The Difference Between Dead and Dormant Grass

During cold winters or warm summers, the grass on your lawn could change its color from green to brown. In such a situation, it becomes difficult to gauge whether the grass is dead or dormant as they could look very similar to each other.

Making assumptions is not a good idea either. So spend some time and understand how to differentiate between dead and dormant grass.

Some people wait for the season to change to figure out the difference but you don’t have to wait so long. It is important to find out the status of the grass on your lawn or yard as quickly as possible so that you can take appropriate measures to either revive or remove them.

While a dormant lawn will become healthy again when weather conditions change or improve, you should remove or replace dead grass. Before taking any measures, have complete clarity on this and here in this article, that’s what we’ll help you with.

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Table of Contents

 Dormant Grass

When grass becomes dormant, it conserves water and energy to stay alive. During normal times, your lawn transfers important resources to the healthy blades of the grass. However, during stressful times, these very resources are sent to the crowns and the roots to ensure the grass, which is currently in a state of dormancy, remains alive.

Natural grass lawns tend to become dormant during the winter when there is a significant drop in temperature. They become active again when the temperature rises during the spring. Sometimes a natural grass green lawn will go through their best phase during the winter and reach a state of dormancy when summer is at its peak or when a drought-like situation arises.

Once the grass in a lawn becomes dormant, it stays that way for about a month before it starts losing its life. If you live in an area that has extended periods of summer, you have to water the lawn more frequently.

warm season grasses

Dead Grass

One of the reasons why most people get confused between dead and dormant grass is because they look alike. Unlike dormant grass, dead grass does not regain health when the weather conditions improve or when efforts are made for its revival. Once your grass is dead, you must replace or reseed the grass in order to have a thriving or healthy lawn.

dead lawn

How To Differentiate Between Dead and Dormant Grass?

Differentiating between dead and dormant grass could be very difficult as both look lifeless and are brown in color. One of the most important things to remember is that a patch of grass goes dormant uniformly. 

So if you find the grass in your lawn looking patchy here and there or notice brown spots appearing among green grass, you could be dealing with a different problem.

If a certain area of the lawn doesn’t get enough water, there is a possibility of the grass in that area becoming dormant. If only a particular section of the lawn appears to be dormant, you should check your irrigation system.

If the irrigation system is working adequately, then dormancy is not the issue. You will have to check for other causes like pests or diseases. If the lawn appears to be uniformly brown and not patchy, you might have to take further steps to find out whether it is dormant or dead.

One of the best methods to differentiate between dead and dormant grass is to increase irrigation for a couple of days. The lawn will start turning green again if it is dormant. If it continues to remain brown, then it is dead. However, when there is drought or extreme heatwave, watering the grass for a couple of days might not help in bringing the dormant grass back to life.

If you happen to live in the countryside where grass becomes dormant during the winter, try to be patient until there is a rise in the temperature during spring to find out whether the grass is dormant or dead. If it’s in a state of dormancy, it will spring back to life.

A simpler way to find out whether the grass is dormant or dead is to try and pull a bunch of grass out. While you will face no difficulty when you are pulling out dead grass, you will encounter some resistance while pulling out dormant grass.

cool season grasses

 Looking After Dormant Grass

Even if you have planned to let the grass on your lawn go dormant during the summer to save water, you would still have to look after it. You will not be required to mow or spend a lot of time watering it. 

However, it is important to remember that whether a grass lawn is dormant or active, it still needs proper maintenance.

One of the most important things you need to do when you look after dormant grass is to ensure that it doesn’t get damaged. It is better to restrict any movement on the grass.

Continue with the process of pulling out weeds so that they don’t end up consuming the water and nutrients that the grass requires to thrive. Of course, you need to water the grass to ensure it doesn’t die but you must avoid overwatering it.

Not getting your lawn fertilized when it is in a state of dormancy would be a good idea. It is also important to remember that the use of herbicides during these times can prove to be fatal for the grass.

entire lawn brown

 Reviving Dormant Grass

Getting dormant grass back to normal health is a long but rewarding process. When the lawn is dormant, refrain from mowing it. This is important to ensure the longer grass blades get the opportunity to bring down the loss of moisture that happens with evaporation. Once the grass starts regaining health, you can mow it at a higher setting.

You might want to cut down the brown blade tops but don’t do this. You should let the new blades grow organically.

brown grass

People Also Ask

Will watering dead grass bring it back?

Nope. Once your grass is dead – it’s dead. Because the grass hasn’t grown in months, you’ll need to take action to re-establish it. You could replace the grass with seeds or sod — or use a different type of landscaping material such as mulch, rocks, or groundcover.

How do you wake up dormant grass?

There isn’t a surefire way to ‘wake up’ dormant grass. The best thing you can do is to keep the area around the grass clear, cut down on foot traffic, and make sure it’s getting enough water and sunlight. You could also try aerating the soil or using a lawn fertilizer.

Should I water dormant grass?

Yes, it’s critical to water your dormant grass in order for it to survive. Before dying, dormant grass must be revived. A few days of additional watering should be sufficient in most situations. However, if your grass is being stressed by extreme heat or drought, you may need many more than a few days.

watering lawn to revive it
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Oliver Wright

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