Is Brown Grass Dead Grass? Here’s How to Find Out!

We’ve all been there: you step outside only to be surrounded by the brown wasteland of your lawn. What happened? A few weeks ago it was growing strong and had that bold green luster you love! But now— now it’s downright unsightly.

Is your brown grass truly dead or is it simply “dormant,” needing some TLC to spring back? Or, is it suffering from some sort of disease— requiring the helping hands of a lawn care professional?

Here are some things to look out for when assessing the damage:

Brown or Dying Grass

Give Your Grass a Yank

Grab a handful of your brown grass and tug on it, with moderate force. In the same way that the hair on your head shouldn’t pull out with a mild yank, so too should your grass remain in the ground if it’s still alive and rooted.

If your grass comes up in a chunk or pulls up in a strip, its roots have died and there’s nothing affixing it into your soil. Sadly, you’ll need to assess what caused the damage, reseed and plant new grass.

Wet Your Dry Turf’s Whistle

During the hot, dehydrating summer or a cold, moisture-sapping winter, your lawn may brown because it’s thirsty. Giving your lawn a good rinse often works wonders! Watering your dry grass can “wake it up” from dormancy and encourage fresh growth. Or, if your lawn has experienced winter salt damage, a good ol’ watering can flush out the toxic sodium.

If after a proper watering, your grass still doesn’t perk up and spring back to life, it may be a sign of a bigger issue— like disease or infestation. For example, a chinch bug infection can cause prolonged grass wilting, even after a thorough watering.

If your turf is still lackluster after a few wet days, consult a lawn care expert to diagnose the problem. Your grass might not be dead, but it very well may be dying! Catching the issue before it worsens might save you from needing to reseed.

See if You Sink

For some homeowners, their grass is actually too wet. Landscapes with poor drainage systems can collect and pool water, which can drown out your grass. If you find your soles squishing and sinking into mud when you walk across your yard or if you notice specific, concaved sections of turf, be alert. Recessed areas can collect excess moisture and may be flooding your grass.

Even if your turf isn’t very wet, it may have still suffered moisture damage during another season. For example, crown hydration can occur over the wintertime, unbeknownst to you. Come spring, your grass is brown as can be. Look for signs of water pooling or poor drainage. Fill recessed areas of your lawn and rechannel collecting water away from your lawn.

watering lawn

Nourish with Fertilizer

Grass typically requires three core macronutrients to grow green and thick: potassium, nitrogen and phosphorus. If your turf is low on one of these nutrients— or has too much of one— it may weaken your lawn or cause browning. Sometimes all your turf needs is a proper nourishing of healing organic matter to thrive.

Do a soil test to determine what minerals your turf is lacking. If your landscape is already damaged, we recommend using organic lawn fertilizer. This rich natural stuff sinks deeper into your soil and can give your turf the energy it needs to bounce back slowly, over the course of a few weeks.

Consider the Season

Is your grass browning right after a brisk, windy winter? Your landscape might have faced cold desiccation. This damage destroys your blades, as they can’t absorb water over the winter with frozen roots— and sometimes an early spring watering is too late to save the grass.

Or, Gray Leaf Spot fungus might have bred during a very humid summer. This fungi can cause gray, oval spots on your turf come fall, and may only require a brief fungal treatment. When troubleshooting dead grass or determining if your lawn is saveable, it helps to consider when the damage is present to narrow down the cause.

Observe the Location of the Damage

Is your entire yard brown or yellow, or is the damage in patches or in one space? Inconsistent dead spots are often a sign of a disease— such as Pythium Blight—but not always. For instance, weaving patterns might reveal a lawn vole problem, where the little pests wear down running paths throughout your grass. Or circular rings in your turf may be the result of fungus damage, like Magnaporthe poae.

These lawn ailments can often be treated if caught early, and your grass can recover, especially if it’s centralized to one part of your lawn. Other mass, widespread damage may be difficult to fight and can require a fresh reseeding.

Not Sure What’s Causing Your Brown Grass?

As you can see, there’s a number of reasons your grass can turn brown, and it can be tricky determining what your landscape needs to heal. The first step in saving your turf is to diagnose the real problem and to start treating it early before it requires reseeding.

Not sure what the problem is? A lawn care professional can access your property and give you the verdict. Oftentimes, a proper soil test or a trained eye will reveal the issue.

Get your grass on the road to recovery! Give our team a call at (855)-391-1343 to assess your turf, today.

Guide to Fertilization 

Topics: Landscaping Tips, Spring Lawn Care