How to Maintain Your Lawn in a Drought

By Luke Rettmann

We sure have had some dry summers here in Minnesota. Drought affected 100% of the state in 2021 and 2023, with 2022 only reaching 80% of the state with drought (Phew! Only 80, right?). A drought does not have to doom your lawn. Your lawn is an investment, just like the rest of your property. A drought simply presents some new decisions to make in order to protect your investment.

To water? Or not to water?

Kentucky Bluegrass (what most lawns are) is a cool season plant, so your lawn wants to go green in the spring and fall when it is cool and rainy and will naturally go brown, or dormant, when the summer heat rolls around. So, for the home owners who are either environmentally conscious or budget conscious, not watering is a viable option. Your lawn will green back up when it cools down, barring any complications. If you are concerned that your dormant lawn is actually dead you can check the roots. If they are white with a little green towards the blade instead of brown and brittle then your lawn is, in fact, alive. The only threats to a dormant lawn are lots of foot traffic or grubs from Japanese beetles (more on this below).

Now if you want a green lawn, whether for hosting cookouts, children, or you like the way it looks, the tried and true method is watering. Your lawn needs from 1 to 1.5 inches of water every week. This translates to two 30-45 minute watering sessions. We recommend a sprinkler so that the watering is gradual, and can soak into the soil. We also recommend that you water in the morning or early evening, to avoid the midday sun. Little droplets of water can act like a magnifying glass for the sun's rays and will dry out the blades of grass it is supposed to rejuvenate. We typically water our grass in the early morning twice a week.

Beyond Watering

Once you are watering, there are additional ways to protect the investment into your lawn to make sure the watering does its job. In no particular order, here are the things we do at Rettmann to make the watering count:

  • Core Aeration – Little plugs are removed from the ground loosening the compact soil and ensuring the roots of your grass can grow deeper and the water can soak into the loose soil. This is recommended to be done in the fall.
  • Dethatching – We use a “power rake” to remove the dead grass that accumulates around the roots of the grass, allowing your lawn to grow in fully and allowing the grass to absorb more moisture and nutrients. We offer this during Spring Cleanups, or as needed with fall overseeding services.
  • Adjust mowing height – The roots of your grass grow to about as long as the blades are tall, so during droughts we adjust the mowing deck to a height of 3-3.5”’’ or more to allow the roots to grow deeper.
  • Fertilize – A little food gives the plants energy to grow hardier. At Rettmann, we offer traditional fertilizers as well as organic fertilizer applications throughout the season to keep the environment and any pets or children running across your lawn that much healthier.
  • Japanese Beetle Grub Treatment – The “grub” is a stage in the life cycle of the Japanese beetle where it feasts on the roots of your lawn. It does this twice a year in spring and early fall. We do our grub prevention annually in the spring to protect your lawn for the whole season. It can also be done in fall when the beetle has laid new eggs, and the grub is smaller and closer to the surface, making it more susceptible to the treatments. Grubs even eat the roots of dormant lawns, so if you are going the dormant route, make sure to get this application or have your sod checked in the fall for grubs to guarantee your lawn is healthy. It is a small investment in the health of your lawn that can prevent extensive damage and costly lawn restoration.

Don’t hesitate to ask!

We pride ourselves in being service-oriented and environmentally friendly. Even after 30 plus years, we ourselves are learning better ways to do this. If you have questions about any of the applications in this article, or have something new you would like to ask us about, please give us a call or email us. We are here to care for your lawn so that you can enjoy your investment in it for many years.