It is hard to understand why your green and fresh lawn suddenly turns brown or yellowish. You can’t help but compare your lawn to your neighbors’ and wonder, “What did I do wrong?”
Are they doing anything special to keep their lawn beautiful, lusher, and greener? Because even after the dormant season, your lawn doesn’t seem to grow back and remains lifeless.
To help bring your dead lawn back to life, the first thing you should do is understand why it is dead. Prepare your lawn for the revival process by removing the dead grass and raking the soil. Once finished with this step, plant a seed, or for a lesser time and effort, transplant a mature grass and roll it out onto your lawn.
Once planted, feed your lawn with essential fertilizers, proper watering, and mowing. Dedicate a routine to keep your lawn healthy and green. You also have to be proactive and aware of the fungus and diseases your lawn might encounter.
In this article, we will tackle the steps to revive your dead lawn and prepare your dormant lawn for the next season. We will also discuss the difference between dead grass and a dormant one. Finally, we’ll tell you how to know if your lawn is dead.
How to Know if Your Grass Is Dormant or Dead?
A dormant lawn and a dead lawn are two different things that should be treated differently. Some homeowners believe that a dormant lawn is a dead lawn, and often exert extra work for misunderstanding the problem.
In fact, dormant grass means the grass stopped growing. The main reason for that is the season. Some grass remains dormant for a long time, and it takes some extensive lawn care to wake it up.
If your lawn is brown, it is dormant, not dead. When you walk on it, you will hear a crunching sound, meaning that the top layer of your grass stopped growing. The soil underneath is poised for the next season.
The color of your lawn is a key sign of dormancy. It means that your lawn is alive and sleeping. Grass turns brown especially during winter because it is hibernating. The winter dormancy turns your green lawn to brown to conserve water and nutrients. When winter is over and springtime is in, it will get back around.
Meanwhile, during summer, grass turns brown as a sign of stress, sun-scorched lawn, or drought. Although grass can stay dormant for three to four weeks, if it lasts any longer than that, your lawn is dying.
There are a lot of things that you need to prepare before you begin your landscaping project. One of the things that you have to pay attention to is your soil. Since your soil is vital to the survival of your plants, you need to put a significant amount of effort into making sure that it is in good condition. To get started with this task, read our guide to preparing soil for landscaping.
Steps to Bring Your Dead Grass Back to Life
Now, you are getting worried about how to resurrect your dead lawn or awaken your dormant lawn. Your grass might look brown but it is still likely that there’s some life in it. Your lawn is just calling for your help in bringing it back to life. Here are six steps to do so.
1. Understand the Issue
If you reside in a warm climate and your lawn turns brown every winter, then you have warm-season grass. This kind of grass goes dormant every winter.
On the other hands, lawn in cooler areas is different. Cool-season grass may turn brown and look dead in the summer. It is forced to go dormant due to drought and heat. If it’s brown in the spring, it means that a tough winter has passed, especially if there’s been low snowfall, which left the grass without much insulation.
Ignoring cool-season lawn’s problems can lead to lasting damages. Thus, if you suspect something like your pet urine spots or something more, investigate and apply an immediate remedy to the problem before proceeding. If you have lived with the lawn for a few seasons, you’ll instantly spot the changes.
If you have an extension office in your country, it may be an excellent resource for spot-on lawn advice, whether you reside in rural or highly urbanized areas. Extension agents will help you determine and confirm whether your brown lawn is dormant or dead.
2. Prepare Your Lawn
Early spring and fall are the ideal times to restore a dead lawn. These moderate climates help the grass hit its stride for optimal growth, and you got help from nature, too.
To start, get rid of the weeds that are keeping your lawn brown and stressed. Indeed, weeds are your lawn competitor for water, light, and nutrients. If you use a weed killer, plan it for weeds that might carry new inhibiting grass. Keep at least three weeks between lawn boosting and weed treatments.
Once you have eliminated the weeds, mow your lawn to 1 inch. Then, rake it to remove any dead grass or other debris. Doing so loosens and bares the soil, helping it get ready for the next step. Short-tined metal rakes work best for this step.
Scarification consists of the removal of dead grass using a springtime rake. Removing the dead patches is the most important step in preparing the revival of your lawn. If there are bald spots on the lawn, rake the soil to open it up. This will prepare the bald lawn for the new seed you’ll put down.
