If your lawn is looking dry and brown, you might be thinking there’s no way of restoring it. Your grass could be dead, but in fact, it’s more likely to be dormant. And with a bit of hard work and care, no spells or potions will be required to return your sleeping grass to its former beauty.
The tug test
Telling if your grass is dead or dormant can be done simply with a quick tug. If there is resistance, consider the grass dormant. If it comes freely it is dead. Doing a thorough assessment of the condition of your grass could save you a lot of time and money in the long run. Reviving dormant and brown grass is much simpler and cheaper than replacing an entire grassed area.
Most common types of grasses in the US
Any variety of grass can go bad if not cared properly. There are heaps of grasses grown around the states, and the advice is almost always the same. The most common grasses we see in home gardens are:
- Kentucky Blue
- Wheat grass
- Bermuda Grass
- Centipede Grass
- Zoysia Grass
- Carpet Grass
- Bent Grass
Do some desktop research
With all of these different types of grasses found around our country, it should come as no surprise that there will be variances in how the grasses look and perform over the course of a full year. If you don’t know what grass you have, do some research to see if you can determine the variety. This will help you to understand if your grass is dormant or dead, and so that you can understand what results you would be aiming for depending on the time of year.
Seasonal variation for grasses
Warm season loving grasses go dormant during winter, giving the impression they have given up the ghost completely. Warm season grasses have a habit of waking up and coming good of their own accord as the spring arrives. Cooler season grasses get stressed during extended periods of warm weather and struggle during summer if it’s been a dry winter. Early spring and fall are the best times to get to work on most types of grasses.
Identify any problems and eliminate them
The most likely causes of your grass dying off will be because of drought and not enough water being provided. Grasses are thirsty, especially during hot weather and as they are being established. Ineffective or improper mowing can also cause problems, especially if trimmed grass isn’t removed and sits over the top of healthy grass, choking it. Dull mower blades end up damaging grass too.
Other causes for dead grass can include:
- Insects such as crickets, mites, leafhoppers and grubs
- Pet urine which causes yellowing in spots
- Fungus, which occurs in humid areas, and causes brown spots
- Over-fertilization, which is possible, especially during dormant periods
Go to ground
Once you know what grass you’re working with, the next thing to do is have a proper look at your grass, to see how much of it you have, and its overall state and condition. Take a good look around to see what weeds have emerged and how extensive they are. If you’re serious about re-establishing lush grass, you will need to remove any weeds you see present. There are plenty of herbicides on the market that work to kill the weeds but not whatever grass you have left. You can get these products as ready to use sprays or in a concentrated version you need to mix yourself.
Other weeding options
If you have pets, or children, or are just reluctant to use a chemical, there are some other options you could try to rid you of your weed problem. The safest is also the most time consuming and that is weeding by hand. There are tools that will help with this task, such as hoes and forks. Depending on how big each weed is, you could also consider boiling water. Use this method when you can easily access the unwanted plants, but be careful as this method could harm any neighboring grass you are trying to cultivate.
Add some air
With weeds eliminated, mow your grass to 1 inch tall, then rake to remove any dead grass or debris. Raking the area will not only remove the weeds and damaged grass, but helps soil become loose and aerated. If you notice the ground is compact and dry, use a garden fork or hoe to aerate the soil. Pop your chosen tool into a depth of about 2 inches deep. This will make it easier for air, water and nutrients to make their way back into the soil. Some people even invest in a pair of aerated shoes to do this job for them!
Don’t give up
Once you have weeded, raked and aerated, your grass is probably looking even worse than when you started but, don’t despair. If you come across any patches where the lawn has died completely, it is best to sew some new seeds to fill in the gaps. Keep pets and people away from the area. Add some fertilizer, give your patch a gentle watering and wait for the magic to begin.
Plenty of water required
Ensure you keep your grass properly hydrated- fresh seeds need almost consistent access to moisture to help them to germinate and establish healthy roots. Plan on watering daily, and if you’re in a warmer state make it twice daily. Keep a consistent amount of water flowing until you have at least 3-4 inches in height. By this stage, the grass has a better ability to access water and keep cool during hot spells. Plan for at least one inch of water every week, modified if there’s rain or heat, to keep your grass wet and lush.
Your grass is restored!
Within three to five weeks you should be able to see the benefit of your care and attention. Don’t use any herbicide at least until you are ready to give your grass its first mow.
The bottom line: It is possible to bring new life into brown and dormant patches of grass. By assessing the damage, and formulating a plan of attack, you can get your grass back to being lovely, cool and green.