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Questionnaire: Will Your Lawn Survive a Drought?

By: Dr Gareth Evans - Updated: 28 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss
Drought Lawn Grasses Grass Maintenance

We all know that awful feeling when, no matter how much we’re enjoying all the sunny weather, that wonderful summer heat-wave begins to turn the grass brown – and to make matters worse, there’s a hosepipe ban in force too!

Fortunately, most British lawn grasses are seldom actually killed by drought, but a dry spell certainly takes its toll on the look and long-term health of a lawn. So, will your lawn survive a drought?

In the sense that it’s not going to die off in its entirety, the answer is almost certainly “yes”, although if it turns into a prolonged period without rain, some of the more susceptible kinds of grass may not recover. If, however, by “survive” you mean end up still being recognizable as lawn rather than looking like the parched grasslands of the Serengeti, then it’s going to have to be a definite “maybe”.

A lot of how well your patch of green deals with the challenge of drought depends on how you treat it before, during and after. Routine tasks in normal years are every bit as important as what you do on those few occasions when the rain doesn’t fall, which means that general care and management plays a big part in setting your lawn up to survive dry spells. With many people predicting that droughts will become an increasingly common feature of the British climate in the future, now’s probably a good time to make sure you’re getting it right!

This quick questionnaire should help you see how much you’re already doing to drought-proof your lawn and give you a few tips about what else you might want to think about trying.

    1. Is your lawn compacted?

  • a) Yes
  • b) No
  • 2. Do you spike or aerate it?

  • a) No
  • b) Yes
  • 3. Do you top dress your lawn?

  • a) No
  • b) Yes
  • 4. Do you feed your lawn?

  • a) No
  • b) Yes
  • 5. When there’s not much rain, do you leave the clippings on the surface?

  • a) No
  • b) Yes
  • 6. What do you do with any “thatch” on the surface after the summer?

  • a) Leave it alone to protect the surface over the winter.
  • b) Scarify the surface and remove the thatch.
  • 7. What is the first sign of drought trouble on your lawn?

  • a) A loss of colour.
  • b) A loss of “springiness”.
  • 8. When you water your lawn, do you:

  • a) Water whenever it seems to need it?
  • b) Water in the evenings or early morning?
  • 9. Do you keep the lawn from drying out between waterings?

  • a) Yes
  • b) No
  • 10. Do you water every day or two during a drought?

  • a) Yes
  • b) No


Mostly (a)s

If you’ve answered with mostly (a)s, then it’s probably time to think about the way you’re approaching your lawn – it doesn’t mean you’ve done anything wrong, it’s probably just a case of doing things a bit differently. A few simple changes could give your lawn a better chance of surviving dry weather unscathed. Have a look at our drought-proofing tips below; the rest of the site has lots of helpful information too, of course!

Mostly (b)s

Well, you’ve certainly done your best and given your lawn a good chance of surviving a drought without too much damage. Keep on doing what you’re doing and things should be fine, though you might want to have a quick look at the tips for drought-proofing below, as well as the rest of this site, just to be sure.

Quick Tips

  • If your lawn is compacted, spike or aerate it to allow water in.
  • Top dress your lawn in the autumn – and feed it regularly.
  • Remove any thatch in the autumn to let water get through to the soil.
  • Leave clippings on the surface during a drought to act as a water-retaining mulch.
  • Whenever possible, water in the cool of the evening or early morning.
  • Let the lawn dry out a little between watering – it encourages deeper roots.
  • Water once a week, or twice if it’s very dry; daily watering causes localised water-logging and encourages moss.
Enjoy your lush green lawn, whatever the weather!

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