Is it possible to save your lawn?
Brown grass? The first thing you need to do is find out if it’s really dead.
Here’s a test: Pull a patch of grass with roots attached, and put it in a coffee cup. Place it on a windowsill inside your house, add water and watch to see whether the grass grows. If the grass is alive, it will start to green up at the base within a couple of days, according to Frank Rossi, a turf scientist and an associate professor of horticulture at Cornell University.
Here’s some advice on how to save your lawn from Consumer Reports.
If it’s alive: Give brown grass (not dead grass) just enough water for survival. About 0.1 to 0.2 inches every two to three weeks should be enough water to keep the grass “crown” – the roots and blades at the soil line from which grass grows – alive. But it won’t green up until later in the season, when temperatures are cooler or water conditions improve.
Or give up: If the same spot goes brown season after season, it may not be because of the grass. Chronic lawn problems are often caused by the soil or a lack of light. Heavily compacted soil denies a lawn much-needed oxygen. Aerating the soil with a core aerator will help it breathe and promote growth, no matter what you decide to plant, whether it’s a lawn or native plants and ground cover. Fall is the best time to aerate because spring is when weeds usually sprout. (Aerating then can spread weed seeds.)
Giving up on Grass
Transitioning to a yard with little or no grass doesn’t mean giving up greenery. Consumer Reports offers these water-saving options.
1. Start with the design. Sketch your property as it is, noting its orientation to the sun and wind. Create zones based on watering needs: high, moderate, low and very low, suggests Peter Estournes, co-owner of Gardenworks in Healdsburg, Calif., which specializes in sustainable landscaping.
2. Till the soil. Turning over the soil in low-water zones exposes it to moisture and air. Adding organic matter, such as compost or manure, can also help soil hold in moisture, which is important to help establish new plants while using less water.
3. Go native. Local plants can often thrive with less water and may cool the air around your home as well as the lawn, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Established plants, shrubs and trees use less water than most common turf grasses. Consumer Reports recommends going to epa.gov/watersense and clicking “outdoor” and “landscaping tips” for low-water and native plants for your region.
4. Don’t crowd new plants. Leave enough room between plants to allow them to grow to their full size without being overcrowded, even if they look sparse at first.
5. Don’t forget mulch. Two to 3 inches of organic material per season will reduce evaporation, keeping soil moist and controlling water-thirsty weeds. It also helps fill in the spaces between new plants.
To learn more, visit ConsumerReports.org.
2017 Consumers Union Inc.