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Winter Lawn Dormancy

Jan 04, 2023

Why Does My Lawn Turn Brown During the Winter?

Undoubtedly, your lawn is greatly affected by the elements during the winter season. When the cool temperatures arrive, many homeowners start to notice their lawns turning brown. You may be wondering why. Well, just like any other species, grass plants must adapt to survive. When the winter hits, your grass doesn’t die, but it does become dormant (essentially goes to sleep!) to preserve scarce resources. Dormancy is a natural part of the turf growth cycle. Come spring, your grass will be back to its former vibrancy. 



Detecting: is your lawn dead or dormant?


When winter ends and warmer temperatures return, dormant grass will transition back to its original state. Sometimes parts of your lawn may die, become damaged, or thin out over the winter. The first sign that your grass has died is that it does not green up in the spring. You should also try to tug on the grass to see if it is still well-rooted. If you tug on the grass and it lifts easily, then it is likely dead. It is also important to take note of the grass pattern. Are there brown spots in your lawn, or is the entire lawn brown? If your entire lawn is brown, it is likely still dormant; however, a spotty pattern can be an indication that parts of your grass have suffered damage over the winter.



What causes winter dormancy?


To understand winter dormancy, you must understand why and how it occurs. Lawns go into “hibernation mode” (dormancy) when they do not receive enough valuable resources, such as sunlight or water. Dormancy conserves moisture, which protects the grass from seasonal damage and allows it to cope with extreme temperatures and conditions. If the grass remains healthy, your turf will return to its lush, green state when the resources become more abundant. 


What does dormant grass look like?


dormant grass

If you’re a homeowner, you can expect your grass to become thin, dry, and discolored (brown or straw-like) this winter. Although it may not be the nicest to look at, it is a necessary evil that will help your turf stay strong in the face of seasonal stressors.



How to prepare your lawn for dormancy

Your local Weed Man lawn care professional will be able to recommend what is best for your specific region and grass type. Typically, we recommend doing a late fall fertilizer. The reason for this is so that once the colder weather arrives, your lawn will be able to take in all those nutrients that were just laid. Over the winter when your lawn has become dormant, it uses those nutrients from the fertilizer to preserve the health of the turf until the temperatures rise again. If you did not fertilize this past fall, no need to worry. Contact us to get on our spring schedule to help your lawn grow as soon as soil temperatures rise. 


With warm-season grasses, it is important to keep watering your turf even though it is dormant. This is only necessary if there has been a lack of precipitation. Typically, there is enough in the winter months that it should be fine but on occasion, it may be necessary so your roots stay active and assist in the revival of your lawn come spring!


If you have any questions or concerns regarding your dormant lawn, reach out to your local Weed Man team today for expert advice!