It’s been hot and dry in Northern Virginia this summer, and we’re seeing lots of brown lawns. But it doesn’t have to be that way. There are some simple steps you can take to keep your grass healthy and green during periods of drought. And if your turf is looking a little burnt, don’t worry. We can usually restore it to good health with a bit of TLC. Here are some tips for keeping lawns fresh–not fried– as we move into late summer.
Mowing Tips for Dry Summer Months
Mowing carefully and conservatively is probably the most important thing you can do to keep your lawn lush and green. During the hot, dry months of July and August, keep your cut high–at around four inches. We know so many folks love the shorter “ballfield” cut in summer. But when it’s dry, it’s time to hold back and cut long. This helps with moisture retention and allows your lawn to get the nutrients it needs from the sun through photosynthesis. It also helps root development, so your grass gets what it needs from the soil. If you cut too short during a dry spell, you risk damaging the blades of grass. This makes it hard to recover once moisture and cooler temperatures come back at summer’s end. Mowing too low can hurt the “crown” of the grass, the white part above the roots that should never get cut because it helps your lawn regenerate.
This doesn’t mean give up on mowing or let your lawn go wild. Consistent mowings at 4-inches or above are the recipe for a healthy lawn. With regular mowing, short grass clippings can be recycled into the yard as nutrient-rich mulch instead of raking and discarding. This also helps protect your grass from high temperatures and dry weather.
Finally, make sure to keep your mower blades sharp. Sharp edges will give you a clean cut that avoids tearing at the grass when it’s most vulnerable under dry conditions.
Watering and Irrigation During a Drought
In the spring and early summer, most of us can get away with letting Mother Nature take care of the watering. But during drought conditions, your lawn needs a little help from you and your sprinklers. Experts recommend deeper and less frequent watering when it’s dry, but the real key is timing. Water early in the day or later in the evening to avoid midday evaporation. This way, that precious H2O gets where it needs to go: your grass’ roots. Timed irrigation systems can help you get the right amount at the right time and conserve water.
How Can I Fix A Brown Lawn?
The good news is that in most cases, your brown lawn isn’t dead. It’s simply dormant. When things get hot, the roots hang onto nutrients, leaving the blades high and dry for a few weeks. Don’t panic-you can bring it back to life with a few simple steps.
- Reduce traffic: let dry lawns rest to reduce stress on the blades.
- Water but don’t overwater: as thirsty as your lawn may seem, if you overwater, you’ll hurt the plants’ roots. A timed sprinkler system can help you irrigate at the right level.
- Hold off on fertilizer. While it might be tempting to revive your lawn with fertilizer, it can actually burn your dry grass even more. Instead, talk with a pro about adding the right fertilizer at the right amounts to revive your lawn once drought conditions ease up and moisture returns.
- Plan for aeration and overseeding in the fall to start off with a healthier, more robust lawn next year.
How Can I Prep My Lawn for a Drought?
If your lawn is looking a little crunchy this summer, let’s make it a learning experience. How can we prepare for drought conditions starting in the fall, spring, and early summer? Here are a few tips to keep in mind to help you get ready:
- Overseed in the fall with new grass seeds to help create a sturdy, drought-resistant lawn next spring.
- Consider topdressing in the fall: adding a thin layer of compost can enrich your soil and get your grass the nutrients it needs for a strong start to the summer.
- As soon as you start mowing in the spring, practice grass-cycling with a mulching mower. This turns short grass clippings into nutrient-rich mulch and can help prevent burnout later in the summer.
- Another popular option in dry areas of the country is to shrink the lawn in favor of more landscaping and hardscape elements. This trend means less maintenance and more eye-catching and fun features.
Beating the Burn with Epling
At Epling, our pros love your lawns. We love them when they’re growing like crazy in June, and we love them when they need extra care for dryness in August. Our goal is to help keep them green and healthy by adapting our practices as conditions change. We start with grass-cycling early in the season to strengthen your lawn. We continue our weekly mows at slightly longer lengths to let those blades access sunlight. We can help with fertilizing needs in both spring and fall to boost resilience during the hottest months. And if you decide you want more landscaping and less turf, we can help with great ideas and attractive features.