What steps can you take to care for your lawn during drought?
It’s been an odd kind of summer so far in the UK this year. In the south east of the country, there have been long periods of glorious sunshine and mini heatwaves. Of course, the UK weather is always unpredictable, especially in summer so this weird pattern doesn’t come as much of a surprise and hotter dryer weather may be the shape of future summers to come. However, for your lawn, it’s not good news.
This is especially true in those drawn out periods of sun, heat and very little, if any rain. What’s worse is that it’s not uncommon for water companies to impose a hosepipe ban during weather like this, so it’s even more difficult to care for your lawn and keep it healthy.
But while it may be difficult, there are some things you can do to keep your lawn as well maintained as possible through hot weather or drought.
What Drought Does To Your Lawn
It can feel like a real blow when a hosepipe ban is issued. All that hard work you have put into your lawn is about to come undone. But you should keep in mind that these bans come into force for very good reason.
In a period of drought, there is a real risk that water reserves will run low and saving what little water there is for personal use (drinking and washing, for example) is far more important than giving it to your garden. Yes, I know that’s a bitter pill to swallow, but swallow it we must!
The good news is that if you follow the measures I’m going to talk about in this guide, there’s a very high chance that your grass will make a full recovery. But let’s first take a quick look at what to expect when drought happens.
Your lawn needs water to thrive but different parts of the lawn need it more than others. When there isn’t a lot of water available, any that is there will be directed to the roots which will help to keep the grass alive for as long as possible. You might think of this as a survival mechanism.
The problem is that the tips of the lawn; the bits you see on the surface, will quickly dry out. The result of this is a lawn that is no longer lush and green but one that is straw-like and brown.
How severe these issues are will depend on the type of grass you are growing. Bent and fescue species seem to have problems a lot sooner than deep-rooted grasses like ryegrass. Luckily, ryegrass is the most common type here in the UK, but when the weather gets hot and dry for long periods, it also struggles for survival.
How To Take Care Of Your Lawn During Drought
So, the time has come and you need to give your lawn as much protection as possible during a period of drought. It might feel intimidating and almost like an impossible task. After all, what’s a healthy lawn without water?
But don’t panic. I have a few tricks up my sleeve that I like to stick to when my lawn is suffering from a lack of water.
Don’t Walk On The Grass
It’s hard enough for your grass to grow well when there’s a lack of water. If you use the lawn then you’ll only exacerbate this through soil compaction and grass damage. This means avoiding walking on the grass and not using any garden furniture or toys on it.
Don’t Cut The Grass As Short
There are a lot of homeowners that love a short, well maintained lawn but this isn’t going to do it any favours when the weather is uber hot.
If the lawn is kept a little longer, the blades will hold onto moisture for longer which is clearly better for its health. So, crank up that cutting height and settle for a slightly longer lawn than usual. Around 3cm to 4cm should be more than enough.
Use The Mulching Plug
A lot of lawn mowers come with a mulching blade and plug and if yours does, now is the time to use it. I’d always suggest mulching your lawn from time to time regardless of drought as it gives it a serious nutrient boost. But when the grass is struggling, mulching is a no brainer.
Not only will the mulched grass clippings provide additional nutrients, but they’ll also deliver extra moisture to the lawn. On top of this, that thin layer of mulch will offer protection from the heat of the sun.
Provide Shade For The Lawn
There will be some spots on your lawn that are more susceptible to sun damage than others. When there is also a lack of moisture, these areas will suffer all the more. But by simply installing a shade or parasol, you can provide additional protection and prevent as much damage to the lawn.
Don’t Water At The Hottest Times Of The Day
While you might not be able to use the hose pipe or sprinkler, you may get away with filling a watering can and tackling those problem areas. If you have a water butt in the garden, this is a time that all that collected rainwater will become invaluable.
But if you are going to do this, avoid watering during the hottest part of the day. It’s best to water the lawn first thing in the morning, or later in the day once the sun has started to dip down. This will stop the water evaporating too fast which can lead to it becoming scorched.
Feed The Lawn Properly
While the grass may not be getting all of the water it requires, you can make sure that it doesn’t lack nutrients. This will help to make sure that the roots remain strong.
However, choose your fertiliser carefully as things like weed and feed will do more harm than good in super hot weather, likely scorching the lawn.
Leave Weeds Where They Are
I know this is really annoying and it’s hard to resist the temptation to pull up weeds, but resist you must!
Weeds are hardy little so and so’s and their roots are often much longer than those of the grass so they’ll usually thrive, even in more difficult conditions. If there are too many, they can also take nutrients from the lawn which is why it’s usually important to get rid of them.
But during drought, pulling them up is only going to disturb the surrounding soil. The problem? It’ll dry out even quicker and this isn’t going to do the lawn any favours. While weeds aren’t great for it, they’re the best of a bad situation right now.
Reviving The Lawn After The Drought Period Ends
Once the drought period is over, you’ll need to give your lawn some TLC. Autumn is the best time to do this as you can be pretty much certain that there won’t be any more long dry spells. What’s great about doing this extra work now is that it will not only help the lawn to recover but it’ll likely be more resistant to drought in the future.
Start by overseeding any areas that have become sparse during the hot weather. However, make sure that you avoid using any products like fertilisers or weed killers. It’s best to let the grass recover and do these treatments the following spring.
How Can I Prevent Drought Problems With My Lawn?
There’s nothing you can do to stop drought, it’s a problem that anyone taking care of a lawn is going to face. However, what you can do is make your lawn as resistant as possible and ensure that it won’t suffer when drought does occur.
It’s simple really; keep your lawn healthy and it’ll reward you by being resistant even when the conditions are less than ideal. Having a strict lawn care routine is a great place to start and there are different jobs that need to be done at different times of the year. Not only will this make the lawn more drought resistant, but even when it does experience problems, it’ll recover much more quickly.
When you sow a new lawn, try to do this around September as the soil will still be warm enough to aid germination without the risk of drought. However, if you’re laying turf, you can do this any time over autumn or winter, right through until March. Moreover, lawns laid during this time won’t need as much water though the summer so if there is a drought, there will be fewer problems.
Nobody wants their beautiful green lawn to dry out and look unhealthy. But when there is a drought or hot weather, there is often not much you can do, especially if a hosepipe ban prevents you from watering the lawn.
But all is not lost. There are some things you can do to make your lawn more resistant and allow it to recover from drought more easily.
Make sure not to use the lawn when it is lacking moisture and provide shade where possible. While you’ll still need to mow, cut the grass a little higher so it’s better able to retain water.
As a seasoned expert in the field of garden power tools, I have dedicated over a decade to working with and reviewing a wide variety of lawn mowers. My extensive experience has allowed me to gain a deep understanding of the benefits and limitations of different types of mowers and garden tools.
Over the years, I have honed my skills in writing informative articles and creating helpful videos for various blogs and publications. This has given me the ability to not only recognise what makes a good lawn mower, but also to help you choose the perfect garden tool for your specific needs and requirements.
With my wealth of knowledge and expertise, I am confident that I can provide you with valuable insights and recommendations when it comes to selecting the right lawn mower for your lawn. So, whether you're looking for a battery cordless, electric, petrol, or robotic mower, you can trust in my expertise to guide you towards the best option for your garden.