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|The primary turfgrasses grown in home lawns in northern states are cool season grasses.
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Managing Turfgrass Under Drought ConditionsThe primary turfgrasses grown in home lawns in Ohio are cool season grasses. The most common species of cool season grasses used in residential lawns include Kentucky bluegrass, perennial ryegrass, fine fescue and tall fescue. Cool season grasses perform best when daytime temperatures are in the range of 60 to 75°F along with adequate soil moisture. These lawns possess the best color and quality attributes during the spring and fall seasons. Being cool season grasses, good to excellent winter hardiness allows established lawns to survive even the harshest Ohio winters.
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Reference: Ohio State University Extension
The most stressful time of the year for cool season grass home lawns in Ohio is typically encountered during the summer (i.e., June through August) period. This period is often characterized by hot, sunny days with daytime temperatures routinely in the low to mid 80's. In addition to high temperatures, moderate to severe moisture stress is often imposed on the turfgrasses during this summer period. The combination of high temperatures and dry soils will often lead to significant declines in quality and losses in turfgrass unless proper management practices are implemented.
Turfgrass plants need soil moisture to sustain normal growth and development. The water use rates of cool season turfgrasses during the summer period will often exceed the rate which natural rainfall returns water back into the soil. Once the soil moisture reserves are nearly depleted, the turfgrass will begin to wilt. This condition is evident as the turfgrass turns from green to either bluish-green or gray-green. Wilt is a sign of water stress and is usually most evident during mid to late afternoon periods. A period of continual water stress that limits or prevents the growth of plants is termed drought. Once drought conditions develop, the lawn will stop all growth and development and proceed into dormancy.
Dormancy is characterized by the development of brown turfgrass. The turfgrass is not dead but instead in a condition to preserve the vital parts of the plant. By becoming dormant, turfgrasses reduce water usage and can concentrate the limited amount of available moisture into the crown, rhizomes and roots. This dormant condition will allow the turfgrass plant to survive adverse conditions for extended periods until soil moisture reserves are replenished. The length of time lawn grasses can survive in a dormant condition is contingent on a number of factors including soil moisture levels, daytime temperatures, condition of the turfgrass at the onset of dormancy, etc. In general, turfgrasses can be expected to survive in a dormant condition for up to 4 to 5 weeks with limited damage if temperatures are at or below normal. If daytime temperatures are elevated (mid-80's or higher) consistently through the stress period, only 3 to 4 weeks of survival should be anticipated. Dormant grass is lost once the crowns, rhizomes and roots begin to dehydrate. Homeowners will often find the areas of the lawn along sidewalks, curbs, driveways, south facing slopes, etc., to encounter the most stress and will be the first areas to be lost during extended periods of drought.
Homeowners have limited control over the daytime temperatures in the lawn. However, they can improve the survivability of the turfgrass in their lawn by proper management. This management includes the implementation of proper cultural practices and/or the implementation of irrigation.
Proper Summer Cultural Practices
The amount of water applied during irrigation can be measured by placing several empty straight-sided containers, such as pet food containers, in the sprinkler's pattern. Watering is sufficient once the desired volume of water is collected in the containers. Irrigation should be performed early in the morning. At this time of day the grass is already wet from dew, temperatures are cooler, humidity is high and calm conditions usually exist. These conditions all favor infiltration of the water into the soil and utilization of the supplemental water by the turfgrass plants.
When the water supply for lawn irrigation is limited or when watering restrictions are in place, the homeowner should designate priority areas of the lawn and water those areas first. The priority areas usually include the front lawn, areas around the patio or deck, and children's play areas.
If the homeowner cannot water, or elects not to water a dormant lawn, a light watering or rainfall of 1/2 inch every two to three weeks will help minimize damage to the lawn during the dormancy period. This watering practice will supply enough moisture to keep crowns, rhizomes and roots hydrated and alive. This volume of water will not regreen a dormant lawn, however, it will help to insure good recovery once rainfall occurs later in the summer.
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|Data Source: Ohio State University Extension. Articles and resource may contain pesticide recommendations that are subject to change at any time. These recommendations are provided only as a guide and it is always the pesticide applicator's responsibility, by law, to read and follow all current label directions for the specific pesticide being used.|