Angie's List: How to help your landscaping survive the drought


Stressed about your brown, dry lawn? Don't be. Most types of grass can make it up to six weeks without water. Watering too often can actually do more harm than good.

Instead, focus on your trees. They need water more than your grass because they don't bounce back from drought as easily. Need another reason? Trees are more expensive to replace than grass.

If your area isn't currently under a watering ban, below are 7 tips to survive the drought, compiled by Angie's List, the nation's leading provider of consumer reviews, based on advice from highly rated lawn specialists. 

  1. Know your lawn: Different types of grass have different needs. Kentucky bluegrass, for example, will die if it goes without moisture for more than seven weeks or so. Other grasses, like ryegrass, can go longer without a drink.
  2. Measure it or step on it: Test the moisture level of your soil with your screwdriver. If you cannot easily spear the ground, the soil is too dry. You can forget the tool and just step on your grass too. If it springs back easily, it has plenty of moisture. If it doesn't, it needs a drink.
  3. Don't grow lazy plants: Most lawns can survive up to six weeks without a drop of water, and watering daily only slows their root development – or makes them lazy. Watering deeply once a week rather than a small amount every day will encourage longer root development.
  4. Make a toast: Too many homeowners turn on the sprinkler and think their job is done. Instead, be sure you're watering in the right place, in the right amount and at the right time.  Put an empty drinking glass in the middle of where your sprinklers reach. You're done when you can measure an inch in the glass. For bigger areas, use more glasses. To get the most out of your watering, be sure to water in the early morning hours, rather than in the middle of the day when the extreme heat will quickly dry up your lawn.
  5. Age matters: An exception to the deep and infrequent water rule should be made for plants less than 3 years in the ground. They may need up to 15 gallons spread over a week.  
  6. Make friends with mulch: Mulch is among the most affordable and easy products to help your plants stay healthy. It does triple duty by limiting evaporation and letting moisture seep in slowly, so that plants have a chance to drink when they need it, and it chokes off weeds that can rob plants of water. It's low maintenance, but not no-maintenance. Fluff the mulch after it's laid on the ground a few months to keep it working well and looking good. Be sure not to mulch too closely to trees, though, as it can actually keep water from reaching the roots.
  7. The forest and the trees: While most homeowners are focused on their withering lawn, few look up, and that's a disservice to their trees. Trees need attention, too, and in extreme conditions likely need more attention than the grass. Twice weekly watering with a slow drip is recommended. Trees left too long without access to water have a much more difficult time bouncing back than their grassy counterparts. There are even slow-drip watering bags for trees which only need filling every 3-5 days.

Angie's List Tips: Hiring a lawn care company

  • Check with Angie's List to see what your neighbors have to say about the lawn care contractors in your area.
  • Beware of any company or product that promises a quick cure. Remember your lawn is a growing plant. If it is weak and damaged it will take longer to recover.
  • Make sure the lawn care company meets state and local certifications or licensing requirements, if warranted.
  • The federal government requires those who apply certain chemicals to control weeds, insects or diseases to be certified pesticide applicators. If they can't provide documentation, find another company.
  • Membership or certification by industry groups, such as state's landscape or nursery association, demonstrates participation in professional development programs.
  • Any changes to the contract should be in writing with copies of any amendments signed by all parties.
  • Good lawn care companies will offer tips and suggestions about caring for and maintaining your landscaping.