The spring of 2021 will go down in history as the driest spring season on record for most of the Northern Illinois and Southeast Wisconsin counites. As of mid-June, our local service area has only received about 2.5 inches of precipitation since March resulting in a severe drought distinction for the area. We usually average around 9 inches of rain during this time for most of our service area. In a typical year, our area turns dry, and lawns start suffering drought and heat stress in Mid-June, however this has already been happening since early May.
Lawn on left suffering from drought stress 2021
Watering is already needed for most lawns, and some have already gone dormant. With summer yet to start and another 90 days of typical dry and high soil temperatures, many lawns will be on the verge of serious damage this summer. Here are some ways that you can save or limit the damage to your lawn this summer:
Large droplet sprinkler
1. Begin watering regularly. Morning hours are the most ideal, however any moisture is better than ideal moisture in a drought. Avoid watering mid-day due to higher evaporation rates and loss.
2. Water to get 1 to 2 inches of precipitation per week. 1-2 inches to prevent dormancy and keep lawn from browning, 2-3 inches to revive a lawn if already dormant.
3. To get the 1-2 inches, water deeply for 30 to 60 minutes per area, twice a week. This time may need to be adjusted to generate a half inch to 1 inch per run time. Place a flat and wide pan or cup to measure how long it takes to accumlate for your specific sprinkler and water pressure.
4. For the grass, use a sprinkler that produces a larger, heavier droplet, not a misting or fine droplet sprinkler. Misting sprinklers evaporate faster and only wet the leaf tissue. The goal is to get the soil wet from root absorption.
5. Only mow if the lawn is over 4 inches tall. When mowing, don't mow to less than 3 inches. Keeping the lawn long will help retain more moisture and keep the lawn green.
6. Make sure mowing blades are sharp and only mow dry grass. Water as soon as possible after mowing to prevent stressing the lawn any further.
7. Minimize use of the lawn unless mowing or watering to prevent compaction. If using the lawn, water after traffic use.
8. Use only slow-release fertilizers and minimize Nitrogen rates during high heat and dry conditions.
9. Consider Hydra-Guard from Lawn Doctor. This service applies a hygroscopic and humectant compound that absorbs and retains more moisture from soil and air vapor, typically not available for the grass to absorb.
Lawn with Hydra-guard on left, nothing applied to lawn on right.