UC Davis CA&ES

Photo by Diana Jahns

Lawn and Groundcover Management During Drought


Warm-season lawns, such as bermudagrass and buffalograss, are more drought-efficient than cool season grasses (e.g. tall fescue and ryegrass) and may come back after several weeks of dryness. Cool-season grasses may die within a month or two of receiving no water.  Signs of drought include wilted leaves and a bluish-gray appearance followed by yellow leaves that will eventually turn brown.  Cutting the length of irrigation gradually to ½ of that recommended in the UC Lawn Watering Guide  may help get your lawn through the drought.  Consult with your local Master Gardener, garden center or landscape professional for more detailed information on how to water your lawn under specific drought restrictions in your area.

Once a lawn stops receiving adequate moisture, it will gradually turn brown and go dormant.  Maintain the deficit irrigation schedule until more water is available, or the lawn will slowly deplete its energy reserves and struggle to recover later.  A lawn that recently turned brown from drought can often be revived with thorough watering, but it may be difficult to revive a lawn that has been deprived of water for a long time.  This will depend on the turf variety, soil type, time since last irrigation, weather, and other parameters.


Ground covers often survive on about half the amount of water they would receive under optimal conditions, although some dieback may occur. To avoid serious drought stress, they should be watered at least once every 3 to 6 weeks from April through September, depending on location and soil conditions.

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