UF expert: Treat your parched lawn properly

 

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Many lawns are turning brown and crispy in the drought, but University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences specialists can help homeowners maintain healthy landscapes.

Some areas of Florida have received barely half an inch of rain this month, according to the National Weather Service. Fourteen counties in peninsular Florida show drought indices of at least 550, according to the Keetch-Byrum Drought Index. That puts people in those areas in danger of wildfires. Dry conditions have brought warnings from the state’s water districts.

Jason Kruse, a UF/IFAS associate professor of environmental horticulture, says you can still manage your lawn, even in these arid conditions.

“Grasses do not need as much water as most people are applying,” Kruse said. What most people do not understand when it comes to their lawns is that all of our warm-season turfgrasses can survive periods of drought.”

They do this by going into dormancy for a short time, he said. When grass goes dormant, it can survive in this state for extended periods, and most will recover as soon as rainfall returns and soil moisture levels increase.

Here are some tips from UF/IFAS Extension experts about lawn care during a drought:

  • Never cut more than one-third of the leaf blade at one mowing.
  • Sharpen your mower blades.
  • Water the right amount. Generally, lawns can survive on irrigation of one to two days per week if you apply half to three-fourths of an inch water each time. You should only water if it has not rained in 24 to 48 hours.
  • Place shallow cans in the bad and good areas of your lawn to determine how evenly your system is distributing water. Hand-water particularly dry spots.
  • Consider using a more drought-tolerant turf, such as bahia grass or centipede grass.

Kruse suggests waiting until the rainy season before replacing your grass.

“Once the rains are back, you can consider replacing parts of your turfgrass with other types of ways to cover your ground,” he said. This can be expensive, but you can save on annual maintenance costs, Kruse said. You can find more suggestions on the Florida Friendly Landscaping website.

Furthermore, some local governments give rebates for those who replace their lawns with more drought-tolerant plants or for implementing other water conservation strategies. Click here to see more about Alachua County’s program.

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By: Brad Buck, 352-294-3303, bradbuck@ufl.edu

The mission of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is to develop knowledge relevant to agricultural, human and natural resources and to make that knowledge available to sustain and enhance the quality of human life. With more than a dozen research facilities, 67 county Extension offices, and award-winning students and faculty in the UF College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, UF/IFAS works to bring science-based solutions to the state’s agricultural and natural resources industries, and all Florida residents. Visit the UF/IFAS web site at ifas.ufl.edu and follow us on social media at @UF_IFAS.

 

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