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Diagnosing Dry Stress on the Lawn

Is Your Lawn Dry?

As we make our way through June, the days are only getting warmer. While warm weather is great for beach days and spending time outdoors, it’s not always the best thing for your lawn. 

How do I know if my lawn is suffering from heat stress in Austin, TX?

When the weather gets hot and dry, lawns start to change in appearance. You may have noticed changes in your lawn that include:

  • A previously green lawn that has taken on a blue or grey tinge.

  • Wheel marks or footprints that are left in the lawn after being mowed or walked on, that do not bounce back quickly.

These qualities may indicate signs of heat stress. Unfortunately, now is the time of year when many residential lawns are beginning to show significant signs of summer stress—but don’t panic! Heat stress is temporary. 

Is my lawn dead?

If your lawn is suffering from heat stress, there’s no need to worry. While the grass may appear to be dead, it is still very much alive. It's in a dormant state, otherwise known as ‘survival mode.’ This occurs when water supply to the grass blade is blocked, which is done by the plant in order to preserve moisture in the roots. 

So, how long can the grass survive in a dormant state? The answer to this question varies, as it can depend on conditions such as temperature and sun exposure. As a general rule of thumb, however, most lawns can survive 4-5 weeks in a state of dormancy. Beyond this point, many grass types will start to die off without water.  

What can I do about heat stress on my lawn?

Homeowners should know that deep watering can prolong their lawn’s ‘survival mode’ and therefore promote lawn health. Generally, grass needs 1-1.5 inches of water weekly. As such, your watering schedule should be based on deep and infrequent watering. It should also be flexible with current weather conditions. 

So when should you water your lawn? In normal conditions, watering should always be done early in the morning, as evening watering can promote the spread of disease. However, if your lawn is drought-stressed, it is best practice to water it as soon as you can. The goal of watering is to replace what rainfall does not supply—a practice which is usually necessary during these hot summer months.

Remember that watering the lawn in summer drought conditions can be expensive, and sometimes it might even be illegal. It is important to refer to your local watering restrictions in order to ensure that you are abiding by the law when watering your lawn this summer. 

Is there anything else I should note?

There are a few other tips you may find relevant if you are dealing with heat stress:

  • Weed Control: Weed control products can be tough on a lawn when it is drought stressed. For homeowners living in areas with pesticide restrictions, iron-based weed control can temporarily blacken the grass. For these reasons, your lawn care professional may suspend planned weed control or choose to spot treat weeds instead to minimize additional stress.

  • Clay Soil: In hot, dry conditions, clay soils can become rock hard, to the point where water cannot penetrate them. Lawns with clay soils should be aerated at least once per season in order to alleviate this as much as possible.

  • Sandy Soil: Homeowners with sandy soils may find that it is hard for the lawn to retain moisture in the summer. However, there are steps that can be taken to improve water retention, such as mulching grass clippings (as opposed to bagging), or top dressing the lawn with triple mix soils.

Mowing: Proper mowing can have a huge impact on the appearance of your lawn. Be sure to never mow more than ½ of the grass blade at a time, and to always mow with a razor-sharp blade.

Brought to you by Weed Man Austin, TX Lawn Care, we care for your lawn!