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Helping your lawn beat the drought

Grassclippings - Lawn SprinklerYou do not need to be a rocket scientist to notice that the weather has been a little dry of late - lots of brown almost drought ridden grasses and fairways.  With only 3mm of rain so far in April, hardly surprising!

Grass mown at a regular interval will always be so much browner than the roadside verge. The Local Authority love a drought as it means that they do not have to mow the verges or lawns as much thus reducing their quota of cuts per annum, saving them money overall.

The worst thing you can actually do to a lawn is to water it daily especially when the natural water deficit will be so great from the natural evapro-transpiration process of the millions of turf grasses that make up your lawn. Each dry, sunny and windy day the actual benefit of artificial watering will be lost to the atmosphere.

The BBC Weather web site details that a drought in the UK used to be defined as 15 consecutive days with less than 0.25mm rain on any one day, but this regimented definition was abandoned in the mid-80's after running into problems. Different organisations couldn't decide whether the drought had ended or not, so it seemed easier if each made their own definitions.

It is far more sensible to judge each drought on its own merits...
Not many people mourned for the end of the strict definition, as it was always coming under scrutiny. If after 20 days there is 0.26mm rain, is the drought officially over? If there is less than 0.25mm rain for 30 days is that 2 droughts? It is far more sensible to judge each drought on its own merits and even then it is always hard to determine whether a drought has ended.

The fuzzy logic of a drought is a bit like a bank account. If you keep emptying it without putting any money back into it, then the source of funds will dry up. If the water loss from a lawn is greater than the water it receives, either naturally via rain or artificially via a lawn sprinkler, then the water and moisture will dry up, like the money in the bank account. Pray for a rain shower, I hear you cry!

The important aspect of turf care is to minimize the amount of fertiliser and selective weed killer applications made to a drought stressed lawn. Weeds will always thrive in a drought and grass will naturally turn brown to preserve water, the rolled Fescue grasses the best able to withstand a drought. It is important to stop mowing the lawn during a drought or to at least change the frequency of mowing and to raise the lawn mower up a setting or two until the rains come and healthy grass growth resumes.

So how do you get a lawn to recover from a drought? If the lawn has been fertilised every three months ahead of a drought developing, aerate the lawn as soon as regular rain arrives to ease compaction and to aid percolation through the dry crusty lawn surface. Use a solid tine aerator. Then apply a good lawn fertiliser to boost growth and to aid recovery. Use a lawn fertiliser high in Potassium. Once the lawn has returned to it's normal glory, apply a selective weed killer to control the finer leaved Clovers and Trefoils.

You may choose to lightly scarify a lawn after a drought. This mechanical action will remove some of the dead growth from the surface off the lawn that if left, will rot and create thatch.

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