Lawn Maintenance During A Drought: Tips for Healthier Lawns

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grass experiencing drought stress

on September 24, 2014 by TruGreen

Droughts can wreak havoc on the condition of your lawn and leave you asking yourself "How do I get green grass now?"

You can try doing a rain dance, but if that doesn’t work, it’s important to educate yourself on the ways drought conditions can damage your landscape and what you can do to protect it.

What are the Symptoms of Drought Damage?

Did you know that turf grass is about 70-75% water? Water is an essential part of maintaining a beautiful, healthy and even lawn.

During drought conditions, grass loses more water through the leaves than what they absorb through the roots, hence the signs and symptoms of drought stress that we're accustomed to seeing.

So, what are the signs of drought stress?

  • Change in color. When drought stress takes over, you'll notice your grass takes on a sort of dull gray or blue-green color. As the drought stress worsens, the grass will look yellow and then tan.

  • Lingering prints and marks on the grass. One of the most telling signs of drought stress occurs when you step onto the turf or try to mow and the footprints and tracks stay on the grass, without springing back up.

  • Folded or rolled grass blades. This indicates wilting and is a sign that your grass is in trouble.

Drought-Specific Landscaping: The Basics

If you live in an area that’s been hit hard by a persistent drought, such as most of California, you’re already aware of the water restrictions local cities have placed upon homeowners. Rather than sacrifice a beautiful garden, why not call an audible and pick the right plants for a dry climate?

Succulents like flowering cacti and houseleeks are popular choices for southwestern gardens because they require almost no water to thrive. Even in areas of the country that do get more moisture, like coastal regions and the Southeast, succulents such as iceplant are a beautiful, low-maintenance addition to any garden

If you still desire the look of natural grass, there are ways to be smart about the varieties you choose. In states like Texas, mandates for low-maintenance grasses that go dormant in the summer are becoming more popular. Zoysia is a great example of grass that holds up to traffic and thrives in shade and drier conditions. If you’re in the midwest, consider buffalo grass for your yard. Southwestern desert dwellers can’t go wrong with bermuda, either.

Drought stress: Helpful tips for better control

Although drought stressed grass can look bad and be difficult to recover from, with some patience and a good plan of action, you can figure out how to get grass green again.

Here are ten tips to help your lawn battle the summer heat, and help you get the best results:

  1. Water together. Be smart about grouping your plants with similar watering needs close to each other. If your city is under watering restrictions, your TruGreen specialist can provide recommendations for your area.

  2. Water at the first signs of drought. Change in color, grass not bouncing back from footprints and folded blades (see the full list above).

  3. Keep it simple. Lawns rarely need to be watered every day. You can help keep your grass healthy with about one inch of water per week in a deep and infrequent manner.

  4. Distribute water evenly. If you have sprinklers, make sure they’re distributing water evenly throughout the lawn (one sign they’re not: patches of dry, discolored grass.

  5. Mow taller. When you mow your lawn, be sure to mow on the higher end of the blade -- about 3 ½- to 4-inches tall-- so your turf has a chance to protect the soil from drying and help it conserve water.

  6. Know when to mow. Mowing more frequently in the summer means you'll only be cutting no more than a third of the grass blade, so it can help the grass stay high and healthier.

  7. Spread the clippings. Don't throw away those clippings when you mow. Be sure to spread them around your lawn to give it an extra source of organic nutrients. Mulch also has the same effect of helping the area retain moisture.

  8. Sharpen up. Sharpening mower blades frequently will help you keep the turf at the right height, all the time.

  9. Early lawn care. Get a head start on your lawn care. Spring and fall are great times to take proactive steps to ensure the health of your lawn.

  10. Get help from the lawn specialists! TruGreen®'s approach to lawn care is simple: Science-based solutions by experienced and knowledgeable experts can help you achieve a lawn you'll love. No matter what your lawn's condition is, a TruGreen Certified Specialist will help you come up with a lawn care plan to bring your turf grass back to life.

Visit to learn more about their lawn care services and how they can help you battle against drought stress.

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