Lawn & Garden Time Lawn & Garden Time Lawn & Garden Time

Surviving drought during a water restriction

Homeowners don't need to have a green thumb to know how taxing a drought can be on their lawns. Though summer is a laid-back season for many people, those same high temperatures and sunny days that make summer so enjoyable can wreak havoc on a lawn during periods of drought.

In response to drought, many communities institute water restrictions that limit how much water a homeowner can use to water his or her lawn. These restrictions are well-intentioned and necessary, but lawns that need water still need to survive the summer heat. There are a few steps homeowners can take to help their lawn survive drought during a water restriction.

* Extend intervals between cuts. Mowing the lawn is necessary, but whenever a lawn is mowed the grass is stressed. Since grass is already stressed during a drought, try to extend the periods between cuts as long as possible. If a landscaping service tends to your lawn, negotiate with the foreman or another company representative so the maintenance crew knows not cut the lawn on its regular, nondrought schedule.

* Help the lawn help itself. A lawn can actually help shield itself from drought, especially if homeowners are on board. When mowing, raise the decks of the mower so the grass can adequately shade itself from the blistering summer sun. Raising the decks also allows the lawn to maintain more water, which will be lost to evaporation if the lawn is cut too short.

* Aerate. The height of drought season is not necessarily the best time to aerate, so the correct aeration schedule might be a preventive measure homeowners can take to help their lawn better cope with drought.

Cool season lawns, which includes bluegrass, bent grass, fescues and rye grasses, grow best when temperatures are between 60 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit and might struggle mightily when the weather is especially hot and dry. August through early October is the best time to aerate cool season lawns.

Warm season lawns include Bermuda grass, Zoysia grass, Buffalo grass and Saint Augustine grass, and these species grow best when the temperatures rise into the 80s and mid-90s. Late spring or early summer is the best time to aerate warm season lawns.

So why aerate? Because aerating the lawn helps break up hard, compacted soil, allowing water, air and nutrients, each of which are essential to a healthy lawn, to reach the soil and strengthen the roots. Strong roots are essential for the lawn to survive, be it hot and dry temperatures in the summer or colder weather in the winter.

* Buy a mulching mower. If you don't already have one, purchase a mulching mower and employ the mulching feature during hot and dry periods. Remove the bag from your mower so the clippings are left on the lawn, where they will break down and provide the lawn nutrients it desperately needs.

Droughts are typically a lawn enthusiast's worst nightmare. But even if water restrictions have been put in place, employing a few simple strategies can help a lawn survive extended periods of high temperatures and dry conditions.