How To Revive Dead Grass and a Dead Lawn: Step by Step

When I see unsightly brown patches in my lawn, the first thing that comes to mind is dead grass caused by one or more reasons like poor soil and weather conditions, mowing with dull mower blades, thatch buildup, and lack of nutrients such as nitrogen. 

But is dead grass in your yard dead or can it be revived? The answer depends on several factors and this step-by-step guide will help you revive dead grass on your turf. 

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Will Watering Dead Grass Bring It Back

A common misconception among homeowners is that watering dead grass in brown lawns, green lawns, and certain healthy lawns will bring it back to life. Here’s a lawn irrigation guide for the right watering tips.

Even though there is some truth to this myth, consistent watering and frequent watering of dead grass can make the situation worse. 

Watering dead grass can cause root rot and lead to more severe problems including mold or fungal growth, which needless to say is damage that is more costly and time-consuming to fix.

Watering dead grass

Why Is My Grass Dying Even Though I Water It?

There are several reasons why your grass is turning brown, wilting, and dying despite maintaining a consistent watering schedule, most notably problems with disease, caused by microscopic living organisms. 

  • Fungal disease – A warm grass environment coupled with humid conditions can attract a fungus called rhizoctonia solani, also known as a brown patch. This moisture-loving fungus typically resides in the soil as it munches in decomposing plant matter. If the fungus isn’t removed, watering your turf will convert the small patches of grass to huge islands of dead grass. 
  • Grub issue – Grubs are the larvae of Japanese beetles and can damage your lawn by feeding on the roots of your grass in your entire lawn. Adding to this, your grass will fail to absorb the necessary nutrients and moisture to stay green even with regular watering. Learn how to choose and apply grub control products.
  • Acidity – Healthy grass requires a pH range between 6 and 7, and any number lower or higher can lead to poor quality soil, which is soil that’s too acidic or alkaline. 
  • Environment and mowing – If you’re watering your lawn regularly but not getting good results, then your lawn may be under stress from hot weather. 

Further, dead grass despite mowing can also be caused by dull blades, and/or cutting more than the appropriate grass height each session. Learn about the other issues caused by dull mower blades.

Always use a sharp blade when mowing and cut approximately one-third of the grass height each time.  

How to Revive Dead Grass Patches in Lawn Fast – Step by Step

Follow the steps below to revive dead grass on your lawn. 

1. Make Sure your Lawn isn’t Dormant

There are some grass types such as zoysia grass that turn tan to brown when they go dormant. Closely inspect the crowns, which are located at the plant’s base. 

If the crowns are healthy, your grass is most likely dormant but discolored or dried-out crowns indicate that the grass can’t be revived to a green state. 

Zoysia Grass

2. Prepare The Site 

Preparing the site is key to reviving dead grass in a lush lawn. Keeping a lawn healthy creates the right environment for grass to thrive and for new grass seed or sod to take root

The first thing to do when preparing your lawn is to eliminate any weeds or old grass. You can do this by pulling the current weeds by hand, after which apply non-selective herbicide. 

After spreading the herbicide, keep pets and kids away for at least 2 hours until the herbicide dries, and wait a week for the herbicide to work its magic before moving to the next step. 

3. Eliminate Excess Thatch 

Thatch is an intermingled layer of living and dead leaves, stems, and roots. This layer accumulates between the area of actively growing grass and the soil underneath. 

A thin layer of thatch that is less than 1/2-inch thick is beneficial to your lawn’s health. However excess thatch formation that is more than 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick can restrict the flow of air, water, fertilizer, and healthy nutrients to the grassroots. 

You should dethatch your lawn before aerating, which is a process that relieves soil compaction and enhances grass growth. 

4. Aerate your Lawn

Aeration is a process of puncturing the soil with small holes to help the roots grow more deeply for a stronger, livelier lawn. 

Aeration should only be done if you have compacted soil in your lawn and in the fall following a complete growing season. 

5. Fertilize the Soil 

Before adding fertilizer to the soil, it’s important to perform a soil test to determine if the soil is lacking any essential nutrients such as phosphorus and nitrogen. You can either buy a soil test kit online or take soil samples and send them to a lab for testing. 

Once you get the results from the soil test, buy the appropriate lawn fertilizer with the right N-P-K ratio and spread it across your lawn with a spreader. 

6. Planting New Grass Seed or Sod 

Planting sod is a great option if you want an instant lawn, but reviving a dead lawn from high-quality grass seed takes time but on a brighter note is cost-efficient. 

You can spread grass seed using a seed spreader or get in touch with a lawn care company to install sod. 


See also my detailed guide on how to care for new sod


planting sod

7. After-Care Process 

After following the above steps of reviving a dead turf, water the area sufficiently but don’t allow your lawn to become soggy.

