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Understanding Heat and Drought Stress

Ensure your lawn can stand up to this hot-weather issue with our breakdown

Just as high temperatures can be dangerous to people, grass can also be a victim. While we can feel symptoms firsthand, detecting and dealing with them for our turf can be more complicated. Here’s what you need to know and do for the best-possible warm-weather lawn outcomes.

What Exactly Is Heat/Drought Stress?

Heat and drought stress occur when grass can’t cool and sustain itself with the water it has access to. As a result of heat and drought stress, a lawn will stop photosynthesis and transpiration (exhaling water vapor) to further retain water. Unfortunately, this creates nutritional issues for grass which fertilizers can’t fix and, in worst-case scenarios, can result in permanent wilting.

What Does Heat and Drought Stress Look Like?

Wilting is only one visual clue for lawn heat/drought stress. In fact, this condition is most often confused as a fungal issue, which makes dealing with lawn disease especially important this time of year. One tip is to examine your lawn first in the morning and then in the afternoon. If it looks fine in the morning, and then poor later in the day, heat and drought stress are the likeliest problems.

Visual giveaways include:

  • Grass blades that appear straw-like
  • A darker lawn color (whether throughout or in specific sections)
  • Visible footprints when stepped on
  • Leaf blades that are folded and thin looking

What Lawn Types Are Affected by Heat and Drought Stress?

Contrary to popular belief, even warm-season grasses like Bermuda and zoysia can experience heat/drought stress. While they’re certainly more tolerable than their cool-season counterparts and generally recover better than them, they don’t have immunity.

Dealing With Heat And Drought Stress On Your Lawn

The good news is that any turf will likely bounce back with cooler temperatures and rainfall. That said, you can definitely help encourage resistance and recovery through different means.

Water Effectively

Using best practices for watering your lawn can make a big difference. This includes:

  • Checking how different water amounts work for different parts of your lawn and adjusting your levels accordingly
  • Staying flexible with your watering schedule, making sure to water less around predicted rainfall and more when especially hot weather is incoming
  • Water in the early morning to ensure most of it isn’t lost to evaporation

Maintain Your Lawn’s Overall Health

All lawn types are more susceptible to stress when they’re growing in poor conditions. To encourage optimal health, consider the following maintenance practices:

    • Deal with weeds that can otherwise take away water from your grass
    • Improve your soil’s air and water intake with aeration
    • Mow at the highest recommended setting possible for your grass type:
      • Cool-season turf/fescue: 4”
      • Bermuda: 1.5”
      • Zoysia: 2.25” – 2.5”
      • Centipede: 1.75”
      • St. Augustine: 2.25”

    Transition to a Different Grass Type

    As a last resort, or if you’re already considering a change, a new grass type can potentially provide more resilience. Bermuda and zoysia for warm-season lawns and fescue and bluegrass for cool-season lawns are your best bets.

    Fairway Green Can Help With Heat and Drought Stress

    Heat and drought stress can be a headache, but Fairway Green can ensure your lawn is in fighting shape. Get started with a free lawn estimate today.