Here are some lawn stress tips

Published 10:12 pm Saturday, September 1, 2007

This is the time of the year many of you may be wondering what to do about your yard. As I drive around town and look at yards I see many, including my own, showing signs of severe drought stress. For many of us we do not have the time or resources to water larger lawns so here are some things to consider when dealing with stressed lawns.

Q. What can be done to help improve my dying lawn?

Many lawns across the state have been under drought stress much of the summer. If you have not done anything up to now there are still some ways you can help your lawn cope with the current situation and recover once drought conditions fade.

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If adequate irrigation water is available continue to provide about an inch of water per week to the lawn. You should also raise the mowing height 25 percent or more and limit all unnecessary traffic. If irrigation water is restricted eliminate all traffic on the lawn and apply water to only those areas that are most important to you. Accept the fact that unwatered portions of the lawn will remain dormant and brown until the drought is over.

To speed the recovery once the drought and extreme heat are finally over a good soaking rain or a deep watering will restore soil moisture as well as clean the leaves, re-hydrate the grass’ dormant buds and initiate root growth. With consistent not drought conditions apply a balanced fertilizer a week or two later to get the turf healthy.

Q. How much is an inch of rain per week?

This is a great question! Many times you may see recommendations to irrigate one to two inches of water per week, what does it mean? Here is the science behind irrigating, this may get confusing but hang on. It takes 27,000 gallons of water to irrigate an acre one inch. There are 43,560 square feet in an acre. Therefore if you divide, it takes .62 gallons of water to irrigate one square foot of lawn, to an equivalent of 1 inch of rainfall. Therefore, if you have a small space in front of your house that is 10 feet by 10 feet (100 square feet) it needs 62 gallons of water to equal a 1-inch rain.

To find out how much water you are putting out simply see how long it takes to fill up a one gallon container. If it takes about 20 seconds to fill up a one gallon milk jug then you are putting out about 3 gallons a minute. Therefore it will takes approximately 20 minutes irrigate 62 gallons. If this has you confused and scratching your head, I apologize, I just want you to understand there is a reason and method to this madness.

Obviously it may be somewhat unpractical to water large yards of an acre or more without irrigation systems, therefore you may consider focusing on areas closest to the home or areas of high visibility. Remember this is one inch per week not every day. In addition, I would recommend you water twice a week as opposed to a little every day. Providing a bi-weekly soaking is preferable over frequent light sprinklings because soaking the soil deeply encourages deeper roots develop, in turn, making the plant better able to withstand drought.

A great Web site to look at for more information on irrigation rates and methods is If you have any further questions you can visit the Mississippi State University Extension Service Web site at or e-mail me at

David Carter is director of the Adams County Extension Service.