Drought and your lawn and landscape.



Straw brown areas of turf are dormant and could be skipped.  You still want to follow the 1/3rd rule when mowing, so areas that may still be green such as areas in the shade, North and East sides of buildings, and areas at the ends of down spouts should be spot mowed.  If you wait to mow these areas, you may remove too much leaf tissue when you do decide to mow, which could stress the plant.  During hot dry periods some weeds such as warm season grasses (crabgrass, foxtail, etc.), prostrate spurge, and purslane can grow very well. While the grass is dormant these weeds can easily begin to take over.  Use spot mowing to keep the weeds in check and to remove seed heads.  Mow at a height of 3”-3.5”.

Kentucky Bluegrass can go many weeks without being watered.  The plant will go dormant on its own to conserve energy and make it through the dry times.  Either choose to water the lawn to keep it green or just water it with about ½” of water every 2 weeks to keep the buds from drying out.  Avoid watering regularly and then abruptly stopping.  Bringing the grass in and out of dormancy can be tough on the plant.  The grass uses up a lot of stored carbohydrates to come out of dormancy.  Water your lawn in the early mornings.

We recommend continuing with your regularly scheduled lawn treatments.  The treatments will help to keep the warm season and spreading weeds from taking over while the lawn is dormant.   Use a slow release granular fertilizer while the grass is dormant.  This will supply the grass plant with nutrients which will help replenish carbohydrates used up as it comes out of dormancy.  During the drought of 1988, Iowa State did research and found that treatments applied while the grass is dormant DID NOT cause damage to the plants.  They also found that when the grass came out of dormancy in the fall, the turf that was treated showed benefits of the treatments over areas that did not receive treatments.  Some of this information is on the Iowa State Turf Blog.  We also have a link to this blog from our Hawcott Lawn Service facebook page


  • The grass plant will generally have some thinning or die-off once it comes out of dormancy.  We would strongly recommend overseeding the turf areas this fall.  Overseeding will help keep the turf thick and able to compete with weeds. 
  • Areas that dried out quickly, contain sandy soils, and areas with poor soil structure would benefit from a compost topdressing.  Compost is full of organic matter which helps to better hold moisture in the soil.
  • Core aeration will always help to improve conditions by reducing stress on the grass plant.


Keep an eye on the plants in your landscape.  Any plant that has been installed within the last few years should be getting watered several times a week.  Try to provide the plant with at least 1” of water per week with several longer duration slow soaking waterings.  Any plant in the landscape or tree on the site can benefit from a nice soaking.  Plants that are water stressed may show wilting or curling leaves, premature fall coloring, and leaf drop.  It is a good idea to check plants daily as plants can dry out quickly with hot windy days and little humidity.  When watering the plants avoid spraying the foliage.  Water at the base of the plant.

Watch your water features.  The abnormally hot dry weather may cause fountains, falls, and ponds to drop their water levels.  The lower water levels may cause the pumps to run dry or with lower water amounts which could damage the pumps.  Check the water feature every couple days and monitor the water flow and add water as needed.



  • Monitor the plants on your site more closely and water when you see signs of stress.
  • Mulch around tree rings and beds to a depth of 3” to help better hold moisture.  Mulch also helps to insulate the root zone of the plants from the extreme heat.
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