Many reasons could cause the grass in your landscape to dry out. And depending on the state of grass afterward, it may or may not be revived.

Causes of Grass Drying Out

  • Drought: during the hot days of summer, the grass is more susceptible to drying, more so, when not well watered. The grass will first go sluggish after 2 to 3 weeks of not having water, after which most lawns will start turning brown within 4 to 6 weeks.
  • Improper & Irregular Mowing: mowing the lawn too short can stress the grass, causing it to turn dry and brown. Don’t cut off more than 1/3rd (33%) of your grass’ height during each mowing. Also, mowing regularly is key to ensuring the grass does not become too long.
  • Improper Watering: deep watering, about once a week, is recommended over shallow, frequent watering which only results in shallow roots. Preferably, deeply water your lawns only if they need it, for instance, when the grass looks slightly wilted.
  • Pest Infestation: pests like grubs are prevalent in lawns. They damage roots, causing the grass to pull up. If you notice your lawns turning brown, check for pests. They tend to invade overly-watered, excessively fertilized lawns and neglected lawns. So, keep your lawn healthy, but unpampered.
  • Salt Damage: This is common in areas with snow and the grass is next to a driveway, street or sidewalk where salt is placed on roads.

Assessing Grass Damage

Before starting to revive the dead grass in your landscaping, you must first assess how severe the damage is. In some cases, a brown lawn might not actually be dead, but just dormant, while their root structures are sound. This is common in some turf grasses such as Kentucky bluegrass. This type of damage will green up the following spring.

If your grass turns brown all over your lawn, then it is dormant. This will be because of temperature or water issues. However, if the dry areas are patchy, it might be due to other problems like human traffic, pests or chemicals.

Check if the crowns are dried out and discolored as this signifies dead grass.

Ways to Revive Dead Grass

Start by Weeding

After assessing the damage on your lawns, you might be required to work on just some areas or the entire lawn.

Start by weeding the area containing weeds using a non-selective herbicide like glyphosate on a sunny, no-wind and no-rain day to ensure all unwanted weeds are killed.

You can also hand-pull the weeds by the root so they stop competing with your grass for water.

Aerate Your Lawn

After weeding your lawn, aerate your lawn by:

  • Thatching the grass to remove any brown spots from the areas of grass that are still alive to open up your lawn to the movement of air, water and nutrients.
  • Gently till the soil or create holes in the area of the lawn to be revived to help aerate the soil. This ensures that the roots of your grass can attract and absorb the nutrients.

Regular Watering

Many lawns are dormant due to dehydration from dry and hot climates. While grass that is totally dead cannot be revived, regular watering to dormant grass can revive a dormant lawn.

Be sure not to over-compensate because overwatering your grass is equally as bad.

Mulch It

When cutting your grass, leave grass clippings behind as mulch so they can decompose and enrich the soil with nitrogen, allowing the grass to grow greener and fuller.

Spread Compost

Add a thick layer of organic compost over the soil and till it to create aeration holes or water it, incorporating it into the soil for full absorption. This will give your soil a nutrient boost as it decomposes and gets absorbed into the soil.

Fertilize Responsibly

Dying lawns have weaker root systems. Thus, to revive such a lawn, it is important to add phosphorus-rich fertilizers to aid in root development.

Perform a soil test to determine the amount of phosphorus in the soil and if inadequate, spread fertilizer as needed. You can also apply a grass starter fertilizer if your soil requires no testing.

Afterward, thoroughly water your lawn after fertilizing to start the feeding process. This will stop the product from being washed or blown away.

Reseed Your Lawn

If your grass is in poor shape and you’re ready to establish a healthy new lawn, consider reseeding your lawn. Completely rake off dead grass, till the soil, add a starter fertilizer, spread the right seeds on your lawn and press it into the soil before mulching the area and watering regularly a healthy lawn.

Tip… Keep your lawn in good shape by mowing with a sharp cutting blade, mulching when possible and especially returning grass clippings (which are loaded with nitrogen) back into the grass. Also provide about 1 inch of water to the lawn. You could also choose a professional landscape contractor to do this for you.