The Midwest is suffering through the worst drought in the last half a century. It has wiped out entire crops and sent commodity prices for soybeans and corn to record highs. The year before the South suffered similar conditions that dried up entire rivers and shrunk lakes. So what is the average homeowner to do to keep a garden and lawn healthy during these times of rain despair?
What NOT to do during a Drought
- Fertilize – It may seem like the perfect time to fertilize is when the lawn or garden is suffering from lack of water. However, fertilizer can actually “burn” plants when it is dry and possibly lead to disease. Chemical fertilizers are composed of mineral salts that are intended to work in combination with water. Without water the buildup of salts will create a drying effect and further damage the lawn and garden.
- Water Everyday – This point may seem the oddest. You would think keeping the plants consistently watered during a drought would be productive. But, the ground is harder to penetrate when it is dry. The light daily sprinkling will not reach the plant’s roots and promote weed growth and disease. Instead of watering daily, water two times a week for a longer period. Aim to add about an inch of water to help penetrate deeper into the soil. Set an empty tin can or small cup in the yard to verify an inch of water has been applied. And if you’re looking to conserve water, here’s some water smart landscaping tips.
- Water Overnight – The worst time to turn on the sprinklers is right before night. Water that doesn’t penetrate the soil will keep the surface moist and promote fungal growth. The best time to water is early morning right before the sun comes up.
What TO DO during a Drought
- Raise the Deck – Set the deck on the lawn mower to the maximum height to reduce the chances of stressing the grass. Letting the grass grow taller will also help to promote deeper root growth.
- Let the Grass go Dormant – Often times, during little rainfall, there are restrictions on water use for all homes in an the affected area. If you are not going to be able to water twice a week, then grass won’t be able sustain the heat. It is better to not water at all at this point and let the grass go dormant.
- Cater to Plant Types – Some plants and types of grass are well suited for dryer conditions. Sheep fescue, buffalo grass, and wheat grass are a few that have been designed to handle drought conditions. If you are in an area that frequently faces dry conditions, then consider a grass that is built to survive on little rainfall.
Pay close attention to the grass and plants around your house. If they start to turn yellow or brown, determine if the plant is able to go dormant or take measures to maintain it’s health. Try to keep traffic off of grass that has gone dormant and prepare for the next year. Make sure you are familiar with lawn care basics so you can react during tougher times.