Friday, July 27, 2007

Lawn and drought: how to keep the grass alive

Here's some great advice about drought and lawns from Kevin Frank, a turf expert at Michigan State University.
Many homeowners choose not to irrigate their lawn and about now the concern becomes whether or not the lawn might be suffering and possibly approaching death. For Kentucky bluegrass lawns (which are the majority of lawns in Michigan), there is usually no danger that the lawn is going to die unless water is lacking for six to eight weeks. However, there are really no hard fast numbers for predicting whether the turf will die as many other factors will come into play such as high temperatures and traffic.

Even if you are not an irrigator, it might be a good idea to give the turf a little water if the turf hasn’t received any water for a month. Apply about a 0.5 to 1.0 inch of water just to make sure the lawn makes it through this cycle of drought. The goal of this irrigation is not to turn it green, but just to prevent the turf from completely desiccating (severe drying out) and possibly death. If we continue in this dry spell, I would continue to give the turf a drink every three to four weeks.
His other tips:
  • Avoid mowing during the heat of the afternoon, which can result in tire tracks or foot prints on the lawn that may be visiable a long time.
  • Mow during cooler times of the day, early morning or evening, and keep the mowing height high.
I've been following this advice, just putting the sprinkler on the lawn areas near the house and my most important garden beds, and it does help the turf quite a bit. Unfortunately, we have a lot more lawn than that, so a lot of our grass has to weather the drought on its own.

You can find Kevin Frank's full article at the Michigan Landscape Alert: look for Drought stresses turf.

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