Mid-spring is the ideal time to revive and scarify if your lawn died during the winter. To maximize the scarification process, apply the following tips:
- Cut the lawn a week before you scarify.
- Make sure your lawn is not wet on scarification day.
- Sunny and warm conditions are the ideal time to scarify.
- Avoid deep scarification on sloped parts of the lawn.
- Have plenty of sod and seed.
After preparing your lawn and the scarification by removing dead grass, you should also aerate the soil. By roughing the soil, you open the lawn up to oxygen, sunlight, and nutrients. This way, you are creating the perfect environment for new grass to grow.
3. Seed and Sod
Seeding your lawn and laying down a sod are two ways to revive your dead lawn. Seeding your lawns means starting from scratch. It is an inexpensive option, although it requires a lot of time. Meanwhile, sod refers to the transplant of mature grass rolled out like a rug. It is a faster option but a more expensive one. You choice will depend on your time frame and budget.
Benefits of Seeding Your Lawn
- Lower cost
- Little labor
- More grass choices
- Healthier and deeper root system
Disadvantages of Seeding Your Lawn
- A minimal window of time to plant the seed
- High maintenance in the early stages
- Higher chance of growing weeds
- Erosion can derail growth
- Longer maturation time
Benefits of Sod
- Quicker results
- Faster root development
- Bigger window to lay sod
- Little to no chance of developing weeds
- Faster path to foot traffic
Disadvantages of Sod
- Requires more initial labor
- Might not take in growing conditions
- Short transplant windows – fresh sod should be laid 24 hours after the cut
4. Feed Your Lawn
The next step in reviving your lawn lies in your choice of fertilizer and your lawn care maintenance. After laying down the sod or planting your seed, make sure that the root development continues and that your grass is growing.
Here are the four steps in feeding your lawn:
It is recommended to fertilize your sod or planted seed directly before seeding. Then, wait until the lawn has sprouted and germinated before fertilizing again. It should take about six weeks if your fresh sod is in your yard before fertilizing. Have a wide selection in choosing a fertilizer as your sod matures.
Choosing a Lawn Fertilizer
Now that you know when to fertilize, it’s time to choose the formula. Selecting the wrong one can inhibit growth, generating more steps in your lawn care routine. Introducing many fertilizers to immature grass seed will not have initial root development, and the grass will become dense.
For sod, the grass is already formed and established. Its roots require more attention, so a balanced fertilizer is the best lawn care option. Introduce the fertilizer after the six-week window. This step is vital to obtain a lasting green lawn.
Grass seeds require a starter fertilizer for their growth. A high phosphorus fertilizer helps the seed roots take hold in the soil. Meanwhile, a high potassium fertilizer makes the grass seeds grow stronger. It also helps the grass seed withstand both the cold and hot weather, and the stress they can encounter in their environment.
Make sure the sod is pressed down with a lawn roller before fertilizing it. Fertilizing sod is distinctive because the growth is already established with strong grass leaves, so what needs attention is below the ground. Help your sod break through the solid and create strong and lasting roots.
It is recommended to use a 16-4-8 Balance Liquid Lawn Food to provide the sod with slow-release nitrogen. The sod needs it so it won’t ignore the essential need of potassium and phosphorus to maintain the matured grass.
5. Dedicate to the Routine
Once you see that your sod or planted seeds are growing, it’s time to implement a dedicated routine. Plan out when to fertilize, aerate, mow, and water your lawn, so that you’ll never have to deal again with a dead lawn problem.
Here are the routines you have to perfect:
Determine what is the best way to mow your lawn. If your grass is short, it will be prone to damages once you will mow it. Besides, it retains less water. Although you should still mow the lawn once in a while, don’t make it a habit.
Having a higher grass prevents weed growth, like crabgrass. Keep your mower blades sharp because mower blades play a crucial role in keeping your lawn thriving and healthy. If the mower blades are dull, they will tear and rip up the grass instead of cleanly cutting it.
If mowed with dull blades, it will leave frayed grass behind, which will eventually turn brown, vulnerable, and could catch the disease. Overall, less mowing leads to more healthy growth.
Lawn Watering Routine
Your lawn can die if you water it too much or too little. Too much water, whether from heavy rain or a time sprinkler, can damage your grass by leading to stagnant water in your yard, causing the soil to compact from its weight. Besides, standing water can become a habitat for fungus, causing your lawn to die.
