Lawn Care During Winter Drought

Drought is usually a summertime issue. We’re used to the idea of a dry summer—some areas of the U.S. sadly more than others. But what happens when the drought continues through fall and winter, or the usual precipitation just never shows up?

Winter, with its cooler temperatures and shorter days, tends to slow plant growth in most areas of the U.S. It’s normal to see your lawn brown, trees shed their leaves and annuals wither. Just because a plant has gone dormant doesn’t mean it’s not in need of some TLC. In the north, a good snow means a slow, steady source of water throughout the season. Further south, rain can be just as necessary in the winter as summer—in fact, more so as this is often a time of recovery from a hot, dry season.

The good news is that turf grass can be extremely resilient. What may seem like a brown, dead lawn may just be dormant. If you aren’t sure whether your brown lawn is dead or dormant:

  • Look for distinct patches of brown within greener areas. The brown is more likely dead.
  • Give a handful of grass a good pull. If it comes right out without resistance, it’s dead. If it hangs on and takes some effort, it’s probably just dormant.

Dead grass requires replacement, dormant grass can eventually recover when the weather gets better. In a normal winter, you probably won’t need to do much for it to green up in the spring.

However, if you’re in a cool climate and you’ve noticed that a couple of weeks have gone by without any snow or rain and you don’t have any snow pack, you’ll need to water. Although, do not water if the temperature is below freezing—the ground will be too hard to soak up the water and you’ll end up with damaging ice.

In warm climates, your grass may not go dormant at all; follow the same rules you usually use during spring and summer. If your grass doesn’t spring back after stepping on it or has begun to turn brown or blue-gray, it needs water.

Refer to our lawn watering tips for more information on when and how long to water and special instructions on lawn care in drought conditions.

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