Is My Grass Dying?
My next-door neighbor met me in the driveway and asked, “Is my grass dying?” My neighbor knows I work with Berger Hargis Landscaping and wanted my opinion. I’m no lawn expert, but I work with several and had asked the Berger Hargis team the same question. Is my grass dying? I reassured her that it probably wasn’t dying and showed her the pull test. The pull test is simple. Choose a small patch of brown grass and pull it straight up. If it comes out with no resistance, it’s dead. Her grass didn’t because the living roots and rhizomes anchored it.
Is My Grass Dying?
Central Indiana is experiencing a moderate drought; from mid-June to the first week of July, we’ve had less than .20 inches of rain. This weekend we had much-needed rain. It was a little less than an inch, but it helped. Unfortunately, there is little or no rain in our 10-day forecast. I told my neighbor not to expect her lawn to immediately green-up. Some green spots might show but probably not much. And I told her that, more importantly, she didn’t want it to.
Grass is a very resilient plant. When faced with a drought, it will go dormant. Although the blades of grass may turn brittle, brown, and die, the plant isn’t dead. It’s waiting.
So, What Can I Do?
After I explained this to my neighbor, she asked what she could do to help and protect her lawn. I told her there are many different types of grass and how they handle a drought can vary, but overall, they’re pretty drought resistant, and then gave her a few tips.
Don’t Overwater Your Lawn
As counterintuitive as it might sound, overwatering during a drought isn’t good for your lawn. During dormancy, grass uses its resources such as water and nutrients to support its roots, rhizomes, and crowns. Bringing the grass back too quickly from dormancy will cause the plant to use resources on the blades rather than the roots.
“That is why we advise to water once every two weeks with one-half inch of water once the turf goes dormant to keep plant crowns hydrated during drought. This amount of water will not green up the turf, but it will increase long-term survival during long dry spells.” — Purdue University — Home lawn during a drought.
And don’t water when in the middle of the day. “All irrigation should occur in early morning. Air temperature is usually coolest before sunrise. Afternoon or early evening irrigation locks heat in the soil. This puts tremendous stress on the roots. Late day applications of irrigation also promote disease like brown patch in tall fescue.” — Managing your lawn in summer — University of Nebraska–Lincoln Turfgrass Science Program |
Mow High or Not at all
It’s July 9th, and I haven’t mowed my grass since May 30th. Not only haven’t I mowed, but I’ve also tried to stay off the grass as much as possible. Lawnmowers, other equipment, and even walking can damage the grass. “When possible stay off the turf! Limit traffic (including mowing) to minimize crushing of the turfgrass leaves and crowns.” Purdue Edu
“Once your grass has gone dormant, though, it will stop growing. The worst thing you can do to a dormant lawn is cut the grass too short, exposing the soil to the heat. It’s best to just stay off dormant grass until you see signs of renewed growth.” — The Family Handyman
Ask a Pro for Advice
During a drought, knowing what is good for your lawn and what can damage is essential. For example, too much nitrogen on a dormant lawn can burn the grass taking it from dormant to dead. Although some fertilization can help a dormant lawn, it’s best to ask a professional is my grass dying. Seek their advice. The same applies to aeration, dethatching, and other common summer lawncare activities. They could help or hurt depending on the severity of the draught, the composition of your soil, and the type of grass.
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About the Author
Randy Clark is a speaker, coach, and author. He publishes a weekly blog at Randy Clark Leadership.com. Randy is passionate about social media, leadership development, and flower gardening. He’s a beer geek, and on weekends (after COVID-19), he can be found fronting the Rock & Roll band Under the Radar. He’s the proud father of two educators; he has four amazing grandchildren and a wife who dedicates her time to helping others. Randy is the author of the Amazon bestseller The New Manager’s Workbook, a crash course in effective management.