More often than not, it is possible to bring back to life a dead lawn without the need to tear everything down and start all over. However, your success largely depends on how long the grass has been dead. Usually, grass that appears dead for a short period, between 3 to 5 weeks, can successfully be regrown.
Another factor that ensures success is what caused the grass to die in the first place. In this piece, we are going to look at what causes the grass to die and how to revive them in each situation.
Drought is one of the primary reasons for dying grass, especially during the summer. At the height of summer, lawns usually become brown and breakable but sometimes they have a way of reviving themselves once the temperature reduces and light rains provide the much-needed moisture. This is a process called dormancy.
Dormancy is where, for the sake of survival, the grass’ top growth is sacrificed, but the deep roots remain alive. Grass naturally goes dormant after 2 to 3 weeks without water. Most lawns can tolerate dormancy for about 4 to 6 weeks, however, extended periods of hot and dry weather eventually kills the lawn grass.
How to Revive
An occasional soaking is essential to keep the roots alive. However, if the lawn has been completely dry for over 6 weeks the chances of the grass surviving is close to nil. If this is the case for your lawn, the first thing to do is to pick a small area, cut away the top growth and check underneath to see whether there are some signs of green. Take a few days to water that area and if you see signs of new growth, then reviving your lawn with regular watering for a few weeks is possible.
If it is not possible, mow the entire lawn and run a rake through it to break up the hard surface. If it has been weeks of dryness, plugging the lawn might be necessary. This allows water to seep deep into the root zone.
It may take several weeks to bring your lawn back to its full glory. In the meantime, as you water the lawn, you can also broadcast some grass seeds, which sprout faster while you wait for the dormant grass, if they are there, to grow back.
Thatch is a thick layer of decomposed plant matter that builds up on the soil surface. These can be roots, leaves, as well as partially decomposed stems.
Thatch appears as a brown and spongy material formed on the surface of the soil. Contrary to popular belief, clippings do not cause thatch since they decompose quicker and add nutrients to your lawn.
A healthy lawn normally has thatch that is about half an inch thick. If your lawn has patches of brown distributed within green areas, this could be a case of too much thatch. Too much thatch prevents even the little water you provide, like during a drought, to seep into the soil and keep the roots alive, killing the grass in the process.
How to Revive
The first thing to do is to check the thickness of the thatch by digging out a small section of the lawn to measure the brown area. When the thatch is less than an inch thick, a de-thatching rake is enough to break it up. However, when the thatch is too thick, more mechanical help might be needed.
Once the thatch is dealt with, water the lawn, and fertilize it to assist in vigorous regrowth. To cover up the patches where the grass has completely died, reseed with grass more appropriate for the season.
- Pests and disease Infestations
Cases of pests and diseases destroying a lawn are not unusual, but they rarely destroy the entire lawn. Pests tend to invade excessively fertilized, overly watered, or neglected lawns. In addition, there are different types of fungi that can affect lawns.
If your lawn has sporadic brown spots, it can be a sign of pest or disease infestation. To investigate, take hold of a handful of grass in the affected area and pull; if the grass comes away easily, it could mean a pest or disease infestation is killing your lawn grass.
How to Revive
Once you have established that either the garden pests or fungi and disease are your culprits, you can use the variety of fast-acting chemical pesticides available in the market. Most fungal infections can easily be dealt with using a general fungicide, but they are toxic, hence you should keep kids and pets off the lawn.
Also, keeping the thatch to a minimum and avoiding over-watering may help avoid fungal diseases.
- Chemical Residues and Salt Buildup
Various chemicals and salt can both cause lawn grass to die through burning the grass roots. Excessive salt builds up in the soil is usually caused by frequent feeding without proper irrigation. Water runoff from treated areas can deposit chemicals on your lawn as is herbicides, for instance, when carried by the wind while you or your neighbors use them in nearby flower patches.
How to Revive
If you think a salt or chemical burn is likely, thoroughly watering the lawn to wash off the residue is the least you can do. Adding limestone or gypsum salt may help and in the case of extensive damage, reseeding may be necessary.
- Shallow Watering
Watering your lawn frequently, but not thoroughly can cause shallow root growth. This causes quick wilting and the grass can die on you, suddenly if you skip watering for a few days.
How to Revive
Take an entire week to water the lawn thoroughly. You can run a lawn tiller, which can prove effective in this case. Reduce the frequency to 3 days and finally to 1 day in a week. Remember, the key is to water thoroughly as it helps the grassroots to run deep into the ground. Reseeding in the scanty areas is also helpful.
- Deep Mowing
Cutting the grass too close may kill it, especially during summer, therefore, always mow with a higher setting. The key is to mow regularly, but not too close for a tidy lawn always.
Bringing your lawn back to life requires a lot of patience since it may take several weeks. Always give your lawn tender and loving care and most importantly, do not over-water or over-feed.