Lawn Care Strategies for Drought Conditions


Climate change is a real menace today, and it’s been distressing people’s lives in many ways, one of which is drought conditions. Drought can seriously impact people’s health, agriculture, economies, and the environment.

Homeowners across the country have been dealing with severe drought in recent years, especially in the western and southwestern regions.  But how can you take care of your lawn during a drought? 

You just need to adjust your lawn care plans, here are some tips on how to manage your lawn during a drought.


  • Drought-tolerant turf


Drought in the South and Southwest areas often comes with extreme heat, and drought-tolerant grasses have to stand up to both. If you live in an area prone to frequent droughts, then you might need to rethink your turf choices. Some drought-resistant turfs are Bermuda grass, Zoysia grass, Bahia grass, St. Augustine grass, Buffalo grass, etc. These varieties require less water and are better suited for dry conditions. The best way to prepare for a drought is to grow or overseed a drought-tolerant turf variety.


  • Water in the morning


Early morning watering (5 a.m. to 10 a.m.) is ideal. This ensures the grass gets the moisture it needs and reduces evaporation. Deep, infrequent watering will go a long way to help lawns cope with dry conditions.

An irrigation system is the best way to water your lawn, but if you don’t have one, hand-watering is the next best option. If you use sprinklers or other automated irrigation systems, make sure they spray water directly onto the grass and plants. If the water is spraying onto sidewalks or the driveway, you’re wasting precious water and money.


  • Water restriction


It’s important to water your lawn efficiently during a drought if you can at all. If you’re dealing with water restrictions in your area, then it's important to prioritize water usage.

If you decide not to water your lawn deeply because of the restrictions, no need to worry your grass is designed to stop growing, turn brown, and become dormant as a natural protection method. This is a defense mechanism of many plants. But, if it hasn't rained for a month or more, you may still want to give your lawn a light watering once or twice a week. It will be enough to protect the root system to survive during high-stress periods.


  • Reserve rainwater


During a drought, local regulations may limit how much you can irrigate your lawn if you can irrigate at all. Stored rainwater isn’t included in the limits on irrigation. When it rains a lot you just need to find a way to keep the extra water from a rainstorm and use it later.

You can build a rainwater collection system yourself or purchase one at a local garden store. A rainwater collection system’s essential parts are a catchment area, like your roof, a transportation method, and a storage system, like a giant barrel. Some states regulate rainwater collection, so be sure to check the local laws before you start the process. 


  • Mow higher


Aim to set your mower deck at a height of 2.5 to 3 inches (6.4 - 7.6 cm). Only cut the top 1/3 of the grass height when mowing, and leave the grass clippings on the lawn to return vital moisture and nutrients to the soil. Grass will grow more slowly during a drought, so you may not have to mow as often. Longer grass blades help shade the soil, reducing evaporation and heat damage. Once the grass has gone completely dormant, it will stop growing, and you don’t need to mow at all.


  • Skip Fertilizing


Avoid fertilizing your lawn during a drought. It usually contains nitrogen that can burn your turf, especially when applied during hot, dry periods. Your lawn usually needs plenty of water to allow your grass to absorb the fertilizer. To fertilize your lawn, it’s best to wait until early fall when drought conditions are over.


  • Get rid of the weeds


Weeds are more than an eyesore on your lawn. They can suck the life out of your lawn, demanding all the water, nutrients, and space. To ensure that the limited amount of water you have is going to your lawn and plants, it’s important to pull up weeds when you spot them. Consider using organic weed control methods to minimize the need for excessive watering.


  • Preserve your equipment’s


Not only do you need to ensure your sprinkler system is running efficiently, but it’s necessary to maintain all lawn care equipment. Also, be sure to keep your mower blades sharp. They will make cleaner cuts that heal better and cause less stress to the grass than the tattered edges caused by dull blades.


  • Dormant stage


When conditions get too hot and dry, the turf will go dormant. Dormancy means active sprout growth will stop. Grasses may turn brown, and some may die, but the roots, rhizomes, and crown are still alive. They have enough reserves to break dormancy whenever temperatures cool and rainfall resumes.

In drought, you want to apply just enough water like ¼ to ½ inch (0.6 - 1.3 cm) every two to four weeks just to keep the turf alive until conditions improve. Breaking dormancy early actually will drain reserves within the plant if conditions remain dry. Once it cools down or rain starts to fall, grass growth will begin again, and the lawn will green up.


---- Times of drought can be stressful. Water shortages can feel limiting and can induce anxiety as we face climate change. Maintaining your green healthy lawn in these challenging times takes a bit more effort than usual.