Early-season Drought Challenges Homeowners to Keep Lawns, Plants Healthy

Watering best done consistently - or not at all - in dry conditions

As drought-like conditions grip southeastern Wisconsin, homeowners are undoubtedly dismayed watching their once-green grass turn varying shades of yellow or brown. Many are likely wondering whether – and how often – they should water their lawns.

The color change does not signal a dead lawn, said Todd Ruedt, owner of Grounds Maintenance Services, Brookfield. Rather, the grass has gone dormant to conserve energy, and will green up again with water – whether from rain or sprinkling. Once sprinkling begins, though, the watering must be continued several times a week.

“A common mistake homeowners make is to water their lawns until the grass is green again, and then stop,” Ruedt said. “Doing so actually stresses the grass even further. Either water every few days to keep the lawn green and growing, or let it go dormant and wait out the dry period.”

Plantings and shrubs added in the past year should be watered at least twice a week, Ruedt said. Older, established plants will go dormant, or grow even deeper roots in search of water.

Rainfall is already several inches below average for late June. The early season heat and dryness mimics late July, typical of an accelerated weather pattern that began in early spring. Conditions remain four weeks ahead of a normal year, Ruedt said.

Homeowners should check for municipal watering restrictions during warm weather. The best time to water grass is before 10 a.m., or between 6 and 7 p.m. Mid-day watering loses much to evaporation, and night watering risks disease and fungus, Ruedt said.

“If you’re not going to water consistently, don’t water at all,” he said. “The exception is newly-planted grass, which needs to be watered daily. But dormant grass is yet another example of nature’s resiliency, and will bounce back when a drought ends.”

Press release written by Rick Moon, Lunar Communications

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