Forget who killed JFK, what happened to the Lost City of Gold and the disappearance of DB Cooper because nothing has puzzled outsiders more than our obsession with talking about the weather. But that’s the beauty of our little island. We go from having a winter that’s scientifically wetter than a mermaid’s tail to one of the driest springs on record; a spring that’s seen just 3.5 inches of rain drop from the sky since the start of March, a spring so dry there’s whispers of a hosepipe ban being put in place.
Of course, the thought of a hosepipe ban has put just one question on everybody’s lips: how the heck can you care for your lawn when you’re not allowed to water your lawn?
Well, the first thing you can do is stop worrying because your lawn is more hardy than a Winston Churchill speech, and so are most of the plants in your garden, all of which have a few natural survival skills built into their DNA. All you need to do is help them make the most of these survival skills so that your lawn can come back with an Adele-level glow-up as soon as we get some rainfall again.
So, let’s do this shall we:
- Your Lawn Will Lose Its Colour, But Don’t Worry
At some point during a hosepipe ban, you’ll wake up, brew a cuppa, head over to your favourite spot by your favourite window, look at your garden and realise the colour has been drained from your lawn. It’s shocking, but it’s important not to panic because this little move is actually a drought management strategy. Your grass plants are simply trying to store up as much food, nutrients and water in their roots as possible, down where it’s cooler and more shaded, and that’s what makes it look like your lovely lawn has shrivelled up. It might not be ideal for your Instagram shots, but it’s one of the reasons why I’ve never seen an established lawn die from drought.
Newly laid lawns are a slightly different kettle of turf, however, so it may be worth speaking to your local water authority and seeing if they’ll make an exception for you (*pro tip: send them a cute photo of your lawn to help sway their decision).
- Act Now, Protect Your Lawn, Save The Grass
There’s only one rule during a hosepipe ban and that’s errr, well, don’t use your hosepipe. But that doesn’t mean you can’t whip out your watering can. At least, technically not, although that would keep you busier than a one-armed trombone player no matter how big or small your lawn. Besides, I’m like 93% sure the water companies haven’t put the ban in place just to entertain themselves. It’s for the health and hygiene of our nation, man. Thankfully, there are some other things you can do to keep your lawn looking healthier for longer, and allow it to recover super-quickly when hose pipes are no no illegal, such as:
Stop making your lawn stressed: Lawn grasses are pretty patient plants, but just like your younger sibling, they do have a stress threshold, so try not to walk, play, dance or let your dog pee on your lawn too much during a ban because that can cause a lot of extra harm. So just be a little gentle with your lawn for the time being. Minimise the length of your kid’s kickabouts, delay any garden campouts, try to move your picnic rugs around each day and if you have to walk across your lawn to get the shed or washing line try to take a different route each time. I’m not saying “don’t use your lawn!” I’m just saying be a little mindful for the moment.
Mow more problems, please: The first thing that happens to your lawn in a drought is it stops growing. It will still set seeds, which are those long, wiry stalks that tickle your ankles, but that’s a defence mechanism just in case the “mother plant” doesn’t survive. But we’re not going to let that happen, so if you want to get the mower out and take them out, by all means do, just make sure you pop your mower on its highest setting. Why? ‘Cos your plants are already stressed, and scalping them will make them freak out more than a tired toddler.
Mulch ado about everything: Second pro tip of the day: Leave a light sprinkling of grass clippings on your lawn to act as a mulch and keep that precious moisture in and stop it evaporating in the heat. And then, when it does eventually rain, grab your rake and clear any clippings left to allow the moisture to get down and dirty with the roots.
Needing a weeding: It’s times like these when weeds sense a weakness in your lawn and pounce, popping up everywhere way more than normal. Dandelions, plantains, bindweed, the sort of weeds that have really long roots that can reach the groundwater your grass roots never will. But don’t even think about applying weed killer right now because that could stress your lawn to the point of no return, and be wary of pulling them out too because any sort of soil disturbances right now could dry it out even quicker. So, if you’re worried, give me a call and we’ll come over and see if they’re the sort of weeds that will respond to careful spot-treating right now or if they are best dealt with after the drought.
- Start Planning For Your Lawn’s Epic Comeback Gig
As soon as the rain reappears (or hose pipes are made legal again), your lawn is going to green up and grow like you’ve never seen it grow before. In the meantime, there are some things you can do while you’re waiting that will massively help with your lawn care, such as getting your mower blades sharpened or getting ahead with your autumn lawn care strategy, such as:
A touch of aeration and scarification: The thing about drought is, ummm, it goes hand-in-hand with soil compaction, so I’d definitely recommend booking in a spot of aeration for the autumn as a way of loosening up your soil, giving your roots a bit more breathing space, and allowing nutrients and water to get deeper down. Once you’ve done this, it’s then worth doing a scarification job to get rid of any leaves and grass blades and whatnot that have become part of the thatch layer.
Time for a big plate of nutrition: Remember how your grandma used to tell you to “feed a cold”? Well she was right, and it works with lawn care too because a nice nutritious meal will help them heal after a period of drought. Following a long period without rain or hosepipes, it’s a good idea to give your lawn some feed high in phosphorus and potassium to boost root growth and make their cell walls strong, while kicking weed butt too. Once you’ve done this, try using a foliar feed to bring your lawn’s lush green colour back, such as a seaweed feed, which is packed-full of iron and awesome for photosynthesis.