It’s that time of year, your lawn is brown and dry, and you just can’t wait for it to be green and luscious again. You can’t wait to be the first lawn in the neighborhood that’s green again. But do you know if your brown lawn is a dead lawn or a dormant lawn? How do you revive grass on your lawn? When do you revive grass on your lawn?
The Three Secrets to Revive Your Grass
Before we go in-depth, here are your lawn care secrets to a revived, growing lawn:
- Know your lawn – is it dormant? Is it dead? Is it cool-season or warm-season?
- Prepare your lawn for the growing season – we’ll discuss aeration, mowing, and water schedule.
What is a Dormant Lawn?
A dormant lawn is different than a dead lawn, and it’s important to know exactly what your lawn is doing to revive grass the right way. In short, dormancy is a state in which grass is not actively growing. The grass appears to be dead, but deep down, the crown of the grass is still alive. All the crown needs to begin growing again is moisture, and a consistent growing environment to wake up. If you revive grass with meticulous lawn care steps, you will soon have the lush, green lawn that will make your neighbors envious.
Why Does Grass Become Dormant?
Grass becomes dormant due to adverse conditions or time of year. This could mean extreme heat, extreme cold, and drought. Your lawn decides it’s time to cease growing to hold onto the moisture and nutrients it has left to weather out the harsh environment. That does not mean you have a dead lawn! Your lawn is very much alive, though it might not look pretty. Your lawn will stay dormant until the weather, environment, and time of the year serves best for growing.
Dead Lawn vs. Dormant Lawn
In contrast to dormancy, a dead lawn needs serious lawn care to revive grass on your lawn. It’s important to identify if you have a dead lawn or a dormant lawn, so you can execute the right steps to bring it back to life. Grass dies because of an infestation of weeds, insects, disease, fungus, long drought, and often pet waste. The signs of a dead lawn include a squishy, spongy feeling when you walk, no signs of growth after water, or the lawn color turning to pink, white, or black. However, while the first signs of a dead lawn include brown grass, that does not mean your grass is dead, especially if it is the dormant season.
The Tug Test
The best way to see if your lawn is dormant or dead relies on the “tug test.” Target a section of your lawn that has turned brown. Grab a handful of grass and tug, the quicker, the better. If it is hard to tug or only the blades pull out, your lawn is only dormant. If your tug proved your lawn is easy to remove, or if chunks of soil and grass roots come out as well as blades, you have a dead lawn.
Signs Your Lawn is Dormant
If you are looking for more signs of a dormant lawn, then check for the following:
- Your lawn crunches under your feet when you walk on it
- The grass is only brown or very faded green
- Sunshine does help
- Watering for a few days improves greenness
Another factor to recognize is the time of the year. If it is your lawn’s dormant season, you can breathe easy knowing your lawn is following a natural process, not dying.
When Does a Lawn Become Dormant?
Lawns have specific dormant seasons, depending on if they are warm-season or cool-season grass. Knowing which type of grass is on your lawn can help you quickly identify if you have a dormant lawn following mother nature’s lead or a dead lawn. Warm-season grass goes dormant in colder weather, which usually lasts through the winter. Cold-season grass turns dormant in hot weather, to avoid total dehydration and death. If it is your lawn’s dormant season or if there have been adverse weather or environmental changes, your lawn is dormant.
Before it's time to revive grass on your lawn, you want to make sure your lawn is experiencing a healthy dormancy. Watering a patch of your lawn now and then to make sure it greens up with hydration can be an effective test to make sure your lawn is still alive. You might be wondering if my lawn greens and grows when I water it, why am I keeping it dormant? You can keep your lawn out of dormancy if you like, but it takes a lot of effort. Your lawn care routine would have to work against nature, instead of simply cooperating with nature during the growing season. It’s expensive to keep your lawn warm in cold weather or keep your lawn hydrated in warm weather, depending on your type of grass. We recommend trusting the seasons and your lawn, which can help you not only revive grass on your lawn each year but also help you prepare to put your lawn into a healthy dormancy.
Mistakes in Dormancy
For some reason, people have less hesitation to walk all over a brown lawn. Maybe they assume the lawn is already damaged, so there’s no need to tread lightly. But too much foot traffic on your lawn during dormancy can lead to a dead lawn. Your grass is already under a lot of stress, so make sure your house guests walk up the driveway or walkway to avoid further damage. Another major dormant mistake: do not fertilize a dormant lawn! Not only will this be a complete waste of a great fertilizer formula, but it can also throw off the whole cycle of your lawn’s growing period. You want to make sure your lawn is ready to grow before you lay down fertilizer, so the fertilizer nutrients can move freely and be harnessed by your soil to revive grass!
