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Drought FAQs

Recover Your Lawn From a Drought

Drought takes a serious toll on your lawn, but you can bring the green back to your landscape. Discover what you can do when you need to recover from a drought. Find answers to some of the most common questions about drought recovery and your lawn.

Answers to Your Lawn Recovery Questions

Is there a specific type of fertilizer I should use to help speed up recovery?

There are different types of fertilizers on the market. For the best recovery from drought and the stress of summer, put down a fertilizer that has balanced nutrition in proportion to what the plant needs. Remember, when using fertilizer or other lawn care products, always follow package directions regarding proper clothing, protective equipment, application procedures and safety precautions.

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What can I do to save my lawn?

Don't give up! Grass is amazingly resilient. When your lawn is stressed by heat and lack of water, it uses more nutrients than normal, often giving it a yellow, thin appearance. It's essential to feed your lawn with a fertilizer designed to help it recover from heat and drought.

Won't fertilizer burn my lawn?

This is a common question and is frequently asked because a lot of fertilizers used in the past could potentially burn your lawn if applied without water or when temperatures where high. Quality fertilizers applied properly won't burn your lawn. 

Why shouldn't I just wait until the drought is over to worry about my lawn?

Waiting until the drought is over seems like a good option. But if you can still irrigate your lawn, getting it on the path to recovery now is an important step. If your lawn continues to use up what's left of its nutrients, the damage will continue to get worse and could lead to more work in the long run. Don't wait until it's too late and you have to sod, plug or seed your entire lawn next year. Feed your lawn now to help it recover.

Isn't watering enough to save my lawn?

Watering your lawn deeply and infrequently is one of the most essential things you can do to help it to survive the drought. However, just like people need food to grow and have energy, so does your lawn. Feed your lawn with a lawn fertilizer to make the most of your watering and provide the essential nutrients to help your lawn stay dense, green and able to withstand most of what Mother Nature will throw at it. Apply a fertilizer to help your lawn recover from the drought and come back strong next spring.

Isn't spring the best time to feed my lawn? Shouldn't I wait until then?

Spring is a great time to feed your lawn, but fall is even better. Fall is actually one of the most beneficial times to feed your lawn because it’s when grass stores nutrients in preparation for winter. If you haven't fed your lawn since spring, it may be depleted of essential nutrients after the stress of summer. So feed it this fall to help replenish all the essential nutrients your lawn used up this summer trying to survive the drought.

How do I know if my grass is dead or dormant?

Most grasses can go dormant for extended periods of time in order to survive when it gets extremely hot and dry. However, some grasses do it better than others. For the most part, if you've been irrigating your lawn at least every other week throughout the drought, there's a good chance that it will survive. But if your lawn is extremely thin, and has no green material left, it may be past the point of no return. Reestablishing your lawn early this fall may be a good option.

Are there grass types that better tolerate drought?

Yes, certain grasses are better at tolerating drought. There are two types of grasses, warm-season (St. Augustine, Bermuda, Zoysia, Centipede, Buffalo and Bahia) and cool-season (Tall Fescue, Fine Fescue, Bluegrass, Ryegrass). In the southern part of the United States, warm-season grasses are going to tolerate drought and heat better than cool-season grasses. But certain warm-season grasses do better depending on the conditions. St. Augustine does the best if an area is highly shaded, while Bermuda and Buffalo grasses do very well in the full sun. It's important to assess the area where the grasses will be growing to decide which type is the most appropriate for your lawn.

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How much should I be watering my lawn?

During the heat of the summer, the average warm-season grass needs approximately 1 inch of water a week applied through irrigation. If it rains, then reduce the amount of irrigation applied accordingly. As the seasons change and it becomes cooler, your lawn uses less water, so apply less. Run your sprinklers for a shorter time or space out the days between watering your lawn.

What time of day is best for watering my lawn?

The best time to water your lawn is in the early morning hours between 4 a.m. and 10 am. If you water late at night, the lawn stays wet longer and has an increased chance of getting a disease or fungus. If you water during the heat of the day, a portion of the irrigation applied will be evaporated. Early morning is the coolest time and usually the time of day when little or no wind will blow the water away from your lawn.

How long should I water each time?

Water long enough each time you irrigate to thoroughly wet the top 6 to 8 inches of the soil without causing water to run off into the gutters or the street. Put down at least 1/2 inch of water each time you irrigate. To determine how much water you put out with your sprinklers, set out several cans throughout your yard (similar to a tuna fish can), turn on your sprinklers for 10 minutes and measure the depth of water in the cans. You can determine the amount of water your sprinklers will put out in an hour by multiplying the number obtained by 6. Once you've determined how much your sprinklers put out, set them to run long enough to put out at least 1/2 inch every time they run and apply approximately 1 inch a week. As the fall continues and temperatures begin to fall, reduce the amount you irrigate by half.

Does it need to rain for me to apply fertilizer?

No, as long as you can actively irrigate your lawn, it's okay to apply fertilizer. In fact, feeding your lawn will help your lawn tolerate the drought and recover better by providing essential nutrition necessary to fill in thin spots in your lawn.

Do I need to water-in my fertilizer?

No, it's not necessary if it's going to rain in the near future. However, irrigating your fertilizer after applying it will help incorporate it into the soil and allow your lawn to start utilizing the essential nutrition applied with the fertilizer.

How do I replace large areas of my lawn?

First, if weeds have invaded during the drought, you may need to remove them by applying a nonselective weed control product. After treating your weeds, for large areas, you may need to till the existing dead lawn and weeds into the soil. Next, add organic matter by applying a 1-inch layer of compost. Seed, sod or plug your grass directly into the new soil. Last, apply fertilizer to ensure that your sod, seed or plugs have the nutrients necessary to get off to a great start.

I have dead spots in my lawn. How can I fix those?

If you notice bare spots in your lawn, you can repair them in three simple steps:

  • Prepare the area by raking to remove dead grass and loosen the hard soil. This will help the tiny seedlings root.
  • Next, evenly apply seed to the area, so it's mostly covered and bare ground is still visible.
  • Thoroughly water and then continue to water daily, keeping the seedlings moist until the grass reaches regular mowing height.

My lawn is thinning and uneven. How can I fix it?

If your lawn is thinning in larger areas, you may want to reseed. Reseed your lawn by removing any dead material with light raking and replanting with a mix of heat- and drought-tolerant grasses. The best time to repair drought-damaged lawns is in the fall.

I'm under water restrictions, what can I do for my lawn?

Make sure you irrigate early in the morning to reduce evaporative losses. Second, water deeply and less frequently to make sure the water you apply gets deep in the soil and to reduce evaporation loss. And third, if you can still irrigate at least once a week, feed your lawn with a fertilizer that provides the essential nutrients to help your lawn withstand the drought and recover as temperatures and conditions improve.

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How do I make sure my new sod survives the drought?

Prepare your soil properly before laying the sod. Incorporate a layer of turf builder or compost before laying your sod to provide nutrients necessary for a healthy lawn. New sod doesn't have a deep root system. So you need to water new sod frequently to ensure it doesn't dry out. When it's hot and dry, water 1 to 2 times a day, applying approximately 1/4 inch of water a day to ensure your investment is a success.

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