Taking Care of Your Lawn During a Drought

As fall kicks into full gear, one of the worst droughts in decades is slowly drawing to a close. This year, more than half of the United States was severely impacted by a drought that damaged gardens, browned lawns and withered crops. In September, the United States Department of Agriculture designated more than 2,000 U.S. counties as disaster areas, mainly due to weather conditions. As a result, this past season's drought is still having a significant impact on our economy, from rising food prices to the cost of ethanol to jobs. We even felt the impact at Scotts Miracle-Gro, as many consumers were forced to scale back the time they spent maintaining their yards and gardens.

Luckily, relief from the drought is on the way, as the change in season typically brings cooler temperatures, more frequent precipitation and warmer soil -- prime conditions to both help settle the nation's agricultural turmoil and help homeowners nurse lawns back to health, strengthen turfgrass roots and prepare for a vibrant green spring.

Far from just serving a cosmetic purpose, building a healthy lawn is one of the most important steps homeowners can take towards helping protect their property. Turfgrass packs millions of plants close together, brings dense root system to the surface, holds soil in place and helps prevent erosion and runoff.

So, as autumn settles in, keep some tips in mind on how to feed, seed and mulch your lawn back to health, while simultaneously benefiting the environment.

1. FeedA healthy, sustainable lawn requires the proper nutrients including nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium -- core components of fertilizer. Fertilizer protects lawns from winter stress and helps speed up green grass in the spring. While the optimal time to fertilize your lawn depends on grass type and geographic location, northern lawns typically respond best to fall and spring feedings, as their roots grow during those seasons. If you have grass clippings and old roots, leave them on your lawn to help recycle nutrients and rich organic matter back into the soil.
2. Seed Over time, grass can get worn down and should be replaced, particularly after periods of heat and drought. Reseeding your lawn in the fall is best, as fewer weeds and more sunlight (due to bare trees) can help make grass grow thick, healthy, and lush again in the spring. The most important step in successful seeding is to get good seed-to-soil contact, so make sure to rough up the ground with a hard rake before seeding and/or spread a light layer of soil over the seed afterwards. Placing seeds in direct contact with soil keeps water flowing to young tender roots.
3. Mulch Tree Leaves According to our research, lawns mulched with fallen leaves can green up quicker in the spring. Mulched leaves provide organic matter and nutrients to help your lawn grow.This fall, mow leaves into dime size pieces and leave them on your lawn. As they lay there, earthworms and microbes will naturally recycle these nutrients back into the land. Homeowners who have yards with lots of trees and heavy leaf cover can speed up this decomposition process by fertilizing after the final use of mulch. Additionally, this will help to reduce lawn waste, keep leaves out of storm drains, return nutrients to the grass and protect against winter stress.

Brown may have been the new green for grass this summer, but use these tips this fall to revitalize your lawn, prepare for a brighter spring season and strengthen turfgrass for future weather conditions.

As a lawn and garden care company, we know that lawns are an important extension of your home -- a place where kids play and memories are made. As this year's drought comes to a close, be cognizant of steps to repair lawns affected by extreme weather conditions and help to rejuvenate a healthy, sustainable part of your home.