Managing the Lawn under Drought Conditions

By: Robert Couse-Baker
By: Robert Couse-Baker

With summer heat right around the corner now is a good time to prepare yourself for the possibility of a hot, dry summer.  Here are some tips to make sure your lawn is ready to beat the heat:

Soil  Determine whether you have a sandy, or clay environment.   Sandy soil is porous, and water readily flows in and out of it.  Clay soil holds the most water but is slow to absorb and release it.  Loam is the ideal soil.  It is porous and retains moisture.  To achieve this “loamy” state over time, add compost, peat moss or just buy some bags of Miracle Gro Moisture Control Garden Soil with Water Smart technology.

Aerating:  Do this twice a year (spring and fall) to prevent thatch from building up, which can cause blockage, water run off and lack of proper penetration to the roots.

Mowing:  Mow high (2.5 ins.) and with sharp blades.  Taller cut grass will have deeper, more extensive root systems as well as provide more shade to the soil, keeping the soil temperatures cooler and reducing evaporation.

Watering:  On your designated watering days, water early in the day; be sure to water deeply, ½ inch at a time.  Set up tuna cans randomly on the lawn to determine how much water your sprinkler system is putting out.

Fertilizing:  Feed your lawn four times a year to give it the strength to withstand high summer temperatures and to ward off disease, opportunistic weeds, and insects that may invade a stressed lawn.

Weed Control:  Deep rooted broadleaf weeds and stress tolerant grassy weeds compete with your lawn for precious nutrients and soil moisture.  Be sure to spot treat where necessary.  As part of your 4-step fertilization program, choose a “weed and feed” fertilizer to keep the weeds from starting and have some Ortho Weed B Gon around to spot treat the affected areas.

Insect Control:  It is important to check lawns carefully for insect problems since symptoms of insect damage often look like drought effects.  Apply the proper insecticide if necessary.  Ortho Bug B Gon products can help with this.

Remember, a well-kept lawn is one of the safest surfaces on which children can play.  Even under drought conditions, you can make smart-watering decisions that will allow you to continue to enjoy your backyard retreat!