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Five Signs of a Drought Stressed Lawn

Five Signs of a Drought Stressed Lawn

Tips to help you detect a moisture level problem in your lawn.

After an excessively wet spring, it’s hard to imagine we would ever need to water our lawns again. As we hit July’s high temperatures, it’s a reality that the sprinklers will be put to use. How do you know when your lawn needs a sip? RYAN Pro, Ryan Markway, gives us five indications of a drought-stressed lawn.


A healthy lawn is dark green, while an under-watered lawn will possess a slightly blue/gray tint-and almost purple color if the grass is extremely dry. “If you wear polarized sunglasses (that reduce glare), you can notice the subtle change in color of the lawn more easily,” Markway says. “Color changes may not always be a moisture issue.” A closer examination of the lawn will decipher if under-watering is truly the problem, especially in the extreme summer heat.

dry grass

Wilting & Browning

Wilting and browning are also tell-tale signs of lawn dehydration. Grass leaf blades will wilt by curling from the outside in. Browning, especially in shallow-rooted turf areas, commonly occurs. How do you know the cause of brown patches on your lawn is due to drought versus fungus? Dry lawns turn brown starting at the tip and working back towards the roots of the grass plant. Fungal issues can be identified by spotted lesions on grass blades. If you need help distinguishing the difference, contact your RYAN Pro for help.

Poor Recovery

If you walk or drive your lawnmower across a poorly hydrated lawn, you may see your footprints or tire tracks on the dry grass left behind. Grass blades are less likely to rebound when they are parched.

Soil Gapping

Gapping and cracking in the soil can be an indicator of poor moisture levels in the lawn. Gaps will be most noticeable at the edges of curbs, driveways, and sidewalks. You may also find cracking in the thin areas of the lawn that get more sun exposure to the soil’s surface. “Clay soils are more prone to cracking so physically check to be sure to use the screwdriver test below to confirm moisture level,” Markway advises.

Screwdriver Test

If all else fails, check for soil moisture with the screwdriver test. Stick the metal end of the tool into the soil of your lawn. It should be easy to push in if watering levels are adequate. Open a gap in the soil with the screwdriver and examine the soil. Properly hydrated soil will have a dark color and moist, crumbly consistency. The screwdriver will be tough to push into drought lawn areas and the appearance of the soil will be lighter in color and dry.

If you’re experiencing the above signs, your lawn likely needs more moisture. How much should you water your lawn this summer? When temperatures are hot, most lawns need about 2 inches of precipitation a week. Of course, not all 2 inches should be applied at once. It’s best if your lawn receives half an inch of water every 2-3 days.

Investing in technology like smart controllers that use local weather to determine watering needs can be helpful in maintaining consistent moisture in your lawn and prevent dry grass. These devices take the guesswork out of watering and save you money and time. If you have questions or are interested in getting a smart sprinkler controller, the experienced professionals at Ryan Lawn and Tree can help. Request your free estimate for lawn care in Shawnee, KS, Kansas City, Tulsa, Springfield, Wichita, St. Louis, or Branson, MO today!

Are You and Your Lawn Stressed Out From a Drought?

If you’re short on time this summer or looking for a little extra help with your lawn, reach out to us at Ryan Lawn & Tree. We would love to help you. Get a Free Estimate today for help with your lawn care needs by a RYAN lawn care expert!

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