Dead grass is a major concern for yard owners, whereas a dormant lawn is part of the life cycle of healthy grass. For the first few years I was responsible for lawn care, I had a really hard time telling the difference between a lawn in dire need and one that should be left alone. Even with a turf type that goes dormant in the summer heat, I still get concerned with brownish-yellow patchy grass.
Since turf is tough and designed to come back in most climates, only severe damage or gross neglect will result in dead grass is most cases; your lawn is just developing brown spots to help it survive harsh weather. Once you know that your lawn is going to go dormant, it only takes a few lawn care practices and time to spruce it up again into a beautiful green lawn. Read on to see how long it takes for dormant grass to turn green.
When Will Dormant Grass Become Green?
There is winter dormancy and summer dormancy, and each of these lasts for a range of time, unique to your climate and turf type. Since warm-season grasses and cool-season grasses need different conditions to thrive, these grass plants will go dormant and become green independently.
As a survival mechanism, grass is able to choose root health and safety when resources are scarce and environmental conditions harsh, so the sooner conditions are returned to your turf’s optimal range, the sooner your dormant grass will become green.
Grass blades can go dormant when conditions warrant, and nutrients for growth and healing above the soil are not needed when root survival is a priority. Brown grass on top of the dormant lawn is not an issue if the turf’s roots are still thriving underground.
The time it takes for grass to turn green depends on the turf type, climate, and local weather conditions but generally expect green grass after an inch of rain a week is normal, and temperatures are in the moderate range for your climate.
There are a few things you can do both before and after dormancy to speed up how fast your grass bounces back, but this is best done when you have a good understanding of your lawn’s behavior. Usually, a mature lawn, 2 years or older, can be encouraged to bounce back much faster than new grass or fledgling sprouts.
Some turfs have winter and summer dormancy, some only winter or summer, and others never stop being green so adjusting your lawn care routine has to be site-specific, or your dormant grass could become dead grass.
Dead or Dormant?
When you look out and see brown grass, it won’t usually mean a dead lawn unless pest diseases have acted quickly. If cool-season grasses start to brown in summer and warm-season grasses wilt in the winter, the chances of dormancy being the cause of discoloration increase. As a final method to know for sure, you can tell by root growth whether the turf is still growing healthy below ground.
Dormant grass recovery typically takes place when the blades look dead, but your lawn just needs a temp change and extra water to bounce back. Reducing foot traffic and pet urine can help protect turf from developing distinct patches. Each type of grass deals with dormancy differently, from slight yellowing to almost scorched brown in color, with some of the most notable changes coming to cool-season grass in summer.
To aid you in having faster recovery times when lawns are dying, check out the chart below; if your healthy lawn is going dormant, just relax and enjoy the season.
|Sign||Meaning||What to Do|
|Yellow Tips||Dormancy||Let the grass turn yellow and prepare for dormancy|
|Uneven Brown Patches||Dying||Check roots and find issues and then correct them immediately|
|Yellow and Brown Grass During Active Growth Seasons||Dying||Check for underwatering or overwatering adjust irrigation and monitor grass health|
|Slow Growth and Loss of Color||Dormancy||Add amendments to keep turf green or prepare for lawn dormancy|
When grasses are dormant, it doesn’t need any other action to survive if you are set up in a climate that provides precipitation during dormant periods. Cool grasses that go dormant during the hot summer months may need additional irrigation if rainfall is scarce that year. The natural pattern of the turf should be anticipated and aided, especially during hot weather.
In winter months, overwatering, pest damage, weeds, and other threats are more likely than drought. Make sure to encourage deep roots during the fall and practice weed removal to help warm-season grasses deal with winter dormancy. Grass in winter can go dormant and become vulnerable to death and needs to be treated carefully with reduced foot traffic across the entire lawn.
When your grass is dead, that is a big problem. Not only can it be nearly impossible to bring back a dead lawn, but the process will be expensive and time-consuming. When you see brown blades and the cause is dying, not dormancy acting quickly is the best way to reverse the damage and potentially save your lawn.
Check brown lawns by digging up a tiny area and checking the roots. Healthy roots that are thick, long, vibrant, and white indicate your turf can bounce back. On the other hand, pale, weak, and thin roots may mean the end of your lawn.
Grass roots will be withering underground either in the epicenter of the brown patches or, in severe cases, all throughout the lawn. If the warm weather outside is not usually sufficient to send your grass into dormancy and you see patches of brown color that grow outward, you should stop everything and tend to your lawn.
