If you reside anywhere near the intermountain west, you likely see the same drought warnings. This year is looking to be another record low for water levels. This means that you will likely see it affecting your yards or gardens. The good news is you can start preparing your lawns now to take the heat this summer.
Training your lawn for the coming drought conditions is not as hard as you think. Start by observing your lawn regularly. By observing, I don’t mean looking at its color alone. Look for how it bends throughout the week. Is it looking wilty? Do the blades spring back after walking across it? If it takes longer than normal, it is time to water. In addition to its movement, a bluish color can also indicate a need for water.
When deciding when and how long to water, keep in mind that it is better to water deeply but infrequently. Your lawn has likely gotten used to being watered in cycles for a few minutes every other day.
This habit has created a shorter root zone to support your turf. Increasing the amount of time you water will allow more water to sink deeper into your soil.
You want to follow this method because the soil temperatures are much lower than that of the air. This means water is available in between your watering days. Follow watering deeply with infrequent follow-ups. Expanding the time between watering days will force your grass to develop deeper roots to chase the water left in your soil.
You will want to apply at least ½” of water over your turf area when you do water. To optimize the amount of water soaked up by your soils, limit watering between 3 am, and 8 am. It is best to water before sunrise as temperatures start rising after this point. If you are watering when the sun is up and temperatures are warming, some of the water being applied will evaporate before it gets the chance to soak into the ground.
To further help your grass survive the hot summer months, mow your lawn at higher settings. This will preserve a greater carbohydrate reserve your grass can access for nutrients and water storage.
Your lawn will likely begin to brown during the summer, as this is a regular habit when grass enters a dormancy due to high heat. The good news is the precautions you take early on will help it come back with life and green color when fall approaches and temperatures cool.