When lawns turn brown in July, the best thing to do is…….nothing.

July 6, 2010 in Extension

Most Pennsylvania homeowners are seeing parched, brown grass as they step out their front door this first week of July. The lack of appreciable rain over the past few weeks coupled with low humidity and high temperatures have set the stage for a long, tough summer for lawns. The best thing to do for your lawn right now is leave it alone…..don’t walk on it, don’t play on it, don’t mow it, and certainly don’t fertilize it. The only thing that can help your lawn when temperatures reach >90oF and the soil is dry is water. However, the large amounts of water needed to keep lawns green during this kind of weather is expensive and not very practical for the majority of homeowners who have only garden sprinklers at their disposal. Also, if we don’t receive significant rainfall soon, water restrictions will almost certainly go into effect. The good news is that turfgrasses are fairly well adapted to droughty summers and most lawns will undergo dormancy, survive, and recover when the cool, moist weather returns in late summer or fall.

Pennsylvania’s Drought Task Force (chaired by the head of Pennsylvania Emergency Management, with representatives from DEP, the state and federal Agriculture Departments, US Geological Survey, and National Weather Service) will be meeting later this month to discuss water conditions, as well as weather forecasts for Pennsylvania. If a drought emergency is declared, 4 PA Code Chapter 119 will go into effect and the following restrictions will be enforced for landscaped:

Water outdoor gardens and landscape areas between 5 p.m. and 9 a.m. using a hand-held hose with an automatic shut-off nozzle, or an irrigation system.

Watering of lawns is strictly prohibited, except for newly-seeded lawns or new sod.

Newly seeded grass area or new sod can be watered between 5 p.m. and 9 a.m. with a bucket of hand-held hose with an automatic shut-off.

Using water for ornamental purposes, including fountains, artificial waterfalls, and reflecting pools is prohibited unless to sustain aquatic life.