Drought Stressed Lawn Recovery

To my friends in Texas and neighboring states, you guys and gals have been suffering with some tough weather these last 24 months.

Remember the “Great Texas Freeze” of Feb 2021?

It wasn’t that long ago that I was working with you guys to recover your warm season lawns from that unprecedented event. And now here we are again, pretty much the exact opposite.

Instead of super cold temps and severely slowed down very cold rain (snow and ice) we have super hot temps and it’s dry as a bone.

Have you seen the movie “Rango?” If not, you should because you’re living through it!

How Bad Is It?
The biggest question I get when there are extreme weather events is “will the lawn die” or “my lawn has gone dormant this summer, will it survive?”


Those are tough questions to answer but I do want to try and be straight with you so from the jump here, I can tell you that if you are in that D3 or D4 range and have not been able to give your lawn at least 1 to 1.5” of water from irrigation each week consistently, then you will for sure have some permanent turf damage and loss. There just is no way around it and they tell us that in the explanations of the US Drought Monitor.

What I see happen more often though, when people are not able to keep up with the watering required and the lawn goes dormant, they stop completely and this is where the dead loss occurs.

Your St Augustine, Bermuda, Zoysia or Centipede lawn can stay in dormancy for 2-3 months as long as it’s getting at least an inch or so of water each week. This is enough to keep the crowns alive even though the top growth nearly ceases and the lawn goes mostly brown. Some water is still required and you can bet there is still quite a bit of positive activity happening in the soil around the roots. This area is known as the rhizosphere. If this area is left to dry out for too long then the turf above will surely suffer a negative visual impact.

Here’s the thing: Our warm season grasses are aggressive and can rebound from many things, even if they are thin.

Big Rains In Dallas and much of Central and East Texas
And just as I am finishing out this blog post, I am seeing reports of up to 12” of rain coming into areas around Dallas and causing major flooding, and it looks like that is going to continue heading down towards Houston.

It’s great to get this rain, but not all at once.

All that said, here are some lawns across Texas as they look right now here on August 22,23:
(from my official FaceBook Group)

Keep in mind, these folks are on my program, Yard Care Bootcamp, so their lawns were probably pretty healthy going in and they are well educated on proper watering even under restrictions:

Dyvonne Llamas - Greater Houston Area
Dyvonne Llamas - Greater Houston Area

“No issues with my St. Aug, I've been irrigating on designated days and times.”

Roy and Gina Kiser - Central Texas
Roy and Gina Kiser - Central Texas

“I’m in central Texas and we have had no measurable rain until today. We have been restricted to watering twice a week. When sections of the Zoysia would start checking out I used a soaker hose to help bring them back. Appreciate your program!”

Oscar Garza - Laredo, TX.
Oscar Garza - Laredo, TX.

“Right on the border. Rotary nozzles. Run them 3x a week for an hour. [Sunday over Monday we got 4.3” of rain according to my meter] First rain in over 100 days.”

These Look Great, But What If My Lawn Is Struggling?
Here is one where he was severely restricted on watering - only one day per week. And as you know, this is TEXAS!! One day of watering per week must be brutal!

Anyway, he went on vacation. When he left his lawn was pretty brown, and when he came back it had recovered to this after just some rain. (this is after a cut)

David W - Corpus Christi
David W - Corpus Christi

“I couldn’t bring myself to take photos while my lawn was struggling with zero rain and high 90’s and watering restrictions. We are restricted to watering one day a week. Left for vacation and it rained like crazy the first day. Came back to a jungle. We haven’t had any real rain in months. One good rain and it’s looking much better. It was pretty toasty before the rain.”

I can tell you that the only thing this lawn needs is a little fert. If the rain is going to continue and/or you are able to water - hit this lawn with 24-0-6 Flagship ASAP. It will be dark green in a week.

If you are not sure that you are going to be able to water and the rains may just be sporadic, then hit it with 7-0-20 Stress Blend. You’ll get a nice green up but no growth push plus plenty of potassium to help with future stress.

Fertilizing and Water for Recovery
The keys to recovery are simple and the same as any other time of year. Keep the lawn watered (we are hoping the rains keep up), mow often following the 1/3rd rule, and keep the lawn properly fed with fertilizer every 4-5 weeks. Warm season lawns have lots of time left to still make headway in thickening up before winter.

This is important because as you know, we don’t get snow cover and because of that the ground does not freeze. When the ground doesn’t freeze it means weeds can continue to grow all winter long and if you have a thin turf stand that leaves more room for these weeds.

Sign up to my email list where I supply weekly tips, or get my free lawn care app where I tell you exactly what to apply and when, all year long based on soil temperatures on your street.

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