Whether it be the heat of Summer combined with water restrictions, or if it be lack of water due to mild drought conditions, the results for our lawns can be much the same… a lawn which is often dry, brown and dying off. Yet while some lawns seem to be the worst for wear under these low water conditions, we will also occasionally see lawns which can still be green - while the neighbouring lawns around are otherwise brown. The answer to this mystery is rather a simple one, and its based on two possible factors…
The differences between lawn types, and even between different brands of turf in the same grass family can be immense in their quality factors. One of these factors is of course drought tolerance. Which includes a lawn's ability to stay green for longer during low water conditions, as well as a lawn's ability to repair itself with success and speed after drought conditions have ended.
This is a very lengthy topic to go into, so we won't broach this subject any further here, except to say that if you have a lawn type, or lawn brand which is not highly rated in drought tolerance, then it may just be a fact to accept that we will always struggle with these lawns during low water conditions.
However, there's still no reason to give up all hope, we can still do our best to ensure that no matter what lawn type we own, that we can ensure that it is as resilient as possible under water restrictions or drought conditions.
The real key to having a drought tolerant lawn lays almost solely in how we water our lawns throughout the year, while having little to do with how we can water our lawns under low water conditions.
The way most of us water our lawns is that we have our set watering days - and its on those days that we water our lawns, and this is actually not the best way to water our lawns at all, and will most certainly not create a drought tolerant lawn.
The reason for this is that when we apply water to our lawns so often, the lawn roots never have to reach very far into the topsoil in search of the water they need to survive. So this type of lawn watering is creating a very shallow root system. And its when our lawns have a shallow root system that we really get into a lot of trouble with bad lawn health during the hotter months. The top soil dries off quickly in the Summer - the lawn roots begin to die off from lack of moisture - and so our lawn begins to die.
Instead, what we really want to do is to train our lawn's root system to go as deep into the soil as is possible, past the top evaporation zone of the topsoil, and into the lower depths of the soil which are generally more moist all year round.
So our first job is to forget the way we used to water our lawns, and to start watering them properly.
Lets forget about watering the lawn on our watering days!! And when we say that, we're not asking anyone to break to law and water on other days of the week, but to forget about watering on each of our assigned watering days. Also forget about any other set routines we may have for watering our lawns.
Its time to let our lawns tell us when they want a drink, instead of vice versa.
So step number one is to stop watering our lawns.
Step number two is to enjoy our lawns, to get out onto our lawns with our kids, have a walk around a few times a week after work, kick a ball, whatever it is doesn't matter, just enjoy the lawn a few times a week for at least a few minutes.
Step number three is easy… when we're out enjoying our lawns - we'll naturally notice how our lawn's health is going. If the lawn is beginning to look as though its losing some colour in the leaf, or if the leaf of the lawn is beginning to wilt…
The lawn is telling us it needs a drink, and its now time to water our lawn.
Do not just give the lawn a light drink of water at this time. We want to give the turf a nice big drink of water that will penetrate deep into the soil structure.
When we water this way - the lower soil beneath the top soil will then retain enough moisture to keep the lawn in good health during dry spells or when under water restrictions.
But this will only work if the lawn has a deep root system.
Lets quickly explain how this watering system works to make a drought tolerant lawn.
If we water often - the lawn creates a shallow root system which is highly prone to drying off and killing our lawns at great speed whenever hot weather and low water availability occur at the same time - ie: drought conditions.
When we deprive the lawn of water for longer periods of time throughout the year - the lawn will naturally send down deeper and deeper roots - which travel way past the upper evaporation zone in the top soil.
Once these deep roots are set in place and hot weather arrives - the lawn still has a readily available water supply from the deeper soil depths which do not dry out in the heat.
And voila - our neighbour lawns with their shallow root systems are suffering - while our lawns are still green, or at minimum will be in far better health than other lawns.
The sign we look out for to water - the wilting and slightly drying lawn leaf is the lawn telling us its searched deep in the soil for moisture and is now running out of available water… and so we water.
We must give the lawn a deep drink of water whenever we do water. Otherwise we're back to only watering the topsoil, and still creating the same shallow root system.
Our overall aim will be to water our lawns far less often throughout the entire year, so although we'll be using more water at each watering - we will be watering far less often than before. So our water usage throughout the year will be far lower than if we were to water the old fashioned way.
This watering system must be utilised all year round.