The patterns of dormancy with warm-season grass and cool-season grasses represent a natural protection mechanism for grass, but outside of the dormant season, brown grass is a huge red flag. Things like cutting a natural grass lawn too short, also called scalping, can result in dead grass. Other common causes of dying turf are thatch build-up and pests, invasive weeds, and lawn fungal issues and diseases.
How to Revive Dormant Grass Quickly?
There are quite a few things you can do to get your lawn to break dormancy quickly and spring up fast. The main thing to understand is that your plants will not be absorbing much water or nutrients during dormancy with very little active growing.
That means it is a terrible time to fertilize with quick-release fertilizer but a perfect time to apply herbicides. By taking care of your lawn with the exact tasks, it needs at the right time; you can greatly reduce the time it takes grass to turn green again.
To maximize grass growth, add a slow-release fertilizer before dormancy when your grass is actively growing and will absorb the nutrients it will be able to use over the next several months. Since your lawn has minimum water requirements during the entire dormancy period, you will want to either turn off irrigation systems or else greatly reduce the watering schedule to as little as once a week.
Removing weeds and preparing the soil can aid in recovery time and give you your greenest grass yet.
Most turfs are unable to heal during dormancy and foot traffic as well as animal urine, and other pest problems can scar parts of the lawn. Brown blades of grass will turn green if the roots are safe, but the above issues can kill the roots and leave bare, scarred spots.
These areas will need to be reseeded in the spring or fall unless you have a turf that spreads via stolons. Make sure there is no heavy foot traffic or plant-mixed turf that can handle it to avoid long recovery times and dead zones of lawn.
Should I Water Dormant Grass?
Depending on your turf type, climate, and the weather where you live, you may need to give your lawn some water during the hottest and driest time of the year. Lawns that go dormant in winter rarely need added water, with the exception being extremely arid climates like in the pacific southwest.
These may need supplemental water during prolonged droughts but only a minimal amount on climate-appropriate turf. As little as half an inch of water a week can keep some warm-season turfs alive.
Winter dormant grasses may not need water as snow melt, rainfall, and cool temperatures give the grass the irrigation it needs to survive, but most summer dormant lawns will need some form of watering, at least during the height of the summer. Grass in summer can turn very brown, and water may be all that it takes to make warm-season grasses green even in high heat. Most cool-season grasses will benefit from deep watering once a week during the hottest part of the summer.
Mixing lawns with clover and other mixed ground covers can help develop better underwater reserves for your grass to use in summer. Trees and other large woody plants also help add moisture even during the hottest times. Consider bordering lawns with trees that will not completely shade your lawn but still add beneficial soil contributions.
What Are Some Lawn Pre-Dormancy Tips?
Lawn preparation before dormancy can speed up greening in spring or fall and help you repair and replace damaged turf easily. Without these care tips, it could take longer than a month to see any changes, even after your lawn should be greening up.
Depending on the time of year and the type of turf you have, you will need to prepare your lawn in various ways. Completing these lawn care tips while replanting cold and warm-season grass seeds after dormancy can greatly speed up your lawn’s greening.
Preparing for better water absorption during the summer season is a good way to make sure the little bits of water available during times of drought do the best for your grasses roots. Since the grass blades are going to start to turn brown as summer sets in, focusing on building fertile water-retaining soil in the spring is ideal.
With heavy early showers in most climates, spring is a great time to build up your underground water reserves to reduce lawn and garden stress.
To make sure your turf gets an early start right after breaking summer dormancy, use a slow-release fertilizer for fall growth and repair. There is a good chance high heat, drought, and summer traffic will damage some parts of your lawn, so the fertilizers can aid in seed sowing or plug and sod installation to fix bare spots.
A good way to help shade the soil and give summer turf a cooler season is to mow high before dormancy sets in to shade roots, suppress weeds, and help you notice problem areas sooner.
Hot grasses have a hard time in winter, with cool-season weeds being a big factor. As warm-season grasses go to sleep, weeds, pests, and diseases can wreak havoc. it is nearly impossible to get a green lawn in spring that is healthy and weed-free without spending much of the fall preparing your grass for that. In most cases, you will need to allow the lawn to winterize, which involves cleaning, weeding, and cutting grass frequently to promote long roots.
First, you should remove as much of the lawn debris as possible or use it as mulch. It is a good time to apply a weed and feed that acts as a slow-release fertilizer and has either pre or post-emergent properties. This will give your lawn early access to nutrients in spring and greatly reduce the number of weeds you have to pull up.
Finally, mow your turf short for the last cut of the year to keep the soil warm and help lawns spring back quicker. If you do these things, it should take more than 3 weeks to see green grass on your spring lawn.