How to Recognize Drought Stress in Your Lawn

How to Recognize Drought Stress in Your Lawn


Think about summertime in Florida for a moment—cold drinks, hot sun, beach trips, etc. All in all, it sounds like a pretty low-stress season, right? We hope so, anyway.

Unfortunately, the low-stress of summertime doesn’t quite translate over to your lawn—in fact, summer (especially a Florida summer) can be one of the most stressful seasons of all for your grass or turf. Why? The long period of hot and dry weather (despite our lovely and mostly reliable afternoon showers) can cause serious damage to your lawn.

That damage? We like to call it drought stress.

Drought stress is a serious lawn ailment that can dramatically affect your lawn’s overall health, color, and livelihood—it can eve introduce pests and weeds that wouldn’t normally inhabit that space. Sounds pretty bad, right? We won’t lie, it can be. But just because Florida is essentially the state of forever summer doesn’t mean that your lawn has to fall victim to drought stress.

We’ve compiled our decades of experience to equip you with the need-to-know tests that can help you determine your lawn’s drought stress status before it’s too late! Check out our guaranteed tests here and learn about what you can do to bring your drought-damaged lawn back to life.

The Top Tests that Diagnose Drought Stress

You might be thinking, “hey, it’s summer—of course my lawn is lookin’ thirsty. How can I tell if it’s a minor issue that a little summertime irrigation revamp can’t fix or if it’s a serious, drought stress issue?”

We’ve got you covered. Check out a few of our tried-and-true drought stress tests here—they’re easy, they’re quick, and they’re definitive, meaning even if you do have a drought-stressed yard, you’ll be on your way to remedying it in no time.

Screwdriver Test

This is one of the most basic tests out there, but it’s so helpful! Grab a screwdriver and push it deep into a brown patch in your lawn. Then, push it into a green patch. Do the two patches feel different? If it’s incredibly easy for you to break the soil in the green patch but not the brown patch, you’re likely dealing with drought damage.

Pull Test

Try to pull a blade of grass out. If your blades come out super easily and seem to be very shallow, you might be dealing with drought stress—and if you’re not already, that could be a sign that you will (shallow roots are more susceptible to drought issues than deeper, more grounded roots).

Footprint Test

Do something sacrilegious for a moment and take a jaunt across that beautiful lawn of yours. Notice anything? If you look back at your path and see your footprints clearly laid out in your grass, you’re dealing with a drought stress issue. This is a great first test because this often happens even before you see patchy, dry, or brown spots in your grass.

The Shade Test

Maybe your grass has some symptoms we’ve talked about already but not others. How can you really tell if there’s an issue? The shade test can help. Take notice of the grass in your shaded areas. The grass that’s planted in your shaded areas is probably healthy, green, and looking good. Now, look at the rest of your yard, especially the open parts exposed to the sun. Is it the same? If the sunny part of your yard is patchy and brown but your shaded areas are fine, this is definitely a sign of drought damage.

The Color Test

We don’t even mean check for brown spots—we simply mean take a good, hard look at the color of your grass. Notice anything different? Is your normally bright green grass looking grey? Is something off with the shade that you can’t quite explain. Often, before grass turns brown it will undergo a subtler color change. Catching this before it goes totally brown and patchy can be a lawn-saving factor!

The Crunch Test

This is very much an auditory test—and a pretty dang easy one to conduct. Take a walk across your grass or turf and listen hard. Notice anything? If you hear a significant crunch, it’s probably suffering from drought damage. Healthy, properly irrigated grass or turf shouldn’t crunch under your feet!

What You Should Do to Remedy Drought Stress

The biggest and best thing you can do for your drought damaged lawn is to consider the entirety of the damage. Is this severe damage? Is this just a touch of drought stress? The amount and severity of the damage are going to ultimately determine how you tackle this drought stress issue.

Aerate Soil

Doing your best not to compact your lawn’s soil will do wonders for the healing process. If your lawn gets a town of foot or mower traffic, then it’s likely the soil has been pressed down and compacted, making it tougher for air to get to the roots. Aerating your soil can be a lifesaver for drought-damaged grass.

Revamp Your Irrigation Tactics

First things first, read this—that’s our definitive guide to Florida irrigation. While it might not directly solve your drought stress problem, it can absolutely get you a leg-up on your irrigation know-how (for once your grass is restored).

You also might want to consider revamping your current irrigation tactics. We suggest working with a professional to diagnose these issues first, but it could be helpful to adjust how you irrigate. Instead of watering your lawn every day for a moment, try watering less frequently but more deeply. If you water shallowly every single day, you’re fostering shallow roots that aren’t going to be able to handle Florida droughts. What you’re after is deep roots that are tough and resistant!

Find a Reliable, Knowledgeable Irrigation Partner

Above all though, we recommend working with a reliable irrigation partner—especially if you want to breathe life back into your drought-damaged summer landscape. At Landcrafters, we’ve spent the last 20 years uncovering the ins and outs of Florida landscape—droughts and all. We’re happy to be the knowledgeable and reliable irrigation partner you’ve been looking for.

We hope our drought guide provided you with the tests you needed to determine the health of your grass! Summer can be a difficult time—especially in Florida—don’t let your grass pay the price! Need a little help reviving your grass? Give us a call at (727)-446-3947 to discuss with us. Or, send us a direct inquiry on our contact page here! Looking for more landscape inspo and advice? Check back with our regularly updated blog for tons of informative and exciting posts for your commercial or residential landscape!