Tips to Drought-Proof Lawns and Landscapes
August 22, 2012

With drought plaguing much of the country, the Professional Landcare Network (PLANET), the national association of lawn and landscape professionals, is ready with some tips for the fall season.  This is the ideal time for facility managers and commercial property owners to assess the condition of their lawns, plants, trees and shrubs to ensure they can weather another dry season.   To make sure your facility doesn’t dry up, check out these tips:

  • Consider Low-Water Use Plants or Hydrozoning.  Consider planting drought-proof (or low-water use) plants or hydrozoning, the practice of clustering plants together with similar water requirements in an effort to conserve water.  Plants are typically separated into three water need categories: very low, low, and medium. A Landscape Industry Certified professional can help property owners decide how to transition to this type of planting approach. 
  • Audit and Add Water-Saving Tools.  It is recommended to have a land care professional ‘audit’ your irrigation system or, perhaps, install one.  An irrigation system may need repair or adjustment, and a professional can also check for water distribution uniformity and make sure irrigation systems are installed and maintained properly. Fall or winter is the best time for irrigation system design or repair since land care professionals are often less busy and rates may be more affordable.  Also, consider reusing water with rain barrels to retain rainwater for later use in the garden.
  • Give Grass Some TLC. With cooler weather and more moisture in the fall, growth–and green color–will return to turfgrass.  But, use the cooler weather to aerate the lawn by removing small soil plugs out of the lawn. Aeration allows the roots to go deeper into the soil, more absorption of rainfall or irrigation, and the plants to better draw in water, nutrients and oxygen.
And, don’t forget to ask your lawn and landscape professional about drought-tolerant turf species that you could overseed in your    lawn this fall.“Turfgrass is incredibly resilient and genetically geared to go dormant in drought conditions and then green up beautifully when the moisture returns,” said Bruce Hellerick, PLANET member and senior horticulturist.
  • Prepare the Soil. Use a professional with the know-how and tools needed to break up and amend the soil. A special tool can be used to loosen or “fracture” soil 12-18” deep so roots penetrate deeper and the application of organic compost or other macro and micro nutrients is well distributed.
“The leading cause of poor landscape performance and drought resilience is improper soil preparation,” said Kurt Bland, Landscape Industry Certified, PLANET member.  “It’s very difficult to rehabilitate a landscape after poor preparation of soil.  Before you invest in more plantings this fall, create healthy soil first.”
  • Revisit Your Watering Plan.  Check with city ordinances on water restrictions. But, the general recommendation is to water early in the morning when temperatures are cooler. Also, avoid watering on windy days to minimize evaporation.  Remember, more damage can be done by overwatering plants.