7 tips to save your lawn from drought

Several states are currently experiencing drought conditions this summer, according to Brian Fuchs, a climatologist with the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. And while the drought conditions overall are less intense this year, abnomrally dry conditions are more widespread across the country.

“There is about 33 percent of the U.S. currently in drought where last year that number was 22.4 percent,” Fuchs says. “Last year at this time, 13 percent of the U.S. was in extreme to exceptional drought, while this year that number is only 3.3 percent. So, we are seeing more drought this year, but last year at this time it was more intense.”

“Drought is a normal part of the climatological patterns for any location,” Fuchs says. He adds that non-arid states like Arkansas, Kansas and Georgia are experiencing some of the most intense drought conditions, many of them for the first time. "Last year at this time, much of the drought was confined to the southern plains states, but seeing the drought develop in the Midwest over the last few months is different, while the drought in the western U.S. was not evident last year either."

Landscape irrigation accounts for as much as half of all water used during warm weather months, especially when homeowners are trying to keep their lawns from turning brown. Follow these tips to make the most of your water and lawn irrigation efforts during drought or excessively dry conditions:

1. Soak, don’t spray. During a drought or extremely dry conditions, giving your lawn one heavy soaking every three to seven days is usually adequate. Water until at least 6 inches of soil is moistened, which usually takes about an hour or to 90 minutes.

2. Measure your water use. A container with a straight edge, such as a tuna can, can help you monitor how much water you’re using. Overwatering can be a contributing factor to lawn disease.

3. Avoid watering your concrete or asphalt. Sprinklers that water the sidewalk, driveway or other hard surfaces waste water and money.

4. Provide water where it’s needed most. If watering restrictions are in place or if water conservation is your goal, prioritize your irrigation needs. First, soak newly planted lawns, shrubs, trees and perennials stressed by transplanting; then quench annuals, including vegetables and ornamental plants that need water to continue producing; and lastly sprinkle turf that can safely go dormant.

5. Water at the right time. Use a sprinkler or lawn irrigation during the early morning to help grass withstand the heat of the day. Watering during peak daylight hours and higher temperatures can mean losing a lot of water to evaporation. Watering too late at night can lead to standing water, which may invite mold or fungus to take root.

6. Use the right watering technology. Save water by using drip irrigation or sweating hoses to water garden beds, trees and shrubs, which puts the water near the root where it's needed and prevents water waste.

7. Go native. To help your landscape weather drought conditions in the future, consider planting native grasses and other plants that are drought and pest resistant. Native plants have had centuries to adapt to swings in environmental conditions.

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