August 4, 1999 | By: Cheddi Acham
LEXINGTON, KY

Many Kentucky residents are in the clutches of a severe drought and water shortage. Some municipalities are limiting the amount of water people can put on their lawns. In the midst of this situation, people still want their lawns to look presentable.

Citizens can do some things to maintain cool lawns in these not-so-cool times, according to Richard Durham, Extension consumer horticulture specialist with the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture.

Pay attention to how much grass you cut off when mowing the lawn. You should cut no more than about one-third of the grass length at any given time. Cutting off too much at one time will scalp the lawn and open it up to diseases.

Mowing a lawn at the proper height makes the grass more competitive. Leaving grass fairly high shades the soil and keeps the ground moist. Mowing high helps grass produce a deeper root system that makes it more resilient to stressful growing conditions such as drought. A thick, high lawn also gives weeds less room to sprout.

Leaving grass clippings on the lawn after mowing is a good way to recycle nutrients back into the soil. This practice does not contribute to thatch. Putting too much fertilizer or nitrogen on the lawn is what actually causes thatch.

Avoid mowing a drought-damaged lawn since mechanical damage from mowing during extremely hot, dry weather can almost destroy a lawn by thinning out or completely killing grass, according to A. J. Powell, Extension turf specialist. If you must mow, wait until the temperature is cooler in the late afternoon or early morning. Also, it helps to raise the mowing height and mow less frequently during severe heat or drought conditions.

Since weeds are still growing and flowering during a drought, cutting them just spreads the weed problem to other areas of the yard. If weeds are unsightly, try setting the mower height to a level that will spare the grass but remove most of the weeds. Be sure to catch weed seedpods in a grass catcher to prevent spreading the seeds.

Looking ahead to a possible drought next year, remember that how you mow a lawn before a drought can help that lawn flourish during a drought. Before the drought, you can mow every four to five days or as needed according to ground moisture and fertility. Alternate mowing directions to avoid constant mower scuffing. If you mow in a north-south direction one time, mow toward east-west the next time.

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Contact: 

Writer: Cheddi Acham (606) 257-4590

Sources: Richard Durham (606) 257-3249

A. J. Powell (606) 257-5606