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Heat Stress vs Drought Stress [Protect Your Lawn During A Heat Wave]

Posted by Nate Bahler on Jul 6, 2020 3:54:52 PM
Nate Bahler

How to Care For My Lawn During A Heat Wave 

In the midst of this hot, New England, summer we have been getting a lot of questions about brown spots in lawns.  It's possible that heat stress and drought stress could be the culprits.  

We are at the point of the year where everything is going great...until the heat spells come in June/July. Normally, lawns can recover from periodic heat spells.  It's when they last a little bit longer than expected that we begin to see damage. 

Heat stressed and drought stressed lawns often go hand in hand. We are going to break down symptoms and signs of each for you and explain how to remedy each.


Heat Stress vs Drought Stress

Heat stress and drought stress can often go hand in hand. What you want to remember is this:

For a drought stressed lawn, water deeply and infrequently in the morning. Think about adding a day or two per week to your normal irrigation schedule during a heat wave.

For a heat stressed yard, mist your lawn for a few minutes during the hottest part of the day.  This will lower your lawn’s temperature by up to ten degrees.

What is Heat Stress?

Heat stress is caused by long spells of heat (85 degrees and above) to exposed areas of lawn. It can make your lawn more prone to diseases, weeds and pest infestations.

Heat stress can cause your lawn to go dormant too early.  A lawn will begin to go dormant when it thinks it’s time to start protecting itself.  In dormancy, it consumes much less water and it can stay in this state for 3-4 weeks without dying. 

It can be hard to tell the difference between a lawn that has gone dormant and a lawn that is dead.  A dormant lawn will come out of dormancy with regular watering.

heat stress in my yard

How do I fix a Heat Stressed Lawn?

  • Cool your lawn by misting it for a few minutes during the hottest part of the day. This can lower your lawn’s temperature by up to 10 degrees (think golf courses).

What is Drought Stress?

What’s a sign of drought stress? If you try to stick a screw driver 6 inches into your lawn and cannot, your lawn might be drought stressed.  This can be caused by extended periods of heat or lack of irrigation and/or rain. 

If you have extended periods with no rain you might want to consider adding a day or two of irrigation to jump start your lawn and protect it from going dormant. 

How to fix drought stressed lawns? 

A drought stressed lawn can be fixed by watering it more aggressively.  When watering recommendations are typically made, they are made considering we have good conditions with some occasional rain that helps us along.  When we are in the middle of a heat wave, we must adjust. 

To correct drought stress we want to:

  • Water deeply and infrequently in the mornings. 
  • Add a day or two per week to your normal irrigation schedule.

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