Iowa Summer Drought Lawn Survival Guide

Jul 10, 2023
Iowa Summer Drought Lawn Survival Guide

As everyone who lives in Eastern Iowa knows, rain has been seen about as often as Big Foot this summer. So far, the summer of 2023 is one of the driest on record in Iowa with most of the state running far beyond normal precipitation levels through June 30.

Where are we living? Death Valley?

The Hawkeye State has unfortunately become a rain desert this summer. And our lawns are paying a large and heavy health price for it.

“Dry, drought-ridden summers are becoming the norm in many regions, and those high temperatures without rainfall can cause permanent damage to even the healthiest lawns,” Angi’s Paige Bennet writes.

Droughts, of course, are caused by low precipitation over an extended period of time. Statewide, Iowa has received just 40% on average of its normal June rainfall reports state climatologist Justin Gilsan.

“When you’re at 40% of the normal (rainfall) in June, that’s telling you that the precipitation deficits are pretty stark,” Gilsan told We Are Iowa.

It’s not just Iowa that is starving for rain. The U.S. Drought Monitor reports 58% of the American Midwest is now in moderate to extreme drought (D1-D3 Categories). Eastern Iowa, the U.S. DM reports, has among the most rapid deterioration in conditions.

What can the average Iowa homeowner do to protect their lawn during these driest of times without spending a fortune on watering 24/7? You can keep your lawn hydrated during this dry Iowa summer by following these smart Drought Lawn Protection Tips.

Prioritize Watering Areas

Various parts of your lawn may require different amounts of water, Trees require more hydration to remain healthy, so focus on irrigating them first.

And while it breaks every homeowner’s heart to see their grass turn a pale brown, avoid the temptation to overwater it.

“Although it’s hard not to water grass when you see it drying out, it’s important to remember that your lawn will actually go dormant and can survive this way for a couple of weeks between waterings,” Bennett cautions.

Soak the Soil

On that note, avoid daily light watering and opt for a heavier, occasional water dose. Aim to give your turf ½ inch of water every two weeks, which will give your grass the H2O it needs until sweet rain eventually comes.

Water in the Morning

Remember, just like us, the sun’s afternoon humidity can dry out even a recently hydrated lawn. Watering in the peak midway heat will cause much of the water to evaporate rather than soak into the soil. Watering in the early morning allows water to soak into the soil and avoid evaporation.

“Strategic watering can make all the difference in a healthy lawn,” Bennett notes.

Don’t Let Weeds Take Over Your Lawns

Of course, the one plant that enjoys a good drought are weeds. If they weren’t unsightly lawn pests as is, they compete with your grass for all resources, including the currently limited resource of natural water.

Be sure to pull up weeds at the root, even on brown grass. Mulch can also assist with stifling weed growth and keeping your soil moist should Iowa labor through another dry July.

‘Hang In There’

The other standard summer lawn care rules (including mowing high and sharpening your mower blades) also apply.

“Hang in there,” advises. “Most grass will rebound in due time so long as you give it what it needs.”

We can’t make it rain, but we can do everything we can to help our lawns get by until sweet rain relief arrives.

“It’s one of those things that my grandfather and my father always said; you can talk about it, you can think about it, you can even worry about it,” Boone County third-generation farmer Morey Hill told We Are Iowa. “But you can’t do anything about it. So take care of the stuff you can do.”