will not travel to the deep roots of the grass.

As with any lawn care situation, it is important to assess both the condition of your lawn and the environmental factors that are unique to your climate. By doing so, you will be able to create a care plan that is both effective and efficient for your situation.

Thank you for reading American Lawns! You can find more great lawn care tips here.

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