When to Wake up Your Dormant Lawn
You want to wake up your dormant lawn right before the growing season. For cool-season grasses, you can wake up your lawn in early fall or early spring, as those are two very important fertilizing times in your lawn care. Your lawn needs to be alive, awake, and growing to maximize the effects of fertilizer. For warm-season grasses, your lawn should wake in late spring and early summer to begin your lawn care regimen. It’s best to wait for some signs of life before you mess with a dormant lawn, but there are ways to revive grass effectively!
How to Wake up a Dormant Lawn
The first step in waking up a dormant lawn is water! Just like the water test checks for new life, starting your lawn care routine with water will help your lawn begin to show signs of life so you can move on to your other steps. As we mentioned, you should never fertilize, aerate, or seed a dormant lawn. Wait until the effects of watering take hold before you move on to other steps. Start by watering your lawn two to three times a week for about 20 minutes. Keep an eye on the growth before you increase your watering time, as too much water too early can lead to disease.
Once your lawn shows signs of green or growth, even in patches, there are a few lawn care steps you can take to fully wake up your dormant lawn. The first step is to aerate your lawn. Your soil has been tightly holding onto moisture and nutrients, which can cause compaction. Aerating your lawn will allow your grass roots to soak in water and sunlight, and absorb your fertilizer.
Mow that Lawn!
Once the tiniest bit of growth starts to show, it’s time to rev up that mower engine and get to work! Make sure the first mow of the season is with sharp blades. This will give you a clean cut so any grass blades that may have had some fungus or mold on the tip will be eradicated from your lawn. After a fresh mow, your grass is ready for new growth.
Seed or Sod Your Lawn
If any patches of your lawn dwindled to dirt over the dormant period, the best time to seed is after aeration, but before fertilizing. Whether you choose sod or seed is up to you, although if it is just a patch or two, we recommend choosing seed. You will end up with a nice, even lawn!
Choose Your Lawn Fertilizer
Your grass just woke up from a long hibernation, and it’s going to take some powerful nutrients to revive the grass on your lawn! Choosing a powerful formula for your lawn care can reverse any damage the harsh weather may have done to your dormant lawn. We highly recommend our 16-4-8 Advanced Liquid Lawn Food as the first fertilizer you introduce to your newly awake lawn. To revive grass, your lawn will benefit from these three macronutrients.
1. Nitrogen (N)
Nitrogen is the mineral element used in the greatest quantity by turf. Nitrogen is a component of many of the biochemical constituents of plants, including chlorophyll, amino acids, proteins, enzymes, and vitamins. The addition of Nitrogen encourages vigorous growth for the development of a dense attractive lawn.
2. Phosphorus (P)
The proper level of phosphorus in your grass is essential for root and early plant development. Its primary role is in the storage and transfer of energy. Without sufficient P, normal growth and development cannot occur. Phosphorus effects on turf are usually more subtle and, while not as readily visible, are still very important.
3. Potassium (K)
Potassium is involved in carbohydrate formation, photosynthesis, enzyme activation, and the formation of proteins. Potassium plays a role in photosynthesis, and carbohydrate production is reduced when K is deficient. Potassium can enhance the plant’s endurance to stress if a deficiency was present.
The First Lawn Fertilizer of the Season
Just like different types of grass have different dormant seasons, the first fertilizer of the growing season also varies. For cool-season grass, your first round of fertilizer after the dormant season is in early fall, so use our 3-18-18 Fertilizer. For warm-season grasses, late spring and early summer would be perfect to try our 15-0-15 Phosphorus-Free Fertilizer formula if you’re confident your roots are already strong and want to focus on above-ground results. Whichever fertilizer you choose, make sure you spread it evenly and follow up with a Lawn Boost.
Prepare Your Lawn for Dormant Season
Now you know how to revive grass on your lawn and enter an effective growing season! You might already be dreading the next dormant season, but we have some lawn care tips to keep your healthy, dormant lawn from becoming a dead lawn.
- Continue to mow (2.5” for cool-season grass, 1.5” for warm-season grass)
- Clean up debris – rake leaves, remove mud, and make sure there isn’t a blanket of debris on your sleeping lawn!
- Change your water schedule – only water your lawn once a week, for about 20 minutes, and adjust to avoid any standing water!
Now, your lawn care routine is prepared for any season! You have the tips, fertilizer, and booster you need to make sure your lawn is healthy no matter the time of year. Want more lawn care tips? Check out our website for more blog posts!