Water your lawn a few times each day for the first couple of weeks, just enough to keep the soil moist. Once the grassroots have a strong foothold, water your lawn regularly once or twice a week, giving your grass 1 to 1.5 inches of water each time.

Other Remedies to Dead Grass

If you would like to skip the aforementioned remedies to revive a dead lawn from scratch, there are several other options you can try to achieve a green lawn. 

Grass Paint 

Grass paint is an excellent choice for a yellowing or browning lawn while you wait for your entire yard to return to its normal color. 

Grass paint is a professional way to turn grass green and is a non-toxic pigment that gives your browning or dull grass a boost of color. 

However, if you’re using grass paint year-round, then there is an underlying issue with your turf that should be addressed. 

There are myriad different reasons your lawn may be dying including lack of water, malnutrition, infestation, or disease. Painting the grass with grass paint in these situations will only mask the problem until it turns into a bigger problem. 

Grass paint is safe to use and offers a plethora of benefits including the ability to bring back your lawn’s green color immediately. 

The other big benefit of grass paint is cost savings. Lawn health issues can take a while to fix and many homeowners often end up paying a premium price to gave sod installed. 

With grass paint, you can enjoy that popping-green color while waiting for your lawn’s natural color to return. Grass paint doesn’t contain any harmful chemicals but most products in this space are made from pulverized kaolin – a soft stone or decaying plants. 

Applying grass paint can be a bit tricky because you have to get the ideal mixture to obtain the color you desire, but the darker brown your grass, the more paint you’ll add. 

EnviroColor Grass Paint – Best Grass Paint for Dead Grass 

The EnviroColor grass paint is a great choice for brown spots in your lawn and is easy to apply with any pump sprayer. It covers stains and disease spots and covers roughly 1,000 square feet when applied as directed. 

EnviroColor 4EG0032 851612002100 (1,000 Sq.Ft) 4Evergreen Grass &...
2,588 Reviews
EnviroColor 4EG0032 851612002100 (1,000 Sq.Ft) 4Evergreen Grass &...
  • Great for dormant Bermuda grass & color for your lawn during a drought
  • Covers pet stains and disease spots
  • Easy to apply with any pump sprayer; for best results, paint entire grass area

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Reseeding and Overseeding

Reseeding and overseeding are two easy ways to kickstart new turf growth and thicken your lawn. Spreading fresh grass seeds across bare spots will help you achieve a lush lawn without damaging any grass or soil.

What Causes Dead Patches On Your Lawn?

Dead spots in your lawn can be caused by many reasons including fertilizer, dog pee, drought, summer heat, periods of drought, and much more. 

dead patch on Lawn

How to Fix Dead Grass From Fertilizer?

Dead grass from fertilizer is referred to as fertilizer burn. All fertilizers contain mineral salts, which absorb moisture from the soil, leading to dehydration.

Yellow and brown spots and dry patches of grass are good indications of fertilizer burn.

Fertilizer burn can be easily avoided by adding fertilizer to dry soil, following the fertilizer application instructions, keeping fertilizer off of grass blades, using organic fertilizer, and using slow-release fertilizers. 

Fixing fertilizer burn is a matter of reducing the amount of fertilizer in your soil to prevent further damage to your grass. 

Here’s how to fix fertilizer burn: 

  1. Remove the excess fertilizer 
  2. Rinse the soil to wash away the excess fertilizer 
  3. Prune dead foliage 

How to Revive Dead Grass From Dog Pee?

Dog pee can make your lawn look rough with brown or yellow spots, dark green patches, and even dead grass. These dead patches are all repairable, but it’s important to know what dog urine damage to lawns looks like otherwise, you may apply the wrong treatment. 

Dog pee contains a form of nitrogen, which transfers to the soil when Fido pees on the lawn. Nitrogen is an essential nutrient for your soil but too much nitrogen concentrated in a small area “burns” your grass. 

Dog urine lawn damage doesn’t affect your entire lawn, but appears in small spots where your paw-pal frequents when doing their business.

Dog urine can also be beneficial for your lawn if your soil lacks nitrogen in general. When dog urine serves as a fertilizer, you’ll notice healthier grass that’s a darker green than the rest of your turf. 

Brown grass from dog urine doesn’t mean your lawn is dead.

Here’s how to revive dead grass from dog pee:

  1. Rake the dead grass and debris out of the way
  2. Water the area thoroughly to flush nitrogen and salts from the dog’s urine
  3. Loosen the soil with a small rake or trowel
  4. Cover the area with a mix of two-thirds garden topsoil and one-third peat moss
  5. Generously sprinkle new grass seeds over the area 
  6. Water the seeds without drawing the seeds 
  7. Keep pets and people away from the new grass for a few weeks
dog peeing on grass

How to Revive Dead Grass From Drought?

