Why is My Lawn Brown?

If you've ever wondered why your lawn has suddenly changed colors, you're not alone. Most property owners are unaware of why exactly their grass turns green or brown, much less what they can do to control it.

The first thing you should keep in mind is that timing is critical. Warm season grass goes brown in the winter as it becomes dormant. Conversely, cool season grass is only sometimes dormant during the warmer seasons, which means there is potential for it to stay green throughout the year.

Secondly, it's not necessarily bad if the lawn turns brown. If the top of the grass is brown, but the roots remain firmly planted in the soil, then your grass is simply dormant. This means when the right season comes around, it will flourish once again. However, if your grass is brown and the roots can easily be pulled out, then it's a sign that it is dying and a remedy to revive it will need to be sought out.

Dormant is Not Dead!

Despite appearances, dormant grass is not an indicator of dead grass. Dormant simply means the grass isn't actively growing and that it is still well and alive.

Some of the things that cause grass to go dormant are temperature and water. When there is an extreme shift in temperature, it may cause the grass to go dormant. Likewise, when there is not enough water, this could also cause grass to turn inactive.

Once grass goes dormant, there's usually little that can be done to control it. It's not worth it to waste water, even during a drought, to revive brown grass. If it's a matter of temperature, there is not much you can do except wait out the season.

Not all dormant grass is brown – some grass types will stay green even when they're dormant. For example, Bermuda and zoysia turn brown when dormant, but St. Augustine remains green. If this is the case with your lawn, you may need to change your lawn care techniques when it does go dormant.

Some of the techniques you can try are using less fertilizer and water. Why? Because plants won't use it. You'll end up wasting money and resources, not to mention energy in a futile effort. Leaving dormant grass as it is will ultimately be the best way to maintain your lawn through its off seasons.

Alternatives to a Brown Lawn in the Off Season

For warmer regions during the warmer seasons like the South, grass typically turns brown in the winter. To counteract this, overseed with an annual rye, a type of green grass that grows in the winter. Mow only once a month to keep trim, but bountiful. Once the weather warms up, it will naturally die to allow the original grass to sprout again.

For cool-season grass in cooler regions of the country (like the North), grass usually turns brown in the summer. You can still obtain green grass by planting a transitional grass, like buffalograss. Buffalograss is more tolerant to heat and drought, allowing it to resist changing colors. As long as you water frequently and fertilize more often, you should be able to achieve green grass in spite of the heat.

Lawns require great effort to upkeep, and keeping it green is one of the toughest battles most property owners face. You may not always be able to achieve a green lawn year-round, but with basic maintenance and acceptance of the fickle nature of lawns, you can find a way to enjoy your home's green space year-round.

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