More often than not, you can still revive a dead lawn without having to pull it apart and start all over. Success at reviving a dead lawn depends on the how long the grass has been dead; generally, any lawn that appears dead for a short period spanning 3 to 5 weeks can be regrown. Troubleshooting and care also factor in, and will depend on what caused the death in the first place. Drought and watering restrictions combined is responsible for a major chunk of lawn deaths in summer, especially in dry states like California. Lawns that become brown and brittle in the height of summer have a way of reviving themselves as the temperature dips and light rains provide some welcome moisture.
That is because grass goes into dormancy when there's scarcity of water. The top growth is sacrificed for the sake of survival, but the deep roots of grass remain alive. When water rationing is lifted, as long as you're within the general 3 to 5 week recommendation, you should be able to revive the lawn. A lot depends on the summer temperatures too.
When the temperature is high, transpiration rates increase, and it takes a lot more of water to keep even the subsoil portion of the grass alive. If the lawn has been completely dry for over 6 weeks, you could lose it for good, so an occasional soaking is necessary to keep the roots alive. When the lawn appears brown all over, cut away the top growth in a small area and check whether you see some signs of green underneath.
Water the area for a few days, and if you see new growth, you can be sure that it is possible to revitalize your lawn with regular deep watering for a few weeks. Mow the brown portion and run a rake through the lawn to break up the hard surface. When the ground has been dry and hard for a few weeks, you may need to plug the lawn to allow water to percolate deep into root zone. It can take several weeks to bring back your lawn to a lush green.
How To Revive Dead Grass - Fix Your Dormant Lawn
Broadcast some rye grass seeds; they will sprout fast and turn the lawn green while you wait for the dormant grass to spring back. Just because it is summer and water restrictions are in effect, we cannot assume that it is infrequent watering that has caused your lawn to turn brown, especially if you see patches of brown interspersed with some green areas. Too much thatch could be the problem here. Grass can survive through periods of drought on a surprisingly small amount of water as long as the water reaches the root zone.
The University of Illinois has determined the minimum amount of water required to keep the grass roots alive. The lawn will turn brown, of course, but the roots can be kept alive.
A thick thatch prevents what little water you provide from seeping into the soil to help the roots survive. When you can afford the luxury of soaking the lawn once or twice a week, thatch build up may not be so much of a problem. But when the amount of water given is very little, all it does is wet the surface.
How To Revive Dead Grass
The whole exercise is futile since the water will quickly evaporate in the dry heat. Some people mistakenly think that leaving the grass clippings lead to thatch formation. The tiny bits of grass breakdown quickly, but the dead stems and roots do not. They form a thick, nearly impermeable layer.
Fast growing grasses are more prone to thatch formation. To revive a patchy lawn due to thatch, first check its thickness. Dig out a small section and measure the brown area. If it is less than an inch, you can break up the thatch with a de-thatching rake.
How to Revive Brown Grass
If it is much thicker, you may need to use a mechanical or powdered de-thatcher, depending on how much area has to be covered. Once the thatch is removed, water the lawn and feed it with a nitrogen fertilizer to help vigorous regrowth.
Reseeding with a grass suitable for the season will help cover the patches where the existing grass has completely perished. It is not unusual for pests and diseases to damage a lawn, but they rarely destroy the whole lawn. If you find patches of dead grass, big or small, it is worth investigating if some insects or fungus are killing your lawn. Take hold of a handful of grass and pull it; if it comes away easily, you might be having a disease or pest problem. The next step is identifying the exact cause. For example, check for grub worms by digging up a small area of the lawn.
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Also, Meyer has a warning for home owners. She's observed the grass can self-sow and grow into a lawn where it's very hard to kill. Orange postules on yellow blade of grass in the center. You may have walked on perennial ryegrass that has rust--orange pustules on these Kentucky bluegrass blades is common in August. While not usually fatal, rust can turn an entire plant tan or brown and weakens the plants. Keep foliage dry, avoid overhead watering and improve air circulation around plants to avoid rust. Recently, I am finding many yellow stems and flowers on Molinia tall mooregrass and Sporobolus prairie dropseed.
These yellow stems come out easily from plant and with close examination, I find the stems are cut off…mice damage in the summer! Mice are living in these bunch grasses and having a good time, eating the base of the plant while protected with the dense arching foliage see photos below. While most home gardens may not have enough grasses to attract mice, if you notice dead stems in your bunchgrasses, examine the plants closely.
Try to hand come or remove the dead stems. If the stems come out easily, look closely at the bases for a sharp angle cut on the stem.