Caring for a Lawn in Areas with Water Restrictions

Did you know that you probably over water your lawn? Most lawns in the United States are watered more than they need, which consumes a vast amount of valuable water. This is more of a problem if you live in an area with water restrictions, but your lawn probably actually needs less water than you might think. Lawns do not need to be watered every day, or even every second day. It is actually better for your lawn to water it only occasionally, and to be more determined and targeted when you water. Your lawn will do just fine with less water than you think!

Here at Best of Machinery, we’ve put together a guide to caring for your lawn in areas with water restrictions. Below, you will find an introduction to some of the various different methods you can use to keep your lawn healthy, vibrant and attractive even when there are water restrictions in place in your area. If you are wondering how to look after your lawn during a drought, then look no further. Read on below to find out more!

Which Types of lawn need most care During Water Restrictions?

There are many different types of lawn and many different types of grass, and several of these need to be looked after in different ways during extreme conditions. Most standard grass lawns need to be looked after with special care measures during periods of dry weather. When the weather is hot and dry, lawn grasses are likely to stop growing and may well dry out and start to brown. This is particularly a problem when the entire top 4 inches of topsoil dries out, which is harder to deal with when there are water restrictions in place.

General garden lawns, particularly those planted with hardy grasses such as fescues, might be able to survive droughts relatively well, but ornamental lawns will suffer much more badly during periods of water restrictions. If your lawn is planted with fine grasses such as bent type varieties, then its resilience will be much lower than that of a coarser fescue lawn. If you look after your lawn carefully, though, then it should recover relatively rapidly in the autumn once the rains start up again.

In extended periods of drought, or dry seasons in which the lawn is not well cared for, then the grasses can become weakened and their roots weaker. This can lead to sparser coverage, and the grass being replaced with weeds and moss when the rain begins. This can be frustrating and expensive to repair and recover, and it is a problem that is likely to become more of a problem in the future due to climate change.

In the future, summers are likely to become hotter and drier, and water will be too scarce for regular lawn watering. That means that the issue of caring for lawns in areas with water restrictions will become more difficult and relevant to more people in the near future!

Types of Grass

There are two major types of grass used in lawns. These are cool-season grasses and warm-season grasses, and they cope differently with different levels of water and temperature. In general, cool-season grasses lose more water from their leaves and are better suited for cool weather and high humidity. This means that they can suffer badly in hot, dry weather, often using up around 50% more water per day than equivalent warm-season grasses.

If you live in an area with water restrictions, then it is a good idea to plant your lawn with water-conserving grass varieties. The Turfgrass Water Conservation Alliance (TWCA) keeps a registry of certified water-conserving grass varieties, which is well worth investigating if you live in one of these areas.

All TWCA certified varieties, both warm and cool season, have been rigorously tested to ensure that they have significant tolerance to drought. Many of these can save you up to 30% on water used for watering your lawn, with no loss of quality, appearance, or texture!

Preventing Damage

It is obviously impossible to prevent a drought from happening, but there are certain steps you can take to prevent the drought from damaging your lawn when it inevitably strikes. Let us take a look at a few good options for preventing drought from damaging your lawn grass as much as possible.

If your lawn is healthy when the drought strikes, then it has a much better chance of surviving without too much damage. If it is already in poor shape, then things are only going to get worse, however. That means you are going to need to look after the soil of your lawn, as healthy soil leads to healthy grass. Regularly maintaining your lawn across the year can help it to resist drought and recover from damage as quickly and strongly as possible.

September is a good time to sow new lawns, as the soil is likely to be warm enough to encourage rapid germination and growth so the grass can get established before winter. Turf is easier to plant, as it already has roots in place, so it can be laid any time from September through to March. As long as your lawn is well established by April, it should be tough and stable enough to survive the summer heat.

Mowing

A good idea during hot, dry weather is to mow your grass to a slightly higher height than you would in other situations. Letting the grass grow a little longer keeps it stronger and sturdier, and encourages deeper and healthier root growth. It is also recommended that you let the cut grass clippings lie on your lawn instead of collecting them.

Loose clippings act similarly to mulch, protecting the ground beneath and slowing down the evaporation of water. If the clippings are too long, though, they will smother the grass and cause damage, so it is important to ensure that you only trim a little off the top of the grass at any one time.

Watering

A standard hose and sprinkler set up can use around 1000 liters of water per hour. That is about the same amount of water that one person would typically use up in a whole week! As such, it is important to minimize your mains water use for watering your lawn, as this can put a major strain on your area’s water supplies. If you live in an area with water restrictions, then you will probably be fully barred from using mains water to water your lawn, or at the very least, required to have a water meter fitted.

Reducing watering is the most important thing you can do in areas with water regulations in place, and your lawn will actually survive limited watering better than you might think. When you water your lawn, you might think that doing it little and often might be the best answer. This is not the case, though, and it can actually cause more problems for your lawn long term.

Shallow watering encourages the roots of the grass plants to spread shallowly, making them more susceptible to drought damage. If you water occasionally and heavily, however, then the water will penetrate deeply into the ground, encouraging the grassroots to grow downwards into a layer of soil that won’t dry out as easily as the top layers!

Looking after the Grass

When the weather is hot and dry, and you are in an area with water restrictions, you will want to do everything you can to reduce strain on the grass. When it is dry and tired, it will struggle to recover from damage, so reducing that damage as far as possible can make a significant difference. The best thing you can do to look after the grass is to avoid walking on it.

Your feet bruise and flatten the grass, and compact the soil down into a more solid mass that roots can struggle to grow through.  Avoiding walking on the grass prevents it from getting bruised and damaged, and reduces the amount of maintenance and repair needed to keep the grass intact and healthy.

Restoring a Damaged Lawn

If you have had a hot, dry summer and your lawn has suffered as a result, then you are probably going to want to repair the damage as quickly as possible. Fortunately, the autumn after a hot, dry summer is the perfect time to renovate and maintain your lawn. Taking care of it at this point will help your lawn to recover, and also make it stronger and better able to resist drought if the next summer is similarly difficult.

Seed any patchy areas of your lawn generously using an appropriate seed mixture. Avoid using weed killers or feeds at this point, and save them until the following spring, once the lawn has recovered a bit. Water it heavily and occasionally, and avoid cutting it until the grass has recovered enough to survive mowing without any risk of shock and death.

Conclusion

With a bit of care and attention, taking care of your lawn in areas with water restrictions doesn’t have to be difficult. Once you have got a good handle on what your lawn actually needs, you will learn that it is actually relatively simple to care for. Lawns don’t need as much water as most people believe, and recognizing this fact can massively reduce your water consumption, bills, and stress levels without having too much of an impact on how your lawn looks.

If you are looking to plant a new lawn in an area with water regulations, look for a variety of grass certified as water-conserving in order to make your life easier. If you have already got an established lawn, though, then don’t worry! Lawn maintenance with reduced water is entirely practical for most types of grass!

About the Author

Bob Robinson has been a tool enthusiast and lawn care expert for the past 11 years. First working with John Deere to reduce their impact on the environment, whilst building his love for writing in his spare time. Now, Bob runs the editorial team at BestofMachinery and tends to his garden in his spare time.

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