The amount of watering depends on your environment, grass type, and sprinkler system. It is recommended to water your lawn once or twice a week for 20 minutes. A general rule in watering is 1-inch to 1 ½ inch of water every week, even in the winter. By doing this, you will achieve 1 to 1 ½ inch growth per week. The best time to water is every morning, so the lawn will be dry by nightfall.
6. Be Proactive
It takes a lot of time and effort to resurrect your lawn. Stay proactive to maintain a thriving and evergreen lawn.
Here are a few ways to stay proactive and treat any possible threats to your lawn:
Yellowing is a sign of weak lawn and soil. It will make the lawn susceptible to dead spots. Use a nitrogen-enhanced fertilizer formula to strengthen those weak spots.
Fungus and Disease
To resist fungi and diseases in your lawn, back it with a fertilizer with a high potassium formula. This will help stimulate stronger and denser roots. It will also help your turf be healthy during the dormant season while avoiding the risks and signs of a dead lawn.
Waking Up a Dormant Lawn
As mentioned above, a lawn that stays dormant for a long time may indicate a dead lawn. The ideal way to wake up a dormant lawn is to avoid too much foot traffic. Clean any mud, dead grass, and aerate the lawn at the proper time.
Also, give the lawn a good cut using sharp mower blades. Stay on track when fertilizing the grass and environment at the right time, and your dormant lawn will grow back healthily.
7. Follow Through
Once your lawn is revived, it is best to keep it that way with regular care and maintenance.
Here are best practices for basic care and maintenance to follow:
- Mow your lawn often, keeping the suggested height without removing more than a third of the grass’s height in a single mowing.
- Adjust the schedule for watering to accommodate rain and drought.
- Regularly feed your lawn with a premium lawn fertilizer to keep it healthy, green, and vibrant.
- Plan your lawn care for the next season and boost your turf again.
If you want your lawn to be green and beautiful, you need to maintain it properly. Aside from regular watering and mowing, there are other steps that you can do to keep your lawn healthy, such as overseeding. If this is your first time hearing about this process, read our article to know what overseeding is and why you should do it.
Signs of a Dead Lawn
If your lawn doesn’t present the aforementioned characteristics of a dormant one, then it is likely to be dead. Here are the signs that your lawn is dead and you need to start over:
- Water isn’t helping it grow back.
- Your lawn is white, black, red, or pink.
- It feels spongy to walk on it.
- When you pull sections of your lawn, it pulls up easily together with its chunks.
- Sunlight makes it worse.
Why Is Your Lawn Dead?
Here are eight reasons why your lawn might be dead:
- Your lawn didn’t receive enough water.
- The thatch — decomposing plant matter — is so much that it causes buildup.
- You are mowing improperly.
- You are not properly watering your lawn.
- You have put too much fertilizer on your lawn.
- There’s an insect infestation on your lawn.
- Your lawn has salt damage and has been inhabited by fungus.
- Your pets’ poop and urine left spots on your lawn.
Your hard work and dedication in caring for your lawn is no match when Mother Nature interferes. Winter weather is the main cause for having a dead lawn. Although a certain amount of snow can keep your lawn hydrated, too much snow can create a mold buildup that will kill your evergreen lawn.
If the neck of the woods encounters a cold and harsh wind during winter, your grass will be deprived of the hydration it needs to withstand the damages. Even if your grass survives the winter, it will still die before spring comes.
The crown freeze occurs when the spring sunlight shows up and is followed by an unexpected winter cold front. The top layer of the lawn will absorb that sunlight but the water will quickly freeze, causing breakage from the expansion.
A dead lawn in the summer is a slow and steady process. The patches of the lawn will turn from brown and brittle to white and spongy because your lawn lacks water and shades, which dries out the entire lawn. You should know why your lawn is dead to be able to revive your grass and to plan and adapt a lawn care routine for the future.
Maintaining a lawn is already hard enough on its own, which is why it can be very frustrating when you see the grass that you worked so hard to grow turn yellow and die. When this happens, your lawn is either dormant or dead. These two situations require different approaches which is why you need to be able to tell which state your lawn is currently in to be able to determine what you need to do next.
It takes a lot of effort and time to grow back dead grass or awaken your dormant lawn after a period of dormancy. It is best to take proper care of your lawn and maintain it to avoid developing a dead or dormant lawn problem. If you ever experience a dead lawn, follow the tips we have tackled above to prevent the problem from coming back.