Abnormally dry conditions start turning lawns brown

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It’s been almost three weeks since south central Wisconsin has seen a significant rainfall, and people are starting to see the effects in their backyards.

The U.S. Drought Monitor says parts of the area are “abnormally dry.”

“I would say if it doesn’t rain in the next couple of weeks, we’re going to have some problems,” said John Harms, with Maple Leaf Landscaping.

Harms, the general manager for Maple Leaf’s lawn maintenance and snow removal division, said his crews are starting to see brown grass, especially after it’s cut.

“You’re probably going to see that over the next few weeks if we do not get substantial rain,” Harms said.

He said the area needs more than just a sudden downpour.

“We need a long duration, soaking event, not a quick even rain shower that comes in quick, rains, and it will all run off,” Harms said.

If you’re starting to see your grass change color, Harms said you shouldn’t panic. The browning just means the grass isn’t in optimal conditions, but as long as the root system is maintained, the blades should survive.

In the meantime, there are things you can do to help your lawn.

“I would recommend cutting it as high as you can, maybe skipping it for a week if you can and not mowing it for as long as possible,” Harms said. “Let the dew in the morning, the little bit that we still have, it’ll help keep it in the grass a lot longer.”

While the crews at Maple Leaf typically expect a dry spell sometime in the summer, it usually comes earlier and it’s never optimal.

“I mean, this is their livelihood. This is how they earn their income. They’ve got families at home, they’ve got kids,” Harms said. “Without 40 hours a week, it’s hard for them to get by.”

Harms said there could be long-term effects on your yard if there is an extended period without rain, so he suggests if it persists in the weeks to come, break out the sprinkler.

“If we have an abnormally cold winter coming right after a hot, late summer-early fall, that can be problematic,” Harms said.