Signs Your Grass Is Dying

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Grass is tricky. Sometimes a slightly brownish hue can signify nothing more than a healthy state of winter dormancy. Other times, however, it may be a sign of total grassy civilization collapse.

It can be a little confusing but fear not. We’ve got you covered. In this blog post, we’ll detail how to identify if the grass is dying, what to do if it is, and how to prevent it from happening in the future.

Is it dead? Or just dormant?

If you’ve spotted a patch of brownish grass, the first step is to determine if it’s actually dead or not. Grass often likes to play possum—especially during the winter—so don’t fear the worst just yet. Let’s take a look at the differences between dead and dormant grass and strategies to identify each.

Dormancy is a period when the grass is not actively growing. Most notably, grasses enter periods of dormancy at the onset of either very high or low temperatures. In a way, dormancy is somewhat similar to, say, the hibernation of a bear. They’re survival mechanisms. The problem with dormant grass is that it looks virtually identical to dead grass, so it can be a little tricky to first assess the damage. There are, however, a couple nifty tests you can do to determine if your grass is dead or dormant.

  1. First, how does your grass look? Is the entire grass the same brownish color? Are there brown patches scattered about? Or is the spot limited to a single patch? What’s important to remember here is that grass often goes dormant uniformly. So, if your grass has gone totally brown during either very hot or cold winter months, there’s a good chance that it’s just dormant. If brown, scattered patches start popping up, it could mean your grass may be dying.
  • Another option is to perform what’s called a “tug test.” You’ll need a protractor, ladder, table saw, and a lot—I mean A LOT—of hair gel. Just kidding. You won’t need anything else besides your hand.

Got your hand ready? Cool. Proceed to a brown patch in your yard. Grab a clump of grass from said brown patch. Pull.

What happened? Did the grass come out with little effort? Or was there a bit of resistance? If it came out with absolutely no resistance, there’s a good chance it’s dead. RIP, grass. If it seems to be holding on okay, it’s likely dormant.

If you’ve determined that your grass is dying, it’s important to act quickly. First, determine why your grass is on the fritz. Lack of water? Pests? Fungus? Improper nutrients?  While you’ll be able to diagnose many of these with the help of Google, if you’re still unsure, contact a lawn care professional. Once you have identified the cause of the problem, you can begin to take appropriate steps to restore your lawn. Depending on the severity of the damage, it may be necessary to reseed or re-sod the affected areas.

How to Prevent Damage Moving Forward

  • Water the grass regularly! Make sure to water the grass deeply and evenly, providing it with at least one inch of water a week.
  • Fertilize the grass. Use a fertilizer that is high in nitrogen to ensure the grass has the nutrients it needs to flourish.
  • Mow the grass. A good rule of thumb is to not cut more than a third of the grass blade at one time.
  • Aerate the soil. Aerating the soil helps to loosen the soil and allows the roots to get more oxygen and nutrients.
  • Remove any debris from the grass. Debris such as leaves and twigs can suffocate the grass and prevent it from getting the sunlight, water, and nutrients it needs.
  • Control pests. Pests can damage grass, so it is important to take proactive steps to keep them at bay.

Remember, when it comes to your grass, prevention is better than cure. Adding these steps into your lawn care routine will not only keep your grass looking pristine, but it will also save you time, money, and energy in the future.

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