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When temperatures rise and water becomes scarce, even the healthiest lawn can succumb to drought stress. Drought stress is common in places like Colorado where long stretches of dry weather can be accompanied with high temperatures, soil compaction, high winds and water bans. The combination of stressors can result in lawns that are visibly stressed. Here’s what you need to know:


Signs of Drought Stress

If you suspect your lawn’s browning blades are caused by drought stress, there are some signs you can look for and simple tests you can do to identify if that is what’s causing your grass to wilt, brown and even die.


  • Brown blades with deep roots – By tugging on a patch of brown grass in your yard, you’ll get a good idea of how deep the roots are. If the grass won’t pull easily from the soil and it feels firmly rooted, you’re probably dealing with drought stress.


  • Dry soil – Identify whether your soil is dry using a screwdriver. Simply push it into your lawn in a brown patch and in a green patch. If it’s easy to penetrate the green lawn, but not the brown, you’re dealing with dry soil and most likely drought stress.


  • Patterns – Look at your lawn as a whole and identify where the brown spots are. If the grass is brown far away from sprinklers, at the top of a hill or in unprotected areas, your lawn is likely suffering from drought stress.


  • Shaded areas – Often people miss signs of drought stress because they don’t pay attention to shade in their yard. Grass planted in shady areas will often stay green and healthy while grass out in the open dries out and browns. When assessing brown spots, make a note of the light conditions and temperature.


  • Footprints or mower lines – If you walk or drive on your lawn and notice footprints or mower tracks, you know your lawn is lacking in moisture. Healthy lawns will spring back, but drought stressed lawns will not. Often, these impressions are the first symptom of drought stress before the grass starts to brown.


  • Changes in color – Not all grass turns brown right away. For example, Kentucky Bluegrass turns a grayish color when it starts to dry while other types of grass simply become darker. You may also notice that individual blades begin to wilt before they brown.