Dead Lawn Vs. Dormant Lawn

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Warning Signs: Dead Lawn Vs. Dormant Lawn

As we head into summer, a common concern for New Jersey homeowners is whether or not their grass will survive under the hot sun and dry weather. Nobody enjoys looking at a brown yard, and most think that once brown spots appear or the grass changes color, they have a dead lawn. The truth is, a brown yard doesn’t automatically equate to a dead lawn. It is possible that the grass has gone dormant instead.

What is a Dormant Lawn?

Dormant essentially means the lawn has gone to sleep. A dormant lawn can happen during the winter because of the frigid temperatures. It can also occur during the summer months due to lack of moisture and extreme heat. In either season, the lawn turns brown just as if the grass were dead, which is why many assume they have a dead lawn on their hands. Dormancy is the grass’s way of naturally protecting or defending itself from the elements. In a dormant state, the grass is conserving the nutrients it needs to survive. Healthy lawns can survive a dormant state for up to four weeks.

How to Tell the Difference

Since the initial signs of a dead or dormant lawn are the same, it can be difficult to accurately diagnose what is wrong, and how to fix it.

One of the biggest catalysts of a dormant lawn is a lack of moisture. After watering the grass for a few days, if it begins to revert to a traditional lush green, the lawn is dormant. If it doesn’t change in color and remains brown, then you’re working with a dead yard.

Caring for a Dormant Lawn

Once you’ve determined the lawn is dormant, here are three essential steps you can take to wake it up.

  1. Avoid lawn treatments.
    In a dormant state, the grass is fragile and more susceptible to damage than a healthy lawn. Applying fertilizer or weed killer during this time could cause irreversible damage to your grass.
  2. Limit foot traffic, including mowing.
    Since the lawn is fragile, it’s best to avoid walking on it as much as possible. Limited foot traffic also includes limited mowing until the grass returns to a healthier state.
  3. Change mowing habits.
    Depending on your current mowing habits, if a lawn is dormant, you may need to make some adjustments to help bring it back to a healthy green appearance. Raise the blade height on the lawn mower to 3 and a half inches to avoid cutting it too short. Double check that the blade is sharp and always avoid mowing with a dull blade. In a dormant state, it is also best to mow in the early morning or late evening, mulching the clippings back into the yard so any moisture and nutrients can help it thrive.

Be Prepared to Reseed in the Fall

Even after the lawn returns to normal, there may be some patches that don’t return to green. These will need to be reseeded in the fall. Start by removing the dead spots, apply topsoil, add sod, and water consistently to help create deep grass roots.

Perennial Lawn Care helps New Jersey homeowners with customized lawn care programs. If you are tired of trying to diagnose your lawn, contact us to schedule an appointment!

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