Droughts can be a real drag on all types of plants, but droughts are cyclical and a part of nature. It doesn’t mean you need to rip out your green space for artificial turf, or create sparsely planted hardscapes (which reduce vital play space, create heat islands, and don’t drain and filter as effectively as a root-intensive lawn.) The short move to nix green spaces can have negative long term effects when it comes to run off, erosion, loss of oxygen producing plants and increased heat. In fact, researchers have estimated an average home landscape provides the cooling-effect equivalent to 10 tons of air conditioning, compared to the 3- to 4-ton capacity of the average air-conditioning unit.
Texas was in a deep drought just years ago and is now dealing with severe flooding. Lawns are vital in serving as nature’s “shock absorbers” for these changes in weather. So to keep our beneficial lawns in place, here are a few tips to survive the dry times.
- Water less. Experts say that most of us over-water our lawns anyway. By watering less, your lawn may not be a rich, vibrant green but it will still be alive. With California’s mostly temperate climate, your lawn may only need a 10- or 15-minute soak once a week. Be sure to follow local watering rules, but try to soak the soil deeply but less often. That will encourage longer root growth. If it gets really hot outside, increase the frequency to two or three times a week. Water thoroughly when you do, and watch to avoid unwanted water run-off. Helpful hint: As long as the grass is still pale green right at the point where the grass blades start growing – called the “nub” – your lawn is surviving.
- Mow higher. Mowing stimulates growth, which requires water. Taller blades produce more energy, sending their roots deeper in search of water. And as grass blades mature, they tend to thicken and become more drought-resistant. So this is your permission to spend more time playing and less time mowing. And when you do mow, use the highest setting.
Understand your grass varieties. The ever-popular fescue is a cool-season grass that requires a lot of water. If you have fescue, it will turn brown more readily as summer temperatures peak. Do the minimum for it now. Wait until the weather cools next fall to revive it. If you have Bermuda, which is a warm-season grass, you’ll be happy to know that it needs about 20 percent less water than fescue.
If you’re in the market for new turf, one simple solution is to purchase Harmony turf from your local Home Depot or Lowe’s. Harmony takes the guesswork out of choosing the right turf. Harmony grass varieties are developed and selected specifically for your region of the state by using the latest turf technology, matching the best type of grass to the soil conditions and average sun and rainfall amounts of the local environment. As the environment changes, so do the types of turf grasses on the market, with more drought tolerant and water efficient solutions evolving along the way. So hang tight California and stay green!