How to Maintain a Healthy Lawn During a Drought?

Guest Post by: Tony Carlisle

Drought can kill your grass and leave your lawn brown and bare. A sprinkler system makes it easy to water your grass, but you can drastically reduce water use and protect your turf by taking steps to make your lawn resistant to drought. Fortunately, the changes you need to make are both simple and effective.

Choose the Right Grass
If you live in an area that is prone to drought, then you should start by choosing the right grass. Engineered to survive with less water, species like Buffalo grass and fescues are excellent for surviving extended dry periods. Where other turf species need a full inch of water every week, these species can survive on about half that amount. If the conditions are too extreme, the grass may turn brown as it goes dormant to survive. The grass is not dead, and it will recover its healthy green color with watering.

Leave the Grass Longer
Set your mower at a higher level and embrace the longer blades. The fact is that scalping your grass short harms the turf and makes it more susceptible to drought. Grass that is longer will send deeper roots into the soil, and that makes the grass resistant to weeds, drought and disease. Keep the grass at least three-inches tall throughout the year to help it survive difficult conditions.

Use the Right Sprinkler Settings
Grass with deep roots can reach further into the soil to find water. It can take full advantage of the water entering the soil, so it´s in your best interest to encourage deep roots. This comes from water deeply and infrequently. Set your system to run in the morning when water will not evaporate as quickly, and choose to provide the full requirement of water in just one or two watering sessions. This will help the grass roots grow stronger and stretch deeper, so it can survive the drought.

Invest in Dethatching or Aeration
With proper aeration, water that falls on your turf will penetrate the surface and move down to plant roots. Over time, thatch that builds up on the surface prevents this from happening. It turns into a little waterproof layer that sends water running off to the local sewers. If you aren´t sure if thatch is a problem, there is a simple test you can perform to find out. Take a hose to a high spot in the yard. Lightly water a dry area and see if the water is sinking into the soil or just running off to lower ground. If you have a high level of runoff, then you should call for aeration, dethatching or possibly both.

Fix Irrigation or Sprinklers issues

One of the most common issues with sprinklers is the phenomena called “low head drainage”. It normally occurs when the sprinkler system has been installed on a sloped area. After the sprinklers are turned off, water in the pipes drains out through the lower sprinkler heads on the slope and is replaced by air. The water that drains out is wasted; the air is violently forced out the next time you run the sprinklers. This puts a lot of stress on the sprinklers and pipes. The easiest way to tell if you have this problem is when you turn on the sprinklers. If they spit and spew air when the valve is turned on, then you have low head drainage
Minimal Fertilizer Use
Fertilizer encourages the rapid growth of grass, but this isn’t ideal if you are dealing with a drought. Use the minimum amount of fertilizer to prevent thatch and keep the grass healthy, but eliminate any extra amounts.

Make the Most of Your Water
Place sprinklers so they are not watering driveways and sidewalks. Water the flowerbeds separately because they may require more or less water than your turf. Finally, consider investing in water reclamation tools. Rain buckets attached to the gutters can be used to irrigate landscaped areas using the free water provided by nature.

With these steps, you can make your grass more drought-hardy and reduce your water usage. It´s the right move for the environment, and you will save a good deal of money in the process. If you don´t currently have a sprinkler system, consider having one installed to make your lawn maintenance easy, effective and efficient.

Author Bio: Tony works at Gardening Birmingham, offering a personal service for customers who require landscaping services or gardeners maintenance in Birmingham

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