If you care about having a beautiful lawn, you already know that grass is much more attractive when it’s lush and green. Sometimes your grass may turn brown or dull-looking but how do you know if your grass is dead?
Sometimes grass may turn brown and this usually means one of two things has happened. Either the grass has died, or it has just become dormant to preserve its resources so that it can turn green and thrive again when the time is right.
Unfortunately it can be difficult to know if the grass has died until conditions such as temperature and water increase and other factors have been eliminated. Fortunately, there are a few simple tests that you can use to get a better idea of what’s going on with your lawn.
Every Lawn Lover’s Biggest Nightmare
Dead grass is every lawn lover’s biggest nightmare!
A common misconception that many people have is thinking that their lawn is dead when it turns brown.
In most cases, your grass will have gone into dormancy during the colder months which is not the same thing although it can be difficult to distinguish between the two.
Sometimes it may be obvious when the grass has actually died but areas of your lawn may have been disrupted for a variety of different reasons causing it to struggle.
It’s important to point out in the majority of these cases, the grass can be recovered.
Most Grass Will Be Dormant Rather Than Dead
Grass will usually take 60-75 days in a dormant state before it will actually die.
Most grass will remain dormant as long as vitality remains in the crown which is the point right below the surface level; it’s the point where the grass shoots and roots meet.
It proves to be the most crucial part of the success of any grass since it’s where grass growth will originate.
If the grass is still alive, we would be expecting to see a light green/white colour at the crown indicating a good sign of life.
Testing the Grass to See What’s Going on
There is a simple test that can give you a good indication if the grass in your yard is dead!
Simply pull a few blades of grass up from the roots to find out how easy it is to remove the grass.
If the grass is a little difficult to tug on and it shows some resistance when you’re pulling on it, this may indicate that your grass is indeed dormant and not dead. In fact, dormant grass feels a lot like grass that is healthy and thriving when you try to pull it out of the ground.
If you find that the grass comes right out without any effort on your part, there is a chance it may be dead.
Dead grass usually needs to be replanted or at least reseeded to look good again.
Still Not Sure if Your Grass Is Dead?
If you do the “pull” test and you’re still unsure if your grass is dormant or dead, you can go ahead and give the grass some extra water for several days.
A good amount is roughly 1/4″ per week.
This is not a lot of water and it’s really just to keep the crown wet.
If the grass is dormant, a few days of extra water should help it start to turn greener again.
If you get no success, then the grass could potentially be dead but you should also keep in mind that temperatures and sunlight exposure can also affect the color of your lawn so don’t give up on it just yet.
If you live in an area where the grass goes dormant during the winter, you may not be able to determine if it is dead or dormant until the temperatures warm up just a tad. This means that if you water your brown grass for a few days and it doesn’t start to turn green, this doesn’t necessarily mean the grass isn’t dormant. If it’s especially cold or hot outside, you might want to wait about a month and perform the water test all over again. This will likely give you a more accurate picture of what is going on with your grass.
What Else to Consider?
When grass goes dormant, it usually doesn’t do so in patches and the entire lawn will go dormant at one time. This is not always the case but if you have dark areas or patches in your yard, it may be an indication that there is something else going on with your lawn.
In that case, first check your irrigation system. It could mean that parts of the yard are not getting enough water while other areas are fine.
If everything is ok with your irrigation system, it is likely either a problem with pests, disease, fungal activity or even a fertiliser burn. Once you discover the culprit, it’s a lot easier to determine what to do next.
What Else Could Be Wrong With My Lawn? – Color Diagnosing
Sometimes the color of your lawn can help you out too. It’s sometimes useful to inspect your grass in more detail and check for the following:
- Yellow Grass – Is typically the color caused by herbicide burn. The grass will almost feel like hay in this case. It will be very crispy and crunchy.
- Brown Grass insinuates that there is a lack of water.
- Orange Grass indicates a fertilizer burn.
- White/Gray Grass – Indicates some type of fungal activity. Keep in mind, once grass starts decaying, it also exhibits fungal matter so this may be an indication of dead grass.
- Aqua Grass – This color indicates there may be a lack of hydration with fertilizer burn.
Another consideration is moss which might indicate that the grass has been over watered or the soil is too dense.
You May Want to Consider Getting Professional Advice
Given the above information, it can still be hard to determine whether your grass is dormant, dead or if there is some other problem you aren’t aware of. Hiring a lawn company to give you professional advice may be your best option to help you understand what’s going on with your grass and what you should and should not do about it.
Why Does Grass Go Dormant?
Grass can often go dormant during the winter months. The conditions cause salt to bind up on the root bases which is the stress that causes your lawn to go into dormancy.
The grass tries to conserve energy and water so it can stay alive. It uses its resources to keep the roots and crowns alive which is crucial to its survival.
After about a month or so, it may start to come back to life give the right conditions but if you live in a very cold part of the world, this process may take a little longer before the grass can be healthy again.
Lawn Dormancy May Be a Good Thing
You’re probably wondering how a long that’s going brown and is not looking it’s best could actually be a good thing.
Sometimes, dormant patches of grass on your lawn can tell you about the areas of soil that you need to work on.
The soil make up in these areas maybe a little different or there may even be a compaction issue going on.
In any event, it’s important to make note of these areas and potentially provide further care through extra watering. You may even want to consider a few more passes with the aerator. This way you can gain one full even yard for the next year!
What does all of this mean in practical terms?
It sometimes means that you’ll need to reseed or replant part of the grass in your yard so that it doesn’t look spotty and so the entire lawn will look even and attractive. This goes for both people who live in cold areas and those who live in hotter climates.
When your grass is dormant, you do not have to cut it and it’s better to not fertilize it or use a herbicide. Just keep it weeded and water it just enough so that it doesn’t die.
Dormant grass is really very low-maintenance but this doesn’t mean it needs no care at all.
In Summary – How Do You Know If Your Grass Is Dead?
Try pulling a few blades out of the ground to see if it is easy or difficult to remove. You should also take note of the color of the grass and what season you are in. Once you combine this knowledge, it should be easier to figure out whether the grass is dead or not. Form here, it’s much easier to determine what to do next.
If you’re unsure about anything, you can consult with an expert at a professional nursery because they will have the expertise and knowledge to handle all of your questions. The important thing to remember is that grass does go dormant every year so you should never automatically assume that your grass is dead.