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Tuesday 27 March 2012

Lawn drought? Top tips to reduce the effects of a dried out lawn

A dried out lawn
Ask most homeowners to list their garden wishes and "a healthy looking, green lawn" is likely to be near the top.

Drought is a problem experienced by many gardeners at some point of the year. A dried out, brown lawn looks unattractive and uninviting. The good news is that there are things that can be done to reduce the impact of drought and retain a healthy looking lawn...

What are the warning signs of a dried out lawn?
Keep up-to-date with the latest weather forecast. All keen gardeners keep one eye on the weather report and another outside. If a long, dry period has been forecast, take early action. 

When the winter has been excessively dry, a hosepipe ban is much more likely to be enforced at some point in the spring or summer. Look for a yellowing colour on the lawn - this is often an indicator that the grass plant is underwatered. One top tip is to walk across the lawn and look for visible footprints. Without sufficient water, the grass plant will be slower to spring back to an upright position.

What happens to a lawn during drought?

Without sufficient water, the ground may become rock hard and cracks may start to appear. The grass coverage will be poor and may appear to stop growing at all. Your lovely green grass may turn yellow and even retract from the lawn edges.

What is the long-term effect on a lawn?

Grass is a hardy plant. In most cases, your lawn will not suffer any long-term damage from a season of drought. Once the rain returns, you will quickly see the grass returning to a healthy green colour.

How can I reduce the effects of a drought?

A healthy lawn will better tolerate dry conditions. Don't wait for the drought to arrive - scarify and aerate your lawn to reduce compaction and encourage healthy growth. Good lawn keeping practices should be upheld all-year-round.

Mowing habits:

The lawnmowing mantra is "mow little and often". Mow your lawn too short and you could be in danger of scalping. Scalping is a common mistake made especially by owners of rotary lawnmowers. Avoid pressing down on the handle of your lawnmower when in operation and raise the cutting height of the mower blades.

The rule of thumb is to only mow 1/3rd of the grass height at a time. Consider leaving the grass a little longer during dryer periods. Tall grass offers shade to the plant roots and reduces moisture evaporation. A lawn cut too short will quickly dry out.

Only mow your lawn early in the morning or late evening. The air temperature will be lower and, with dew on the grass, less damage will be caused to the grass plant.

Vary your lawnmower mowing pattern. Changing the direction that you mow will reduce the impact of your mower's tyres. This could prevent wearing out channels into the parched ground.

Consider Mulch Mowing:

The mulching process
The mulching process in action
Mulching is a real alternative to cutting with collection or 'bagging' clippings. A mulching lawnmower will cut the grass, circulating the clippings within the cutting chamber. The clippings are reduced to a fine mulch which is then thrown back to the lawn surface. This mulch quickly decomposes within a few days.

Mulching lawnmowers can help during times of drought. The mulched clippings provide additional shade and help to reduce evaporation. The moisture contained within the mulch (around 80% of the grass clippings is made up of water) will be returned to the lawn.


  1. In one part of this article, it is recommended that the lawn is scarified and aerated, but this seems to go against the next recommendation which is to use a mulching mower leaving the grass under the finished lawn. Can you explain please.

  2. A great question... I assume that you are referring to the accumulation of thatch that can build up from leaving clippings on a lawn?

    If using a good quality lawnmower that has been designed to 'mulch', the mulched clippings will not be creating thatch. As long as you have your cutting height set correctly, the clippings should be very small and will quickly decompose. Problems arise when long grass is left on the surface of the lawn. This can create a matted layer of thatch and encourage moss growth.

    I hope this answers your question.

  3. what is wrong with a moss lawn.