Maintaining a lush, healthy lawn requires extra care and dedication.
If your lawn consistently has brown spots or dead grass, you will need to determine the cause to help your yard recover.
The most common causes of dying grass include extreme heat or drought, disease, poor soil conditions, improper lawn maintenance, pests, and animal urine. Fortunately, with some extra time and good lawn care practices, you will be able to turn your brown grass into a lush, green lawn once again.
Once you have established a steady lawn care routine, it will be much easier to prevent problems before they occur.
It is also less expensive to improve the brown lawn you have rather than completely replace it.
Read on to learn the reasons your grass is dying and ways to prevent it from happening.
Table of Contents
Why Your Grass Keeps Dying
If you are constantly dealing with brown grass or dead spots on your lawn, you will need to figure out the cause to remedy the issue.
A brown patch on your lawn may be small at first, but it will quickly spread if proper action is not taken towards the health of your grass.
Heat or Drought Conditions
During periods of extreme heat or drought, grass tends to become dormant.
Dormant grass is not dead, and it will recover when temperatures cool and there is adequate rainfall.
If your lawn has turned brown because of drought, you will be able to sustain your grass with as little as 1/2″ inch of water every 2-3 weeks.
To bring your lawn out of dormancy to have green grass again, you will need to supply your yard with 1″ inch of water every 6-7 days.
It usually takes around 3-4 weeks of regular irrigation for your lawn to recover from being dormant.
Avoid watering your lawn during the hottest parts of the day, usually between noon and 3 pm.
The brightness of the sun will not only scorch your newly-watered grass, but the water will evaporate quickly and leave your lawn parched once again.
Water your lawn in the early morning or evening to prevent burning your grass.
If you have a sprinkler system installed, set it to water your lawn for two hours at a time.
Adjust your sprinklers if the water is not reaching all of your grass.
Be sure to check your local municipality for any water restrictions during drought conditions.
Your lawn is prone to many types of diseases and fungal infections.
Signs of a disease or fungus include brown grass and grass with spots of white, brown, or black slimy substances.
If you see symptoms of a disease or fungus, it needs to be treated right away to keep the problem from spreading to your entire lawn.
Anti-fungal treatments will be necessary and hire a professional to take care of a chronic issue.
Avoid encouraging a fungal disease by not soaking your lawn during each watering session.
The turf needs to be wet, but there should not be soggy standing water and mud areas.
Excess moisture encourages fungal growth and the spread of disease on your lawn.
If you have problems with mud, read our list of ways to dry up a muddy yard.
Watering your lawn in the morning allows any excess moisture to evaporate during the day and prevents fungus and disease.
Proper mowing will also reduce the risk of fungus on your lawn.
Follow the one-third rule by only cutting one-third of the length of your grass each time you mow.
Poor Soil Conditions
A critical step in determining what is turning your lawn brown is to perform a soil test.
A sample of your soil is tested in a laboratory to determine if there are any nutrient deficiencies.
It will not matter how often you water your lawn if your grass is not receiving the nutrients it requires for healthy growth and root development.
There are numerous lawn fertilizers and supplements available, so you will be able to add essential nutrients to your soil and grass.
Be sure to read the manufacturer’s instructions on the product label to ensure you use the proper amount depending on your lawn’s size and condition.
If your lawn has been squished down by heavy foot traffic, your grass will have difficulty establishing a deep root system, and water will not be able to seep into the soil.
The soil will not have the proper amount of organic matter or microbes to keep your grass healthy.
Aerating your soil will allow it to absorb moisture and nutritional content, enabling your grass to grow lush and green.
If your soil is low in iron, add some Ironite.
Learn more in our article on using Ironite with lawns.
Over-watering your lawn is just as harmful to your grass as not watering frequently enough.
Your lawn only needs to be provided with 1″ inch of water in each watering session.
Water your lawn once per week unless you get a lot of rainfall.
Do not water your lawn if it is not necessary.
The soil needs to be slightly wet, but there should not be any soggy or muddy areas.
Do not water your lawn a little at a time, as this will weaken the root system of your grass and make it more susceptible to hotter temperatures.
If your lawn is too dry, not only will your grass turn brown and possibly die, but you may also have issues with soil erosion.
When grass has not had enough water, it will turn brown, but it will only go dormant for a while.
During this dormant period, your grass focuses only on the roots, so it will need less moisture to stay alive.
Grass typically goes dormant every winter and emerges again in the spring.
Once the dormant grass receives warmer temperatures and rainfall, it will grow and turn green again.
Your dormant grass needs at least 1/2″ inch of water every 2-3 weeks for your lawn to recover quickly when conditions are more favorable.
If you are using a sprinkler system, be sure the water reaches all parts of your lawn or end up with dry patches.
There Are Too Many Weeds
Another common cause of dead grass is too many weeds on your lawn.
Clusters of weeds rob your grass of vital nutrients, and they need to be removed.
You may either pull the weeds from the ground by hand or use a lawn-safe selective herbicide.
A pre-emergent herbicide may be used in early spring to keep weeds from germinating.
Wait at least three weeks after planting grass seed to use a pre-emergent herbicide, or you will risk killing your new grass before it has a chance to sprout.
If you choose to apply an herbicide, read the manufacturer’s label to ensure it is safe for your type of grass.
There will also be mixing instructions if the herbicide is a concentrated form requiring dilution.
Follow the instructions carefully, so you do not cause harm to your grass.
There Is Too Much Thatch
Thatch is a thick layer of decomposing roots, stems, and other plant matter.
