Got brown patches on your lawn? Or maybe your front yard is starting to become covered in brown grass. There are a few reasons your existing lawn might suddenly have dead grass, and a few ways to fix it.
How to revive dead grass? First off, check if your grass is dead or simply dormant. Then try to establish the cause – have you fertilised recently, or is your lawn covered in weeds? You might also want to do a soil test. Once you’ve figured that out, apply the appropriate solution. That can be anything from watering to restoring your soil’s pH to planting grass seeds for new turf.
Don’t let dead spots ruin the aesthetic of your home. Here are 7 ways to revive dead grass and revitalise your lawn.
Dormant Grass vs Dead Grass
First off – make sure it’s actually dying grass, not just dormant. Some types of turf will go dormant and turn brown under different conditions. Cool-season grasses will hibernate in the summer, while warm-season grasses hibernate in winter.
Look at the grass crowns at the plant’s base, where there’s a whitish area. If the crowns are healthy, then your grass is just dormant. However, dried or discoloured crowns signal dying grass.
You can also test for dead grass by tugging at a small patch. If the grass comes out easily, it’s unhealthy. But if there’s resistance at the roots, you’ve still got a healthy lawn – it’s just hibernating.
7 Ways to Revive a Dead Lawn
If you have dead patches or a brown lawn, don’t panic. There are ways to revive dead or dormant grass and make it like you have a whole new lawn again.
- Water the entire lawn
- Remove weeds
- Restore pH balance or minerals
- Aerate the whole lawn
- Fix fertiliser burn
- Remove excess thatch
- Top dress the lawn
1. Water the entire lawn
If it’s summer or if there are ongoing drought conditions, your lawn may turn dormant. Rain might help solve that, but the weather isn’t guaranteed. Revive your lawn with some water – soaking about 3 cm deep, once a week.
Cover the whole lawn to ensure no brown patches. For best results, water in the early morning so the sun doesn’t burn off the water.
2. Remove weeds
Unwanted vegetation can suffocate grass and eat up nutrients that would otherwise go to your healthy foliage. You can manually dig up weeds, especially with a small lawn – or use a stand-up weed puller. Alternatively, you can apply a selective herbicide followed by a pre-emergent herbicide to remove weeds.
3. Restore pH balance or minerals
If your soil’s surface is too acidic or alkaline, your grass will suffer. It leads to a condition called “iron chlorosis,” which causes yellowed or even brown grass. To see if this is the cause of your dead grass, you’ll need a soil test.
Alternatively, your soil might have too little phosphorus, which encourages healthy roots. Test your soil and if this is the case, purchase a fertiliser that will help balance out the nutrient density.
4. Aerate the whole lawn
Grass roots, like all other plants, need oxygen to thrive. If you have compacted soil, then it’ll need aerating – especially in brown spots. Use an aerator or spiked shoes to poke holes in the ground to loosen the earth and let air reach the roots.
If you’ve been using a lawn roller, it’s time to stop. Rolling your lawn takes out the air and water in the soil by compacting it, making it more difficult for grass to grow.
5. Fix fertiliser burn
An excess of nitrogen and salt caused by too much fertiliser can damage healthy grass. If you notice brown patches appearing a day or two after applying fertiliser, you’ve burned your lawn.
To revive dead patches from a burned lawn, act quickly. Saturate the ground with water to flush out the excess fertiliser, and water in moderation for the next week.
To minimise the risk of fertiliser burn, try a thin layer of slow-release fertiliser or organic compost made of decomposing plant materials. This will return healthy nutrients to the ground.
6. Remove excess thatch
If you leave grass blades as mulch after mowing, this might actually backfire. Too much decomposing plant material can build up on the ground, blocking light and moisture from reaching the grass underneath.
Thatch should not be thicker than 1–2 cm. Use a rake or vertical mower to remove excess thatch from the ground and let your grass breathe again.
7. Top dress a lawn
Top dressing a lawn is more preventative than curative, but it might also help revive dead grass. Spread a thin layer of compost onto your lawn to improve nutrient density. Then water regularly (or let the rain take care of it) so the natural fertiliser absorbs into the soil, helping old grass grow.
Plant new grass seed
If, after all your efforts, you still have a dead lawn – it might be time to plant new grass. You have two options: laying new sod pieces or planting grass seed. The latter method will take longer, but you can choose from different grass varieties and renew your yard.
You’ll need about 25g of grass seed per square metre of yard.
Start by dethatching and aerating your lawn, then mow the grass down to 3cm. Use a rake to remove clippings and debris, loosening the top layer of soil as you go. Then sprinkle on a 1cm layer of enriched topsoil.
Use a seed spreader or hand sow the seeds in the affected areas. Then spray a fine mist onto the seeds so the ground is moist but not saturated. The seeds will take about 10–14 days to germinate.
Dead Grass FAQs
Is yellow grass dead?
Not necessarily! There are several causes of yellow grass, such as:
- Too much or not enough water
- Unbalanced nutrient density
Try pulling the grass up by the roots. If it comes away with no resistance, then your grass is likely dead and needs replacing. Otherwise, identify the cause of yellowing grass and address it appropriately. You may need a lawn care expert to help with this.
Is brown grass dead?
It depends. If the crowns are discoloured and grass comes up easily when pulled, then your grass is likely dead. Otherwise, it may just be dormant or dying, and can be fixed with one of the above methods.
Will dead grass come back?
Completely dead grass will not come back, and you’ll need to regrow your lawn through seeding or sodding. However, if you pull on the grass and there’s still resistance at the roots, then the grass is just dormant or dying – which can be fixed.
How to fix dead grass from dog pee
Dog pee contains nitrogen, which causes a burn in your lawn. Always spray the affected area with soapy water after your dog urinates. This will dilute the urine and reduce the damage done to your lawn.
Maintaining Your Lawn
Mow your lawn regularly to encourage growth and maintain its appearance. You can enlist the help of professional mowing services to keep your yard tidy.
Always follow the instructions when fertilising your lawn to avoid burning the grass. Only apply as much as necessary.
Weed and dethatch your lawn as often as needed to ensure your grass isn’t getting suffocated.
Still, despite our best efforts, sometimes the grass will just turn brown. That’s why it’s essential to know how to revive dead grass – so you don’t panic, and can restore your lawn to its original pristine state!