How to Make Your Lawn Drought Resistant
While drought is an unfortunate fact of life that most of us have to deal with, there are steps you can take to help make your lawn drought resistant.
As of the 10th of December, Level 2 Water Restrictions will be effective across Sydney, the Blue Mountains and the Illawarra regions, which will mean even further reduced lawn watering allowances.
While drought is an unfortunate fact of life that most of us here in Australia have to deal with, you can help prepare your lawn to survive the tough drought conditions.
What happens to your lawn during a drought
During long periods of drought, as the soil underneath your turf becomes drier, the plant roots need to work harder to extract water.
At this point, you will notice your lawn go into a state of dormancy where it is protecting itself by shutting down tissue growth to preserve moisture loss.
What you may not know is that many turf varieties used in Australia can handle staying in dormancy for approximately 3-4 weeks, without beginning to deteriorate to the point of death.
How to train your lawn to survive extended periods of drought
Before the drought
To help make existing lawns drought resistant, implementing the right kind of maintenance 30 to 45 days prior to an expected period of drought or excessively hot time of year – can have a real impact on your lawn’s survivability.
To make your lawn drought resistant, (and prepare it for water restrictions) the idea is to make it as strong and healthy as possible before the harsh conditions hit.
Here’s how to help existing lawns;
1) Help water to penetrate to the roots
Aerating is an important step in improving the ability for water to penetrate to the roots, allowing your lawn to be able to best take advantage of water when it does become available.
Aerating before the extended drought period hits will also improve moisture in the soil where it is needed, during the next dry spell.
Also, help your lawn to absorb all the moisture available to it by removing any dead thatch or other debris from its surface.
2) Make sure your soil is well fed
Healthy, well-fed soil is one of the keys to helping your lawn be drought resistant.
Before a long period of drought hits, reduce or eliminate nitrogen fertiliser and increase potassium fertiliser.
Also, avoid using herbicides and pesticides. Organic matter like grass clippings (though not too many as this can suffocate your lawn) will help to minimise water loss and keep the soil cool.
To learn more about grass clippings and your lawn, click here.
3) Establish a regular mowing routine
It is best before a period of drought to mow regularly so that you don’t stress your grass plant out.
Aim to follow the standard 1/3 rule. This means that you don’t cut more than 1/3 of the leaf blade off when you mow.
For example, if your lawn grows to 30mm, only cut off 10mm so it’s at 20mm. If you fail to do so, you may cut into the crown of the lawn and ‘scalp’ your lawn.
Tip: Don’t mow five times a week! This will also stress your lawn out. Aim for one or two times a week.
Wondering what the best type of mower for Sir Walter is? Read our article on this here.
4) Water your lawn properly!
This is the most important thing you will do to help make your lawn drought resistant!
The most effective way to water your lawn to train it to survive extended periods of drought is to water more deeply and less frequently.
Deeper, less frequent waters will encourage the growth of roots that can delve deeper down into the soil to find moisture.
So instead of watering for five minutes every day, swap this for watering to the point of pooling once or twice per week, to encourage deep root growth.
Keep in mind that this is also how to prepare your lawn for water restrictions.
TIP: In Summer it is best to water your lawn early in the morning, or late at night.
Helping your lawn survive during the extended drought period
Once the extended drought period hits, or once temperatures reach high levels for a week or more, take these additional steps to help your lawn survive:
1) Mow taller
Raising your mowing height by 25% or more is a great way to help your lawn retain some moisture whilst the drought period is in full swing.
If using a rotary mower, we recommend taking your cutting height up a few notches.
If you are using a reel mower, take the cutting height up 10mm or more if possible.
2) Stay off your lawn!
In the thick of our hot Aussie Summer conditions, your grass is already having a hard time surviving – so try to eliminate traffic on your lawn as much as possible.
The drier your lawn is, the more likely it is to be damaged easily and not be able to recover from heavy foot traffic.
3) Hand water ‘hot spots’
How to have a good lawn on water restrictions and during extreme periods of heat, could come down to restricting watering the areas that are most important to you.
Certain parts of our lawns can go drier a little more quickly and will require some extra attention.
If you have just a few sections of your lawn going particularly dry, hand water them instead of doing a full irrigation cycle.
This will help to save water, extend the time between irrigating your whole lawn and hopefully give these dry patches a chance to ‘catch up’ to the rest of your lawn’s health status.
Tip: To help extremely dry patches recover quicker, add a cap full of a wetting agent to your watering can beforehand watering.
We also have more tops tips on helping to keep your lawn in top condition during extended dry period here.
In the spirit of saving water, can also use greywater from sinks, showers or washing machines to hand water sections of your yard.
For more on how to help your lawn survive the Summer heat responsibly, click here.
While all of the above will certainly help your cause – remember that as we mentioned earlier in this article, many turf varieties used in Australia can handle staying in dormancy for approximately 3-4 weeks without beginning to deteriorate to the point of death.
So, help your lawn as best you can prior to and during tough drought conditions, but also accept that it is likely that it will become slightly brown and dormant until conditions improve.
That’s just the climate we live in here in Australia!
For tips on how to revive dehydrated or brown lawn, click here.
For more advice on how to prepare your lawn for water restrictions or make it drought resistant, give our friendly team at Cobbitty Lawn Turf a call today on (02) 4651 0000.