It all comes down to water and soil conditions.

By Caroline Biggs
September 16, 2020
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Getty / Thomas Barwick

The dog days of summer can take a serious toll on your lawn. "Extreme temperatures lead to more soil moisture losses due to evaporation," explains Daniel Cunningham a horticulturist at Texas A&M AgriLife. "That paired with sporadic and minimal rainfall events can be a pretty harsh one-two punch to your turf."

Excessive heat and lack of precipitation can cause the leaf blades of your grass to wilt and turn yellow—in some cases, past the point of repair. "Even if your lawn dries out, you can revive it before it dies," says Benjamin Godfrey, garden manager at Cornerstone Sonoma. "However, depending on temperatures and humidity, if it goes without water for more than three weeks, it can completely die." Fortunately, Cunningham and Godfrey say there are several steps you can take to care for (and eventually restore) a scorched lawn. Here, they share their best tips.

Check your irrigation system.

Godfrey says the first step to repairing a parched lawn is to make sure your irrigation system is working soundly. "This includes making sure that the batteries in the timers are good, that the sprinklers and filters are not clogged, that the watering duration is appropriate for the time of year, and that the sprinklers are providing coverage to all areas of the lawn," he says. "If you have a timer, a good option is to set it so that it will water every 12 hours."

Water heavily for short periods of time.

According to Cunningham, watering a lawn "deeply and infrequently" is the best way to ensure a healthy root system that is resilient to heat and drought stressors. "Oftentimes, this means utilizing the 'cycle and soak' method of irrigation—which breaks up irrigation events into intermittent micro-waterings (during the same day) so that more of the water infiltrates the root zone where plants can take advantage," he explains. "Another tip is to water early in the morning when the chance for evaporation is low. In addition to reducing water waste, more effective irrigation cycles can improve the overall health of your turf, especially during the summer."

Keep the soil moist.

Looking for a foolproof way to improve the soil conditions for a scorched lawn? Godfrey recommends adding up to an inch of compost or topsoil to the parched grass to help the soil stay moisturized. "You can also spread new grass seed before doing this to give your lawn an extra edge in its revival," he says.

Maintenance matters.

A little care can go a long way when restoring a dried-out lawn. "If there's a lot of dead grass, use a rake to clear it out," Godfrey says. Additionally, Cunningham suggests mowing your lawn at least once a week to combat the environmental effects of excessive heat. "Going longer periods without mowing usually result in cutting more than one-third of the leaf blade—which can cause undue stress, especially during the summer months," he explains.

Long live the crown.

While in most cases, a scorched lawn can be restored with the right soil and watering conditions, Godfrey says it can reach a point where it might be beyond repair. "Even if the blades of grass die, if the base (crown) of the plants are alive, your lawn can still be revived," he says. "However, if your lawn goes for weeks without water, the crowns will perish, and so will your lawn."

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