There have been no rain the last month and it's now illegal to water the lawn. It's been a week since I last watered the lawn, and the long-term forecast predicts no rain the coming two weeks.

I live in a place where it normally rains a lot. May is usually the driest month with about 13 rainy days and 100 mm total precipitation. It was no rain at all this May. The average daily maximum temperature in May is normally about 15-20 oC. The last two weeks however it's been about 26-30 oC. All weather records have been shattered this year.

The soil isn't deep (I don't know exactly how deep), and the lawn is just one year old. The grass is cold season grass.

Should I mow the lawn, or it's it better to leave it alone during the drought?

2 Answers 2


I do not water my lawn during a drought; if it's cold-season grass, then it will go dormant and turn brown, but the lawn will recover when it rains again or when you can water again - given a minimal amount of moisture during that time

Here's a link with some useful information: http://extension.illinois.edu/lawntalk/weeds/managing_lawns_during_drought.cfm

Let me call out one quote from that link: "Taller turf allows more shading of the soil, conserving what moisture is in the soil."

  • 1
    allowing a lawn to go dormant is not at all healthy for that crop of grasses. Training the roots to grow deep makes lawns drought tolerant. Lawns are an investment and for any authority to jump in and say STOP watering your landscape is seriously wrong. The landscape is a huge part of the value of the home. Learning how to water properly would make rationing moot.
    – stormy
    Mar 19, 2019 at 4:40
  • @Stormy - you cannot be serious. Allowing bluegrass to go dormant in drought is environmentally responsible and does not harm the lawn. american-lawns.com/grasses/bluegrass_ky.html
    – Jurp
    Mar 19, 2019 at 12:32
  • Stormy - as noted in the link, bluegrass is a SHORT-ROOTED grass - its roots will never grow deep enough. I agree with you that, should you water, water well and water not very often (an inch of water once a week - and only ONCE a week), but it's definitely okay to allow the grass to go dormant during a drought if you choose to. In many parts of the country, water restrictions go into effect during a drought, so dormancy is the way to go.
    – Jurp
    Mar 19, 2019 at 15:21
  • Really? A short rooted grass mixed with deep rooted grasses? I don't think so, Jurp. You have to train your grass crop to be able to be drought tolerant. I have worked with cool season grass for decades...one decade for commercial maintenance of lawns and landscape alone. This is a lengthy article on Poa pratensis. Rhizomes that actually start growing in response to drought (times between watering) and they are called 'Tillers'....blue grass can survive with other grasses that have adaptations to grow big roots to get at water. They are not shallow rooted. Not okay to allow dormancy.
    – stormy
    Mar 19, 2019 at 21:52
  • I hope my link is included or I'll go find it again. Dormancy is a major stress to any crop. Do not forget that a cool season lawn is always a mixture of 4 or 5 or more species. Training roots is very cool, Jurp. The lawns I maintained never went brown during a hot, dry season nor with water restrictions. Do not have to allow a crop of grasses to go dormant when you've trained their roots to be deep and have access to water shallowly watered grasses can not. Shoot. This was my CAREER, Jurp. High stakes to impress rich owners!
    – stormy
    Mar 19, 2019 at 21:59

You have to send a picture of your lawn, exactly where you live...need to know whether your lawn is warm season grasses or cool season grasses. Huge difference. I am guessing you have cool season grasses which will go dormant in the winter and with proper training, fertilizing and mowing practices should easily resist droughts.

How much illegal is it to water your landscape? If you trained your cool season grasses properly you would only need 1" of water applied to your lawn. Allowing grasses to 'die' or go 'dormant' to the point of live crowns and dead grass might work ONCE. One dormancy other than winter, which is never brown btw., is all a grass crop can handle without succumbing to weeds, compaction, hydrophobic soil. All that work to make a beautiful lawn will be wasted.

What do you mean there is not much soil? How much water is legal? What are the parameters used to call a critical no water your landscape order? There are many reasons why this order is simply wrong. Remember the dust bowls in central America? Watering of cool season grasses when done correctly can save water and still allow green grass that is using up CO2 so our planet doesn't become a Venus...I am being very facetious. That is not a problem.

When this stupid order is called off by the city 'experts' on water and landscaping in cities...grrrr...we can teach you how to train your grass crop called a lawn to be drought resistant to survive the next ban. Your lawn if cool season grasses can be trained to be luscious and vigorous on 1 inch of water per week. If you train your grass by watering properly.

Grasses (cool season) have basic maintenance practices every lawn owner should be aware and using. Warm season grasses are an entirely different deal. Cool season grass lawns are far easier to cultivate and manage to never ever need any other chemistry applied other than fertilizer. up to 4X per year. Did you fertilize before the ban? Do NOT FERTILIZE now. At all.

Your lawn should be mowed once per week. Mowing will not hurt or help your grass during drought. I am hoping your grass height is kept at 3 inches MINIMUM. 3 1/2 is best. If your grass is shorter than 3" do not mow. Aeration by pulling plugs of soil out of your lawn bed leaving them where they fall is a good idea to do now. If you have warm season grasses this answer is irrelevant.

  • I don't have the opportunity to send a picture now, unfortunately. I have cold season grass (I didn't know there was a difference until now). The water supply is running critically low, so the water must be used as drinking water. All use of water outdoors is forbidden. There has never ever been a drought here before (an island in western Norway). The ground is rocks and gravel covered with a layer of soil that is just deep enough for grass to grow. I don't know how thin the layer of soil can be for grass to grow, but that's how much we have (the developers saves money where they can). Jun 3, 2018 at 11:05
  • Grass can grow in just a few inches of soil. Do others on your island (would I love to SEE this island) have thick lawns? How is your water supply regenerated? We are in a Grand Solar Minimum right now and we'll all be getting colder for a few decades, at least. Is that a good thing for your water supply?
    – stormy
    Jun 3, 2018 at 13:45
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    @stormy, which do you consider more important: water for drinking, or water for keeping lawns green? There are parts of the world with very limited water reserves, and if the rains don't come when expected, all non-critical use of water needs to be stopped so that they don't need to import water.
    – Mark
    Jun 3, 2018 at 18:53
  • Why then aren't there measures in place to prepare for water rationing? How does any community allow a 'critical' water situation? There is a great need for bigger thinkers in the city employ. Mark, if people knew how to manage their landscape plant needs, how to train their lawns to be drought tolerant and use but 1" per week of water and be thriving, healthy during any drought. I wouldn't allow problems to become problems in the first place. Insane. Allowing a lawn or landscape plants to die is not a solution. Feast and famine need to be changed into preparing for famine. Stop waste.
    – stormy
    Jun 4, 2018 at 3:43
  • @stormy you forgot that you need to treat grass like a cover crop that will protect the soil, and hold moisture in the ground. Mar 19, 2019 at 4:09

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