This thatch layer builds up under the grass roots, and if it is too thick, it will harm grass growth.
If your grass has more than 1″ inch of thatch, you will need to use a thatch removal tool to remedy the problem.
Prevent thatch by making sure your grass clippings do not build up on your lawn.
Never mow your lawn when the grass is wet, as this will increase the chance of the grass clippings clumping together.
Check out this information on if dethatching blades work.
Cutting Your Grass Too Short
Cutting your grass too short will cause it to become dry and turn brown.
Follow the one-third rule of mowing by only removing one-third of the length of the grass.
Most grass will do well at the height of 2.5″ inches, except during summer heat, when it is better to raise the mowing height to 3″ inches.
Do not let your grass grow too long because it will require more nutrients to stay healthy.
Allowing your lawn to become overgrown also has consequences, and it usually results in thinner blades of grass.
Ensure your grass is watered at least two days before mowing.
When the grass is very dry, it may be pulled out of the ground more easily.
Grass requires nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium to stay healthy.
Too many of these nutrients will ill affect your lawn, so you need to research the right products for your lawn issue.
Have a soil test performed on your lawn before you ever add any nutrients to your lawn care routine.
Fertilizing too often may result in scorched grass, which will have a brown or dark yellow appearance.
Some lawn mineral supplements, such as Ironite, will cause your lawn to turn gray if too much is applied.
If your soil is heavily compacted, adding fertilizer will not help your lawn.
Fertilizer causes roots to grow, and if they are unable to penetrate the ground, they will grow in a thick tangle close to the surface.
These roots may be exposed through the top layer of soil, and they will not be protected from a harsh environment.
If your lawn has a pest infestation, your grass will turn brown and die.
The roots will be damaged, and your lawn will be more prone to bare spots because the grass will come out of the ground more quickly.
A severe infestation will require the application of pesticides.
You may want to consult a professional for pest removal to ensure your grass does not become damaged.
To help prevent pests, take care not to water or fertilize your lawn too often.
Keeping your grass healthy is essential, but overdoing it may be an invitation for pests to invade your lawn.
If you have round patches of dry or dead grass on your lawn, the cause may be animal urine.
Animal urine contains acid, and it will burn your grass and cause it to become brown and possibly die.
If your pet is repeatedly using the same area on your lawn to do its business, flushing the area with water regularly will help dilute the acid.
How To Improve A Brown Or Yellow Lawn
You will be able to help a brown or yellow lawn recover if you follow the steps for proper lawn care.
It is important to regularly monitor your lawn so you will be able to take care of trouble spots before they become a much larger problem.
There is no way to revive a dead lawn, so preventing problems before they start is the key to having a healthy lawn.
Develop a Consistent Watering Schedule
If you are not regularly watering your lawn, keeping your grass lush and green will be challenging.
Dry grass becomes brittle and is more easily damaged.
Your lawn will not use the nutrients you are providing if there is no water to carry fertilizer to the roots.
Aim to water your lawn with around 1″ inch of water per week.
If you receive any rainfall, you may be able to wait for a few extra days until watering your lawn again.
Monitor your soil to ensure it is not becoming too dry in between watering sessions.
Aerate Your Soil Regularly
As previously stated, compacted soil prevents your grass from forming a strong root system.
The grass will be unable to receive any moisture or nutrients to keep your lawn healthy and green because nothing will pass down through the soil to the roots.
An aerator leaves small holes in your lawn to loosen the soil and allow space for nutrients and water to reach the grass roots.
Lawn aeration is recommended at least once every 2-3 years, depending on the amount of traffic your lawn receives.
Test Your Soil
Having your soil sent to a laboratory for testing is one of the best ways to assess the damage to your lawn.
Soil testing will inform you about which nutrients your lawn lacks, so you will choose the correct fertilizers and nutritional supplements.
It is best to know what your soil needs to not add too many of the wrong nutrients.
Use a Fertilizer
A lawn fertilizer combines many nutrients and minerals to encourage your grass to be green, thick, and healthy.
When choosing a fertilizer, pay attention to the NPK ratio on the container.
NPK stands for nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, and the ratio shows the parts of each nutrient per bag of fertilizer.
Nitrogen is the component that gives grass its vibrant green color.
Phosphorus encourages healthy root system growth to give the grass more stability and absorb more nutrients and moisture.
Potassium enables grass to grow thicker cell walls to be stronger against stressful conditions like drought and extreme heat.
Your local garden store sells a variety of fertilizers and other lawn care products with different NPK ratios, so be sure to research the best one for your lawn’s needs.
Removing weeds is a simple but effective way to improve a brown lawn.
Having a lot of weeds in your yard will rob your grass of vital nutrients.
Removing weeds will allow your grass to grow thicker and create a more lush lawn.
Either remove the weeds by hand or use a lawn-safe herbicide suitable for your grass type.
Reseed Any Bare Spots
If you have areas of your lawn bare because the grass has completely died, it will be necessary to reseed your lawn.
Reseeding is the only way to fill in these bare spots, and it is a relatively simple task.
Spread the seed by hand or use a broadcast spreader for a more even application.
Immediately follow with a quality lawn starter fertilizer and water the soil thoroughly.
Take care not to add too much water initially because you will risk washing away the grass seeds and the fertilizer.
Use a lawn roller to ensure the seeds make good proper soil contact.
You will see grass sprouts within 2-3 weeks.
It is crucial to keep the new, healthy grass watered regularly for it to grow thickly.
If you found this post helpful you’ll likely enjoy reading our other one on how long grass lives broken down by type.