What are the Drought-Tolerant Turfs?

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What are the Drought-Tolerant Turfs?

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Drought tolerance refers to a turf’s ability to survive during dry weather where there is little or no rain. Turfs vary in their tolerance for drought conditions and water requirements. When choosing a turf, consider your climate and annual precipitation. Besides choosing turfs that are more tolerant of drought conditions, it’s also important to properly irrigate your lawn and know your soil type so your turf can survive.


Step One

Smooth Brome - Smooth brome is a drought-tolerant turf that is green in early spring. This turf is a pasture grass that needs less fertilizer and has wide blades. It's frequently used by itself or is combined with western wheatgrass and crested wheatgrass for controlling roadside erosion. Smooth brome grass is also used in mountain lawns or as a lower-maintenance lawn. Mowing smooth brome can result in a loss of its thickness.


Step Two

Blue Grama Grass - Blue grama grass, a warm-season grass, is extremely drought tolerant, needing occasional mowing and minimum fertilization. Although green in warmer months, during fall and winter it has an appealing straw color. It may be drought tolerant, but this grass can't take heavy foot traffic or shady areas. This turf is also not suited for growing in elevations that are higher than 6,500 feet above sea level, according to Colorado State University Extension.


Step Three

Zoysiagrass - Zoysiagrass is an exceptionally drought-tolerant warm-season turf. Under extreme drought conditions, this very adaptable turf acquires a straw color. This grass can respond to rainfall or irrigation following a drought. Its leaf blades are able to conserve water better than other types of grass and its deep roots permit it to properly extract water from greater depths of soils. Zoysiagrass grows in all types of soils, including clays and sands.


Step Four

Tall Fescue - Tall fescue is a dark-green, fine-textured grass that's drought tolerant as well as heat tolerant. This grass thrives in sunny areas, but it can also take moderate shade. It's slow to establish and germinates best in temperatures that are higher than 70 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the University of Rhode Island. Although it can tolerate shade better than Kentucky bluegrass and perennial ryegrass, tall fescue turfs are less shade tolerant than fine fescue grasses.


Step Five

Considerations - Applying longer but less frequent watering to a lawn helps a turf develop deeper roots. The University of Florida Extension recommends watering turf only when you notice that 30 percent to 50 percent of the turf displays signs of wilting. Symptoms of a turf wilting include a bluish-gray color, folding leaf blades and footprints that stay in the grass.


Step Six

Warning - Even though drought-resistant turfs can survive dry conditions, they still go dormant. This can be seen with grass blades becoming lighter in color. After receiving water, most turfs will recover. When undergoing a serious drought, cool-season grasses, such as fescues, ryegrasses and bluegrasses can die, so they need to be reseeded in autumn.


Step Seven

Water Requirements for Soils - Different soil types require different water amounts for supplying moisture to a root zone at a depth of 6 inches. Clay soil needs 1 to 1-1/2 inches of water, while loam requires 1 inch of water, according to Colorado State University Extension. For sandy soil the water requirement is even less, at only 1/2 an inch of water. Irrigate turfs during early morning hours, as this is when there is the least evaporation loss.


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