Lawn Stress: What is it and how to treat it
Looks like the weather is heating up again. Your lawn might start to look brown or stressed, but resist the urge to simply water more. There are good reasons NOT to turn up the water until you check what's going on with the lawn. Problems with fungus and your lawn can turn brown almost overnight. With that, if you crank up the water, you'll only make it worse.
When lawns begin to stress, the color turns blueish-gray before it looks like straw. If you walk across it and can see footprints 30 minutes later, it's stressed.
Here is how you know if your lawn is stressed
1. Try the screwdriver test
Use a screwdriver to make sure the soil is really dry. Push a screwdriver into the soil and if it goes easily into the soil, don't water more. Let the soil dry our a little before you water next. Water-logged soil can damage the lawn more than letting it get too dry.
If you have brown patches and the screwdriver doesn't go in easily in those patches, you may have a sprinkler problem that's keeping water from reaching that area. Don't make your whole sprinkler system run longer just for a few brown spots.
2. Test your sprinkler system
Run your sprinkler system during the daytime to see what is going on. The problem could be as simple as the sprinkler shooting in the wrong direction. Hot weather can reveal the weak areas of our sprinkler systems, and sometimes a little hand watering of stressed areas is all you need to do.
If you have to increase watering times in a heat wave, remember to adjust it back when temperatures cool again. Reduce watering times by running each cycle a couple of minutes less.
3. Reduce lawn stress with proper care
- Water between 10:00 PM and 6:00 AM to reduce water evaporation and to avoid fungus growth.
- Mow the lawn a little higher. If you mow at three inches or a bit higher, the grass blades will shade the soil to retain moisture and reduce heat stress.