Tips for caring for your lawn in the drought

Many homeowners view green grass as a sign of a healthy lawn – and a way to improve the curb appeal of their home. Drought-like conditions and restrictions on water usage, however, can leave grass brown and brittle. While it may not be possible to have a lush, green lawn during a drought, there are a number of ways to care for your lawn during hot and dry weather.

Identifying drought stress

While color is an obvious clue that grass is not receiving enough water, the following are some other ways to identify drought stress in your lawn:

  • Footprints and tracks. As lawns lose moisture, footprints and tracks from lawn mowers will stay visible. This is caused by a lack of moisture that prevents grass from springing back upright after being pushed down.
  • Blades of grass will begin to visibly wilt, rolling or folding as they lose additional water content.
  • As lawns begin to experience grass stress, colors will change from vibrant green to dull grey, yellow, or brown. Once grass begins to turn tan it has entered drought-induced dormancy; this is a last-ditch attempt by the grass to survive the heat by shutting down. The dormancy is also seen in lawns in areas where temperatures drop below freezing in the winter.

Lawn care during a drought

How you care for your yard during a drought affects the health of the grass – as well as the curb appeal of your home. The following tips can help keep your lawn healthy during drought-like conditions.

  1. Raise mower blades – or stop cutting. Avoid cutting grass too short during a drought. Raise mower blades to prevent cutting grass too short; this can cause unnecessary stress on the root systems. Cutting grass to 3-4 inches keeps the root system intact while helping to shade the ground. If the grass has turned brown and entered dormancy, stop mowing to avoid permanently damaging the grass.


  1. Have a watering plan —Even light watering will can help keep plants alive – and assist in their recovery when the drought ends. Avoid using automated systems, which are known to waste water and may not water all areas of the lawn evenly. Instead, manually water the grass, making sure to follow regulations regarding time of day and water usage.


  1. Balance the landscape—If your grass has entered dormancy, it can be hard to look at a yard full of brown grass every day. Instead, balance the landscape with shrubs, trees, and beds to make the most out of your outdoor spaces. Choose native and drought resistant plants to minimize watering needs – and maximize the chances of your plants surviving the drought.


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