There’s nothing more alarming than glancing out of your window and discovering the grass in your lawn has seemingly been sucked of life. The condition may be worrisome, but is it truly dead or in a temporary state of dormancy? These questions panic the best of us, so understanding the difference between dead and dormant grass can ease your worry and potentially save you from trying unnecessary and costly solutions.

Before you declare your turf as dead, it is first beneficial to see if it has gone dormant. What time of the year is it? In New England, the majority of turfgrass species are cool-season, which means the grass goes dormant in the frigid, late fall. However, many lawns primarily consist of Zoysia grass. Did you know that Zoysia is the only warm-season grass grown in Massachusetts? If you own this species, your lawn may go dormant sooner in the season— as early as the first frost. Understanding the life cycle of your turf species will make it much easier to decipher dormant grass from dead grass.

When you see dry, lifeless areas of grass, ask yourself these questions:

  • Is it time for my lawn to go dormant?
  • Is the grass difficult to pull out by hand?
  • Does my entire lawn look dry?

If you answered yes to all of these questions, chances are your lawn is dormant. Thankfully, this is a natural and healthy process of grass in order to prepare for winter. Since we are in mid-December, your lawn is dormant to protect itself from the harsh snowfalls ahead! Dormancy stores nutrients for the spring and acts as a defense against harsh weather. There is no need to take any action to revive your lawn.

Your turf will naturally restore to its previous state in the springtime. All of the stored nutrients in the roots will assist in plumping your grass to its most vibrant and active form. If you haven’t received your first frost of the season, applying a winterizer to your lawn prepares your grass for dormancy with additional nutrients. Your lawn will revive even quicker and more robust in the coming year.

But what if you have been observing other symptoms? There are some telltale signs that your grass is truly dead. You may be able to tell that your grass is dead distinctly by its appearance. Unlike dormant grass that browns evenly throughout the yard, dead grass will brown in uneven, scruffy patches and circles.

When you believe your grass may be permanently dead, ask yourself these questions:

  • Has the weather and other circumstances prevented my lawn from receiving adequate sun and water?
  • Is my grass displaying uneven, dry patches?
  • Does my grass easily pull out by hand?

One of the most foolproof ways to determine if your grass is dead or dormant is the Tug Test. Locate a dry patch of grass and gently pull a small section upwards with one hand. If the grass roots are resistant, they are actively grounding the plant. This means that it is alive! However, if the grass easily pulls out with limped roots, this is a sign of dead grass.

Unfortunately, if you find that your grass is dead, the lawn will have to be reseeded in order to be lively again. However, before laying down any seeds, it is essential to determine the cause of your grass’s death. What made your grass incapable of surviving? In the best circumstances, your withered grass may not have gotten enough water or nutrients. This can be easily fixed by changing your lawn-tending habits. However, disease, weeds, fungus, and lack of sun could also be the cause of death.

Before reseeding, have a landscaper inspect your lawn and get a soil pH test to ensure that it is a habitable environment for your grass species. Also, perform a thorough examination of your lawn in case there is evidence of pests or fungus such as odd coloring, dust, or holes in the soil. When your lawn is ready to welcome new grass seeds, mow your grass low to the ground and disperse away!

It may sound difficult to decipher dead grass from a dormant lawn, but the symptoms of each are easier to spot than you might have expected. Recognizing the difference between dead and dormant grass is a good skill to have as a lawn owner, as it will ease your stress and ensure your turf is well taken care of.

Need to reseed patches of dead grass or have additional questions about your lawn? We at MissionGreen are here to assist you every step of the way. Email or call 413-998-7829 to get a FREE quote today.