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Purdue turf expert discusses lawn health in extreme heat

Purdue University turf expert Cale Bigelow says watering two to three times per week is a good rule of thumb.

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — How often should we be watering our lawn in this drought?

This summer’s extreme heat has done a number on our lawns. 

Normally green front yards, city parks and even some golf courses have turned crispy and brown, desperate for rain.

But Purdue University turf expert Cale Bigelow says that’s not necessarily a reason to worry that your yard is dying or dead.

“Lawns are extremely resilient,” said Bigelow, a professor of horticulture and landscape architecture in the College of Agriculture. “If you haven’t been watering your lawn, the plant is dormant right now, so you need to start thinking about three or four weeks from now trying to rejuvenate it.”

That means feeding your lawn to make sure it’s getting nutrients.

“A slow release of a nitrogen source would be appropriate just to kind of help the grass regrow. Light rates, not excessive,” he said.

How much should we be watering our lawn? Bigelow says that depends. Economically, important lawns like Victory Field or a golf course need irrigation every other day.

Credit: WTHR

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“Maybe in extreme situations, like we had a few weeks ago where we hit 100 degrees, that might be every day for a couple days,” he said.

For everyone else, Bigelow says two to three times per week is a good rule of thumb.

For a species of grass that’s more drought-tolerant, consider a turf-type tall fescue.

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"Those grasses are going to tolerate those drought events and stay greener longer,” he said.

The most important thing to remember is that your lawn is a plant that, while resilient, still needs some TLC.

"This has been a stressful event,” said Bigelow, comparing it to a boxing match. “Sometimes you can take that first big punch from someone like Mike Tyson. But those repeated punches, it’s going to take a lot more energy to come back from that. That’s nutrition, hydration, all the things a living organism is going to need.”

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