Drought resistance qualities of cool-season grasses

Water is a scarce resource and most cool-season grasses, such as Kentucky bluegrass, rye and fescue, can withstand drought for several weeks without damage. Most lawns in northern states have cool-season grasses, and the most environmentally friendly thing to do is not to water the lawn.

Healthy, well-established lawns are the best prepared to tolerate drought conditions. Without water, the grass eventually goes dormant, turning brown and staying that way until revived with adequate moisture.

In general, grass can go up to six weeks without water, depending on the condition of the lawn, soil and other environmental factors. It takes about two weeks of adequate moisture to revive dormant lawns.

Greening up dormant grass

Some people mistakenly fertilize the lawn in the summer to try to keep it green. However, according to university research, you should never fertilize a cool-season grass in the summer regardless of whether or not you water the lawn. Also, don’t use pesticides on the lawn if it is not being watered. Pesticides may stress dormant grass. Always read and follow label directions.

If you decide to water the lawn, here are some tips to do it right:

  • If you have a newly sown lawn or new sod, it’s best to water the new planting as needed until it is well established, usually two years. One way to tell a lawn needs to be watered: If your foot print stays on the lawn, it’s time to water.
  • Thick green lawns need one inch of water a week, usually applied at the rate of ½ inch, twice a week. If it rains during that week, supplemental irrigation may not be necessary. Frequent, short waterings are very damaging to the lawn and encourage poor root formation and other problems.
  • One way to measure how much water your lawn is getting, is to place a straight-sided can on the grass and time how long it takes for the desired amount (such as ½ inch) of water to accumulate in the container. This method may not be precise, but it gives a pretty good indication of how much water is being applied.
  • Make a decision about watering or not watering the lawn and stick with it. Repeatedly allowing the lawn to go dormant and reviving it can damage the grass and invite insects or diseases.

GreenView Fairway Formula Grass Seed includes a variety of cool season grasses that have been specially bred for drought resistance.