Lawn Care Tips During Drought Conditions

It’s been a brutal summer for Hoosiers, and gone are the dreams of a plush, green lawn surrounded byoverflowing landscapes. Current drought conditions, along with community watering bans in Fishers, Indianapolis and Westfield, have certainly taken a toll on even the most manicured of lawns.

So what’s a home or business owner to do? While water conservation should always be on the top of the list during a drought, there are other simple steps that property owners can take in order to insure a healthy lawn this fall:

Minimize fertilization. Heavily fertilized lawns use up more water and are more susceptible to drought stress. Skip the multi-step fertilization process for now, and save the treatments for the fall, which is the most critical time for fertilizer.Be sure to include a winterizer application to help promote root development and greening of the lawn in the spring.

Keep off the grass.While your lawn might not technically be “dead,” one of the factors that can kill drought-stressed turf is intense traffic, which can damage the grass and its’ crown. If at all possible, decrease foot traffic and the use of any heavy equipment.

Mow with caution. If you do need to mow, a general guideline is to never remove more than one-third of your grass at one time. Raise the mowing height of your lawn mower at least one setting higher than what you’re used to. This will force your grass to develop and use deeper roots.

Give mulching a try. Even if your mower isn’t designed to mulch, let the clippings remain on your lawn. Grass tends to lose more water and nutrients through the evaporation process, which happens faster when clippings are removed.

Aerate this fall. If you didn’t aerate your lawn last spring, plan to do so this fall. The aeration process, which creates small holes in the ground, allows water to soak deeper into the soil, promoting root growth.  Additionally if you over-seed after aerating, seed will get into the plugs. A good starter fertilizer is essential for good seed growth and root development before the weather gets colder.

Maintain equipment. Sharpen up those mower blades during the summer months (at least twice when on a regular mowing schedule). Dull blades tear grass, forcing them to use 40-60 percent more water trying to recover from stress.

Check sprinkler systems.Once water bans are lifted, check your sprinkler system for any leaky valves or heads, which will lead to water waste. Change timing settings, if appropriate.

Water lightly.If you are allowed to water, only apply enough to reach the depth of the roots in order to avoid wasting water. The roots of many cool-season grasses (like Kentucky bluegrass and tall fescue) tend to be shallow during the summer months. Taking a soil plug should give homeowners a good idea of how deep the grass roots are. Also, ideal watering times are from 4-9 a.m. When watering bans are not in effect follow these guidelines: Watering for longer periods of time, but less often is the best way to get roots to be deeper and denser. This will provide better water retention in the future when drought conditions are present. Additionally grass will remain greener longer.

Follow water limits. If water limits are imposed in your community, follow them. If allowed, watering on alternate days can save 40-50 percent of water. While most grasses won’t retain their color during a drought, they can survive about a month without water.

Landscaping & Trees:Don’t forget to get water to your landscape, especially Trees. This unprecedented drought is effecting Evergreen Trees that have been around for 10 or more years. Once an evergreen tree or shrub starts to turn brown, it is usually to late to save it. Since trees and landscaping can be much more expensive than re-seeding your lawn, don’t forget to give them a drink as well.

Gator Bags:these water bags connected at the base of trees helps to distribute an adequate supply of water to help sustain the trees during periods of drought. It supplies much needed water to the root ball where it is absorbed directly by the roots. It further prevents water run-off and waste.

Soaker Hoses: these hoses help get the needed moisture through landscaping beds. They can be woven in between shrubs and perennials. They provide thousands of little holes along a rubber hose. This helps prevent water run-off and waste. They can be hooked up to a water faucet with a timer that shuts off the supply automatically.

If you have more questions about lawn or landscape care during drought conditions, call All Seasons Landscape Management at 317-259-9222.