Fall maintenance tips for drought-stricken lawns
This summer’s exceptionally dry weather has left many Virginia lawns looking brown. While cool-season turfgrasses (such as Kentucky bluegrass or tall fescue) often revive after a soaking rainfall event, a lawn that remains brown may be dead and in need of immediate attention before persistently colder temperatures arrive.
Cool-season turfgrass enters dormancy, as a “survival mode” to deal with drought. Though this dormant grass may appear brown and dry, it will typically recover after significant rain, according to Mike Goatley, Virginia Cooperative Extension turfgrass specialist.
“Within a few days of rainfall, you should see a response,” Goatley said. “After receiving an inch or more of rainfall, you should get an indication of regrowth. If you don’t, you may need to prepare for reseeding or sod.”
Early fall is the perfect time of year to reseed and establish cool-season turfgrass in Virginia. In October, the soil temperature is still warm enough for grass seed to germinate. The Eastern part of the state will even see success into November.
Whether small patches of grass have died or your entire lawn has failed, choosing an appropriate type of grass for reseeding is key.
“Shop around,” Goatley said. “Look for varieties on Virginia Cooperative Extension’s list of recommended grasses. If you can find those varieties, you are getting the best we can offer based on replicated field research trials.”
To get help choosing the appropriate type of grass for your yard and guidance on preparing soil and seeding, reach out to your local Virginia Cooperative Extension office, or check our turfgrass variety recommendations here: https://www.pubs.ext.vt.edu/SPES/SPES-154/SPES-154.html
Click here to watch a series of videos on seasonal lawn care.
Homeowners interested in assessing the state of their turf this fall should:
● Look for a rapid rebound in color and growth after a rainfall.
● Perform a soil test via Virginia Cooperative Extension if they haven’t had one within the last three years. Find out more about the Soil Testing Lab here.
● Evaluate whether they have the best grass for their climate, sun exposure, soil, and how they use their lawn.
● Reach out to their local Virginia Cooperative Extension office or Extension Master Gardeners for help determining the appropriate course of action for restoring a failed lawn.
“It’s always difficult to grow great lawns in Virginia, and these last two years have been especially challenging. We’ve gone from exceptionally wet with a lot of disease pressure last year to drought this year,” Goatley said.
By addressing any areas of problematic turf this fall, homeowners can be ready to enjoy a green lawn again next year.
Virginia Cooperative Extension and the Extension Master Gardener program offer localized assistance with home horticulture and gardening education throughout the commonwealth. To find your local Virginia Cooperative Extension office, visit https://ext.vt.edu/offices.html.
- Written by Devon Johnson