Identifying Heat and Drought Stress

Consistent hot and dry weather over long periods can lead to heat stress for your lawn, turning grass brown. Grass naturally adjusts to hot weather by entering a dormant condition to conserve energy. However, prolonged severe drought and heat can damage or even kill your lawn. What can you do to help your heat-stressed turf? The first step is spotting signs of lawn stress. Then, you can take a few steps to provide extra care for your lawn.

Look for Signs of Lawn Stress

Heat and drought stressed turf is not difficult to identify. The first signs of heat and drought stress may be when footprints appear blue/gray and remain on the grass hours after you walk on it. When stress substantially impacts your turf, grass blades may curl or brown at the tips. If you spot brown patches on your lawn, this could be a result of different problems, including:

  • If the turf in these areas can be easily lifted, you may have root damage from a grub infestation
  • If it is difficult to push a screwdriver into your lawn, the lawn may need moisture and aeration
  • A brown lawn may also be a result from surface-feeding insects or fungal diseases.

What is Heat Stress?

Heat stress is caused by long spells of heat (85 degrees and above) to exposed areas of lawn. It can make your lawn more prone to diseases, weeds and pest infestations.Heat stress can cause your lawn to go dormant too early. A lawn will begin to go dormant when it thinks it’s time to start protecting itself. In dormancy, it consumes much less water and it can stay in this state for 3-4 weeks without dying. It can be hard to tell the difference between a lawn that has gone dormant and a lawn that is dead. A dormant lawn will come out of dormancy with regular watering.

What is Drought Stress?

​What’s a sign of drought stress? If you try to stick a screw driver 6 inches into your lawn and cannot, your lawn might be drought stressed. This can be caused by extended periods of heat or lack of irrigation and/or rain. If you have extended periods with no rain you might want to consider adding a day or two of irrigation to jump start your lawn and protect it from going dormant. How to fix drought stressed lawns? A drought stressed lawn can be fixed by watering it more aggressively. When watering recommendations are typically made, they are made considering we have good conditions with some occasional rain that helps us along. When we are in the middle of a heat wave, we must adjust.

To correct drought stress we want to:

  • Water deeply and infrequently in the mornings.
  • Add a day or two per week to your normal irrigation schedule.

If your lawn needs water it is important to water at the correct times!