Droughts can be brutal.
Unfortunately, we are in a constant battle against this creeping phenomenon that affects various facets of life—including the well-being of your normally healthy lawn.
The prolonged above-normal temperatures and below-normal rainfall forecasts can lead to drought stress, which can have lasting adverse effects on your lawn. But there are many ways to protect and rejuvenate it after it suffers a drought.
How to Prepare, Maintain, and Recover Your Lawn After a Drought
Addressing drought damage starts with adopting preventive measures to protect your lawn, boost its resilience against dry conditions, and minimize losses. The first step in this proactive approach is selecting the right turf grass for lawns consistently exposed to hot and dry weather.
Lawn Care Before a Drought
Grow the right grass
Warm-season grasses are well-adapted to the warm, humid subtropical climate in Florida. Bermudagrass, Zoysiagrass, and St Augustine grass varieties, in particular, are known for their excellent drought resistance due to their deep root systems that allow them to access soil moisture efficiently and withstand periods of water shortages. They set the foundation for drought-resistant turf, minimizing potential damage during a drought.
A viable option for grass plugs, these drought-tolerant grass varieties provide a convenient solution for establishing a new lawn or repairing bare and sparse areas. Being mature plants with established root systems, grass plugs demand significantly less water than seeds, further contributing to the drought-resilience of your lawn.
It contrasts with seeds that require consistent watering for germination and initial root development, making them more water-intensive.
Apply slow-release fertilizer
We recommend supplementing your new grass with NutriPod, a slow-release grass plug fertilizer that gradually delivers nutrients into the soil to promote healthier, more uniform growth and efficient coverage. Simply drop a fertilizer pod into the hole before planting grass plugs for convenient and precise fertilizer application.
Make sure to plant grass plugs and fertilize well in advance to allow the grass to adapt to the new environment and establish a healthier root system. Avoid fertilizing a lawn just before a drought—the additional nutrients can stimulate new growth, making your lawn more vulnerable to drought stress.
Set up rainwater collection systems
Collecting rainwater and using it for irrigation aids in water conservation and provides consistent hydration for your plants. This preemptive setup allows you to maintain a healthy landscape even with the potential water restrictions in drought periods.
The complexity of a rainwater collection system may vary. But having the basic components—a storage container for rainwater and a watering can or sprinkler system for targeted water delivery—should get you started. However, be sure to research your state's laws on rainwater collection, as some places restrict this practice.
Lawn Care During a Drought
Water deeply but less often
Warm-season grasses tolerate hot and dry conditions, thriving with far less water than most grass types require. We recommend deep, less frequent watering—ideally once a week or until you see signs of dehydration—to encourage deeper roots and boost drought tolerance.
The optimal window for watering your lawn during a drought is early morning, before 10 am, to minimize water evaporation. While it may sound counterintuitive, refrain from overwatering your lawn in these conditions, as it can lead to further issues such as weed growth, pest infestation, lawn disease, and the development of shallow roots, ultimately weakening drought tolerance.
In addition to deficit watering, allowing grass to grow taller by mowing less often and raising the mower blades contributes to deeper root growth. Taller grass provides essential ground shade, shielding the roots from harsh, dry conditions and suppressing weed growth.
Remember to adhere to the one-third rule, cutting no more than one-third of the blade with each mow. You can also leave a thin layer of grass clippings to help preserve soil moisture.
Limit Foot Traffic
In drought conditions, lawns suffer from drier and more compacted soil, making them more susceptible to damage, even from foot traffic. This compaction also reduces the lawn's ability to absorb moisture, affecting root growth and overall health.
Minimize foot traffic on the grass until it begins recovering from drought. Avoid heavy equipment activities during this period, and if it's necessary to walk on the lawn, stay on designated pathways to limit damage.
Lawn Care After a Drought
Assess Drought Damage
Now, the dreaded question—is your lawn dead or just damaged? During prolonged periods without rain, your once-lush green lawn may show signs of distress with parched, brown, and seemingly lifeless grass blades that look dry and limp.
However, even when they look lifeless, grasses are surprisingly resilient, with the drought-tolerant grass species lasting three to four weeks of dry spells without dying. Distinguishing between dead and damaged grass is crucial in determining the appropriate course of action for your lawn.
Damaged grass usually exhibits a whitish crown or occasionally a green hue at the base. Conversely, if the entire lawn appears brown, it's most likely that the plant is dead, necessitating re-establishment with grass plugs.
Other symptoms of drought damage may resemble other lawn diseases like thinning grass, brown patches, dull appearance, increased sensitivity to foot traffic, and grass blades exhibiting curling, folding, or a wilted look.
Repair with Grass Plugs
Once your lawn has weathered the drought and is beginning to recover from stress, it's time to revive it by returning to your regular lawn maintenance routine. Start by aerating the soil to improve water and nutrient absorption and remove weeds to allow for healthy grass growth.
This comprehensive approach also prepares the ground for grass plugs and sets the foundation for a healthier and more resilient lawn. Repairing drought damage with grass plugs is a strategic approach to rejuvenating a brown lawn.
Our SodPods grass plugs are small sections of sod that consist of mature grass with established plant roots. When transplanting plugs, ensure proper spacing to allow them to integrate seamlessly with the existing grass and facilitate uniform growth.
In summary, successful grass plugging relies on comprehensive lawn care, which includes adequate watering and supplying essential nutrients through a slow-release fertilizer like Nutripod. This approach helps the plugs establish successfully and adapt seamlessly to their new environment.
Drought damage? Restore your lawn by supplementing your new grass plugs with adequate nutrition. Shop for NutriPod grass plug fertilizer on our website today.