Lawn Watering

AMERICAN LAWN GUIDE

simple lawn care tips for greener healthier backyard lawns
Drought Tolerant Lawns

Many people wanting a lawn for their homes are faced with uncertainties around water restrictions, while some others want a low maintenance and low cost lawn requiring the least amount of effort, including watering. This is where having a Drought Tolerant Lawn becomes important.

There is nothing special or magical about lawns requiring less or even no additional watering other than the basics supplied by nature, and sometimes occasionally supplemented by us. A drought resistant lawn is simply choosing the right turf variety and then managing its growth and health for maximum drought resistance.

The Key Factors For Drought Resistant Lawns

There are several key factors which are required to create and maintain a Drought Resistant Lawn, these are:

  • Choosing the correct turf variety
  • Establishing and encouraging a deep root system
  • Mowing the lawn at a higher than average height

Drought Tolerant Grass Types

The first step in creating a Drought Tolerant Lawn is to choose the right grass variety. For warmer regions, these will include the Warm Season varieties of Zoysia, Centipede and Bahia. While for cooler climates, a Cool Season Grass like the Fescue family are the most drought tolerant.

Soil Preparation

These grass types can be established with both seed and sod, but it is highly important to put down a good foundation for the life of the lawn, the soil is where the lawn derives its health from and when trying to create a drought resistant lawn we need to give it every shot at optimum health and survival we can.

Excavate and remove the existing soil if its of poor quality and replace with a very high quality organic soil mixture formulated for lawns. If the existing soil will stay then test the pH level first, and adjust if necessary. Some organic fertilizers can be added and dug into the soil as well. Level the area as required and lay the sod or seed.

When To Plant A Drought Resistant Lawn

The best time to plant a Drought Tolerant Lawn is the early Fall. The stressful heat of Summer is finished and grass is still actively growing so that it can establish itself and it's root system. The greatest benefit to planting in Fall is that lawns are now preparing themselves for Winter - they do this by slowing down green leaf growth and spending more energy creating a nice deep root system

Early Lawn Establishment

Do not add any additional chemical fertilizers to the turf too soon, wait at least 2 months before fertilizing.

Once the lawn has been seeded or sodded we still need to keep the ground moist at all times until the root system has developed. Once the root system has become established we now need to train the roots to go deeper. This is very easy.

Essentially we need to keep gradually reducing water to the lawn, over time the lawn will react like every other plant and send it's roots down far deeper into the soil , this is below the evaporation level and the soil is always moist, even in Summer. This is where we need our drought tolerant lawn to eventually get it's water from.

So slowly keep reducing watering as much as possible, always monitoring the health of the sod. Water less often but for longer periods - this encourages deeper roots. It's OK for the sod to dry out a little - it's only when it begins showing more stressful signs that we may need to give it a nice deep water.

Eventually we aim to stop all watering unless the lawn is ever in deep stress and needs a little extra help. Remember the key is to water deeply and infrequently.

Mowing A Drought Tolerant Lawn

Lawn mowing heights for these lawn types should be set as high as possible for the lawn type. This is done for two reasons, it keeps high levels of photosynthesis occurring which is very good for the lawn, and it shades the soil from excessive loss of moisture from heat evaporation.

These lawns also need to be mowed regularly, so we never remove more than one third of the green leaf. Mowing regularly is very good for lawns because it encourages good, healthy green leaf growth, but apart from this - when any more than a third of the green leaf is removed at any one time, the lawn can go into a state of shock, this is definitely something we don't want to happen with a drought resistant lawn.

Summary

While it may not be possible for everyone to create a true No Water Lawn, we can all create a far less water dependant and drought resistant lawn. Always continue to monitor the health of the lawn, and add some water only when absolutely necessary, and always follow the key principles required for these lawn types.

  • Choosing the correct turf variety
  • Establishing and encouraging a deep root system
  • Mowing the lawn at a higher than average height