With climate change giving the Lower Mainland a Spring/Summer many weeks of heat, and little to no rain for weeks, many lawns will start to look dry especially if we get further watering restrictions. When drought is at its peak, many homeowners start to become more and more concerned with their brown and seemingly lifeless lawns.
But don’t panic; your lawn isn’t dead, it’s just dormant. The crown of your lawn is still alive, and as soon as rain hits and your lawn gets some much needed moisture, it’ll come alive again.
Lawn dormancy can look much worse than it actually is. When a lawn is stressed from extreme heat or lack
of water, the grass plant has a natural defense mechanism that kicks in to protect itself. In doing so, the lawn turns brown in colour conserving energy although it may appear dead. The lawn can stay this way for several weeks and even months (depending on the grass species) before any permanent damage occurs.
Lawn dormancy is usually only temporary, and recovery naturally takes place as the stressful conditions lessen. Maintaining proper mowing and watering practices during stressful periods is important to limit any potential damage.
MOWING: Proper mowing includes cutting at a higher setting and reducing mowing frequency from weekly to bi-weekly and then only as required to reduce traffic on the lawns. Contour Landscaping changes the blades on their mowers every second day to ensure a nice clean cut every time.
WATERING: Lawns only need an inch of water per week to stay very healthy in dry conditions. Following lawn watering restrictions of once or twice per week to achieve this is perfect. If you are unable to do this and drought goes beyond the 4 weeks, apply enough water to re-hydrate the grass slightly and wet the soil down to a 5-inch (12.5 cm) depth. This will not green up the turfgrass in most cases, but will keep the plant alive.
FERTILIZING: During dormancy caused by heat or drought, avoid excessive fertilization. The dormant turfgrass is not actively bringing in large quantities of nutrients. Excessive nitrogen applications before or during a drought can promote top growth at the expense of rooting activity and cause injury to the turfgrass plant.
WEED CONTROL: Some weeds thrive during reduced water situations because of large tap roots that can hold water. A broadcast application of herbicide can further stress the dormant turfgrass. Instead, spot treat these weeds with an herbicide or remove the weeds by hand.
USE: Because the turfgrass is dormant it is not able to readily repair itself so reduce traffic on the lawn as much as possible. Avoid any activity on the turfgrass during the heat of day. Foot traffic and even lawn mowers can injure the turfgrass plants and cause almost immediate dehydration.
REHYDRATING: When cooler, wetter weather returns, water deeply to restore soil moisture. This will wash dust off the leaves, rehydrate the dormant crowns and buds, and initiate root growth.