Let’s face it, July was hot, and August, let’s hope not hotter! It’s also dry in many areas. Some say these drought conditions started last fall and continued through a cold, dry winter. Now that we’ve hit the hot, dry summertime, drought stress can kill our turf and a superintendent’s budget.

You may be a golf course superintendent, professional landscaper or a homeowner caring for your yard. Drought conditions affect us all. Our differences may be access to water, costs of water and the budget. The sooner we alleviate turf stress, the better.

We must make the water that’s available to us stretch to meet our needs — without killing the turf. How do we balance availability and cost against acceptable conditions?

1. Have a Plan

Good water management practices include a drought plan. Water conservation practices might include:

  • Lined ponds (reduce evaporation)
  • Moisture monitoring systems
  • Irrigation inspection and maintenance
  • Scheduled aeration
  • Alternative water sources (effluent and brackish water)
  • Turf tolerant to brackish water
  • Drought-tolerant, no-mow turf
  • Raised mowing heights
  • Decreased mowing frequency
  • Naturalized grass areas with good soil conditions
  • Root-pruning trees to avoid water competition
  • Application of growth regulators before wilt/dormancy
  • Soil improvement
  • Root mass improvement
  • Suspension of fertilizers and pesticides when turf is dormant
  • Surfactants to increase water

2. Use a Surfactant (Quick fix)

Of that plan, one of the most important and quickest drought recovery aides is a high-quality soil surfactant. Surfactants decrease the surface tension of water, so it can penetrate and move through the soil more effectively. This makes available water more useful, productive and efficient.

I’ve worked in turf and agriculture over 35 years, and I’ve never seen a better surfactant than Huma Gro® Turf Surf-Max®. Surf-Max works in a unique way, moving water horizontally before pushing water down through the soil profile. This has many benefits. On sand-based greens, we don’t lose water straight down through the soil profile. More water is kept in the root zone. In clay soils, Surf-Max helps water penetrate with less pooling on the surface. Surf-Max also moves water quickly and efficiently through thatch layers that are traditionally difficult for water to penetrate. Additionally, Surf-Max increases the availability of nutrients and soil conditioning products in the soil as they can move freely with the water through the soil profile.

3. Improve Soil Health Feed (beneficial) Fungi

In conjunction with surfactant treatment, soil needs to be conditioned to be more receptive to water. At Huma Gro Turf, we take a sustainable approach of improving soil structure and soil health. Healthy soil allows better water infiltration and has better water holding capacity. We accomplish this with Huma Gro Turf’s Fertil Humus® to stimulate the beneficial fungi in the soil. Fertil Humus also breaks down and recycles organic matter in the soil, producing humus-rich soil.

4. Feed (beneficial) Bacteria

Alternatively, Multi-Purpose™ improves soil structure by feeding the beneficial bacteria in the soil and stimulating microbial activities. The combination of Fertil Humus and Multi-Purpose produces a long-term, healthy soil environment that saves water, makes nutrients more available, and sustains healthy turf. 5. Increase Root Mass Finally, a superior root system should be developed. The more mass to the root system, the greater the water and nutrient uptake and overall plant health. Huma GroTurf increases root mass with a product called Breakout®. When applied to soil, Breakout promotes a dense fibrous root system.

The sooner we start preventative and recovery measures, the sooner we see results. Let’s use water as efficiently as possible as soon as possible. Whether in drought or abundance, we can do more with less both on the golf course and at home.