Why Is My Grass Dying?

Why Is My Grass Dying?

Close your eyes. Imagine: it is a gorgeous, sunny summer day with rich blue skies -- the perfect weather for an outdoor barbeque.

You invite over your friends and family; everyone is laughing, chatting, and eating fresh food right off the grill. It should be a foolproof recipe for a show-stopping summer gathering...

However, there's one problem: your grass has brown spots.

Suddenly, your get-together seems duller. Smiles are narrower, laughs are quieter, and the food is blander. What is a perfect BBQ without lush, green grass?

Chances are if you're reading this article, you are in a similar situation. The circumstances might not be exactly what was described, but the problem remains -- there are brown patches on your lawn. 


Image shows green grass.


Is Your Grass Dead or Just Dormant?

The good news is that, when you see a brown patch of grass, there's a very high chance that it is not dead! It is more likely that your grass is experiencing a period of dormancy. This means that it can be revived with a little bit of care.

Dormancy is a built-in process that lets grasses conserve nutrients in periods where food is lacking. This lets them maintain strong roots, even if it is at the cost of a luscious, green lawn. 

Meanwhile, unlike dormant grass, grass that is dead has no chance for revival. To tell if brown grass is dead, tug out a small handful. If the blades easily detach without effort, it's probably dead.

However, if the blades stay firm in the ground or are more difficult to remove, then your grass is likely just dormant. In that case, no need to worry. You are well on your way to a healthy lawn.


What Causes Brown Patches?

The short answer to this question is that brown spots appear when grass roots are unable to retrieve sufficient nutrients and/or water from the soil.

When you get down to it, there are many possible circumstances that will lead to this. Once you identify the cause, it is easy to figure out what needs to happen so you can change that brown lawn into green.
Let's look at the most common causes of dormant or dead grass:

Pet Urine

Do you have a dog or other pet that uses your lawn when they go to the bathroom? If so, there's a high likelihood that this is the cause of a brown patch (especially if they use the same spot every time).
Urine contains acid and high concentrations of nitrogen. As a result, it may damage the grass.
Of course, we're not going to tell you to not let your pet go to the bathroom. To avoid brown patches, we recommend using a small amount of water to dilute the area after your furry friend is finished with their business. Or, try to take them to different areas of the yard each time you walk them.

Heat and Drought

Possibly the most common explanation for dormant or dead grass is a period of high heat and low water. This typically occurs during the peak summer months.

During the summer heat, your grass is receiving a lot of exposure to direct sunlight, often going days without rain. With a lack of moisture in the soil and hot weather, it's no wonder you don't have healthy growth.

This is especially true for cool-season grasses, which are not used to withstanding such extreme, dry weather.

Luckily, the way to return a dormant lawn to green during a drought is quite simple. About every week, apply one inch of water to your entire lawn. This is equivalent to about two hours of sprinklers.

You can also just leave your grass as is and wait for the rain to resume. Then, it will green up on its own. In this case, apply 1/2 inch of water every two to three weeks.



In your yard, weeds will compete with plants, soaking up much of the water and nutrients in the soil. This can cause dormant or dead spots. 

To prevent weeds like crabgrass or dandelions before they strike, apply a pre-emergent herbicide to your lawn in the spring. After weeds appear, you may also apply post-emergent herbicides or remove them by hand.


Lawn Disease and Fungus

Diseases and fungal infestations are a more serious source of damage to lawns; if not treated sooner rather than later, your grass is more prone to dying. 

To check for signs of illness or fungi, look for traces of white, brown, or black substances on your grass. If you spot indications of disease, call a lawn specialist to get it diagnosed and treated immediately. 

In order to prevent diseases and fungal infestations, make sure to water your lawn in the early morning, mow on a regular schedule, and aerate.



While many bugs are good for their plant ecosystems, some tiny critters can harm your grass.

In particular, chinch bugs live in thatch between the grass and soil; they suck the juices from the grass leaf and put toxins back into it. With a chinch bug infestation, you'll notice that your grass will first turn yellow,  then brown, and then die.

Also, grub infestations can cause less dire damage to lawns, often thinning turf. If this is the problem, a lawn specialist will diagnose and suggest your course of treatment.



Thatch is the layer of matter between the grass blades and soil. Typically, dead plant matter will collect and build up, making it difficult for the roots to soak up water and nutrients.

Additionally, as thatch expands, grass may start to grow its roots into this layer. This will make it even more difficult for it to get water.

To clear out thatch and dead material, use a rake and loosen the soil.


Image shows healthy green grass.


What If Your Grass Can't Be Saved?

While dormant grass can be revived, dead grass will not be able to grow again. Therefore, we recommend that your next course of action is starting to grow new grass.


Here's what to do if your grass is a lost cause:

1. Begin Preparation in Early Spring or Fall:

This is the best time to start restoring your lawn as the weather is more moderate, allowing for optimal growth and easier prep. 


2. Clear Out Weeds and Dead Grass:

First, either remove weeds by hand or with a post-emergent herbicide. If you use herbicide treatments, allow for at least three to four weeks before applying new grass seeds or fertilizer.

After getting rid of weeds, mow your grass and eliminate dead grass and plant matter. Opt to use a thatch rake for easier removal.


3. Rake Soil:

Loosen the top few inches of your soil using a rake. This will make sure it is not compacted, allowing for nutrients to travel better.


4. Apply Grass Seed:

Next, you're going to plant new grass seeds to regrow a luscious, green lawn. Scatter the seed on the soil and then rake it into the top so it is incorporated.


5. Care For Your New Grass:

Once you apply your grass seed, you must make sure that it becomes properly established. To do this, plan on fertilizing, applying mulch, and watering regularly.

For fertilizer, consider a slow-release, organic fertilizer like Shinnong's Pro Organic Lawn food.

During summertime, Pro Organic's REE allows plants to contain their water longer with higher capacity, and during the winter season, it allows plants to be able to live with less water to avoid freezing.



Whether your grass is dead or dormant, achieving that beautiful, green lawn is more than possible! Happy planting!


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