Brown, patchy grass can occur at any time of the year, but it’s particularly likely to occur in autumn and winter here in the UK. So what causes it to happen? And what can you do to fix it?
Dead grass or dormant grass?
Grass begins turning brown when its roots are no longer absorbing the necessary nutrients from the soil – but this isn’t necessarily a concern – in fact, it’s part of grass’ natural life cycle. Dormancy is comparable to an animal hibernating over the winter when food is scarce, and it can be caused by drought, flooding, too much watering, extreme heat, extreme cold, or poor soil quality.
However, brown grass could also mean dead grass. It’s often difficult to tell the difference between dormant grass and dead grass, especially for the casual gardener. There are however some signs to look for:
Signs of dead grass
- The tug test: Grab a handful of brown grass and pull – if it comes out easily with no resistance, then it’s dead.
- The water test: Dormant grass will return to a green colour when watered. If you water your brown patches for a few days, it should regain its colour. If not, then it’s dead.
- Is it patchy? If the whole lawn is a brownish or yellowish colour, this would suggest that the whole lawn has entered its dormancy stage. However, if there are small patches of discoloured lawn, that would suggest that those particular sections are dead.
How to fix dead or dormant grass
Adjust your summer mowing height
There is a direct correlation between grass height and root depth, and the deeper the root, the more nutrients it can extract from the soil. We’re not saying you should let your lawn grow wild over summer, however, we would recommend increasing your mow height every time you cut the grass over summer so that when the colder months come in, your lawn will have healthier roots and be able to extract enough nutrients to avoid the dormancy phase.
For dead grass, fertiliser is often the best option, but only when used correctly. Improper use, uneven spreading, and over-fertilisation can sometimes make matters worse. Take a look at this comprehensive guide on how to correctly apply fertiliser when fixing dead grass.
Of course, all this worry about dead and dormant grass can be avoided with artificial turf. And if you’re picturing the stuff green-grocers use to decorate their stalls, don’t – artificial turf has come a long way in the last ten years – it’s hard to believe that any of the examples below aren’t real grass: