Stressed about your crispy, brown lawn or withering landscaping? Don’t be. Most types of grass can make it up to six weeks without water. And watering too often can actually do more harm than good.
“Instead of worrying about your lawn, focus on your trees – they’re probably in more trouble,” says Angie’s List Founder Angie Hicks. “Trees are more expensive to replace than grass, and they have a harder time bouncing back if they’re stressed by drought.”
These drought survival tips were compiled by Angie’s List, the nation’s leading provider of consumer reviews, based on advice from highly rated lawn specialists. Areas under lawn watering bans should follow those restrictions, of course.
1. Know your lawn: Different types of grass have different needs. Kentucky bluegrass, for example, will die if it goes without moisture for more than seven weeks or so. Other grasses, like ryegrass, can go longer without a drink.
2. Screw it or step on it: Use a screwdriver to test soil moisture levels. If you cannot easily spear the ground, the soil is too dry. You can forget the tool and just step on your grass too. If it springs back easily, it has plenty of moisture. If it doesn’t, it needs a drink.
3. Don’t grow lazy plants: Most lawns can survive up to six weeks without a drop of water. Watering daily can slow proper root development. Watering deeply once a week rather than a small amount every day will encourage longer, stronger roots.
4. Make a toast: To ensure you’re watering in the right place, in the right amount and at the right time, put an empty drinking glass in the middle of where your sprinklers reach. Stop watering when you can measure an inch in the glass. Use more glasses to cover large areas. In extreme heat, it’s better to water early. You’ll lose water to evaporation as the sun shines and watering at night can lead to fungus and plant disease.
5. Age matters: An exception to the deep and infrequent water rule should be made for plants less than 3 years in the ground. They may need up to 15 gallons of water, spread over a week.
6. Make friends with mulch: Mulch is among the most affordable and easy products to help your plants stay healthy. It does triple duty by limiting evaporation, letting moisture seep in slowly; and choking off weeds that can rob plants of water. It’s low maintenance, but not no-maintenance. Fluff the mulch after it’s laid on the ground a few months to keep it working well and looking good. Don’t mulch too closely to trees, though, as it can keep water from reaching roots.
7. The forest and the trees: Most homeowners focus on their withering lawns in extreme weather conditions, but few look up. And that’s a disservice to their trees. Trees need attention, too, and in extreme conditions likely need more attention than the grass. Twice weekly watering with a slow drip is recommended. Trees left too long without access to water have a much more difficult time bouncing back than grass does. Slow-drip watering bags for trees are an alternative to hand watering. Once filled, they will allow water to seep out for 3 to 5 days.
If your lawn and landscaping is in dire need of help, there are lots of professionals qualified and happy to help. Do your research to find the right service for your needs, Hicks said.
Angie’s List Tips: Hiring a lawn care company
- Check with Angie’s List to see what your neighbor have to say about the lawn care contractors in your area.
- Beware of any company or product that promises a quick cure. Remember your lawn is a growing plant. If it is weak and damaged it will take longer to recover.
- Make sure the lawn care company meets state and local certifications or licensing requirements, if warranted.
- The federal government requires those who apply certain chemicals to control weeds, insects or diseases to be certified pesticide applicators. If they can’t provide documentation, find another company.
- Membership or certification by industry groups, such as state’s landscape or nursery association, demonstrates participation in professional development programs.
- Any changes to the contract should be in writing with copies of any amendments signed by all parties.
- Good lawn care companies will offer tips and suggestions about caring for and maintaining your landscaping.
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