Reviving dead grass from drought is often not possible and the first thing to do is check for a pulse. Cool-season grasses are harder to revive than warm-season grasses and a simple way to check if your grass still stands a chance is by checking for any green tissue remaining in the stems and roots. 

If there are no green tissue present or healthy white roots, it may be too late to revive the grass from drought. But if you notice any signs of life, water heavily two to three times a week early in the morning.

Next, apply a wetting agent to help draw in moisture and retain water in the soil. The grass is struggling at this stage so keep pets and kids off it and don’t mow the lawn, especially during the heat of the day. 

EnviroColor 4EG0032 851612002100 (1,000 Sq.Ft) 4Evergreen Grass &...
2,588 Reviews
EnviroColor 4EG0032 851612002100 (1,000 Sq.Ft) 4Evergreen Grass &...
  • Great for dormant Bermuda grass & color for your lawn during a drought
  • Covers pet stains and disease spots
  • Easy to apply with any pump sprayer; for best results, paint entire grass area

Affiliate links and images pulled from the Amazon Product Advertising API on: 2024-05-27

How to Revive Dead Grass in Summer?

Reviving dead grass in the summer requires some elbow grease. Remove the dead grass with a rake, and reseed your lawn using a lawn roller

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The best time to revive a dying lawn is later in the summer or early fall. This is a period when the temperature of the soil is high, which accelerates the germination of grass seeds

How to Revive Dead Grass After Winter?

If your lawn has dead of dead patches, reseed your lawn as soon as the ground thaws.

  1. Break up the existing soil and reseed.
  2. Add a one-inch layer of compost over the area. 
  3. Use a tiller to work the compost and spread a coating of pulverized lime on top.
  4. Use a hand spreader for even coverage across the area.
  5. Water the seeds early in the morning. 

How to Revive Brown Grass? 

There are several possible causes for brown grass including drought, thatch, improper mowing, improper watering, insect damage salt damage, and pet spots.

Drought – Drought is one of the biggest reasons for browning grass and there’s no way to bring your turf back if it’s dead. 

Thatch – If you have brown grass in certain spots when summer rolls around, you may have a thatch problem. To identify a thatch problem, dig a 2-inch deep chunk of grass, and if you have more than ¾ to 1 inch (2-2.5 cm.) of brown, spongy thatch, you’ll have to dethatch your lawn

Bad mowing practices – Incorrect mowing practices can stress your turf and cause it to dry out and turn brownish. Always cut no more than 1/3 of the height at each mowing session. 

Improper watering – Water your lawn early in the morning and/or late evening deeply about once a week. Aim to provide an inch of water each time and avoid frequent, shallow irrigation. 

Insects and pests – Insect and pest-infested grass is weak and can be pulled up easily. Pests are attracted to overfertilized lawns or lawns that are neglected. 

brown grass

Dead Grass vs. Dormant Grass

Brown grass may appear dead and no longer growing but this could just be a stage of dormancy. Dead grass can’t be revived and dormant grass can be brought back to life.

Lawns go dormant in a uniform manner unless you’ve not been providing enough water in a section of your lawn. To determine if the brown grass is dead, pull a handful of grass from the turf and see if it’s easily removed from the ground. If the grass comes up easily, it’s most likely dead. 

Caring for Dormant Grass

Dormancy is a naturally occurring period for any variety of grass in your lawn. Your turf during this period may turn brown and lifeless, but the grass isn’t dead. 

The best way to care for and help the grass bounce back from the dormancy stage is by consistently taking care of the turf in these tough situations. 

Regular maintenance is required such as watering, weed removal, and mowing for dormant grass to recover quickly. 

How Much Water Does it Take to Bring Back Dormant Grass? 

Dormant turfs should be watered for 20 – 30 minutes each session once a week. Maintaining a watering schedule will encourage grass plants to develop thick roots, which can withstand the harsh winter months. Read my article on how to tell the difference between dormant vs. dead grass.

FAQs

Q. Can Brown Grass Be Revived?

A. Brown can get only be revived if it’s not dead completely due to drought. In this case, you will have to lay down sod or plant new grass seeds.

Q. Why Is My New Grass Dying?

A. There are several reasons your new grass may be dying but the #1 cause is drought stress. Another reason could be a lack of nutrients in the soil, for which you should perform a soil test and apply appropriate fertilizer. 

Q. How Long Does it Take for Dead Grass to Recover?

A. If the grass isn’t dead, it can take up to 6 weeks to recover and turn into a healthy lawn as long as you provide the right nutrients and amount of water.

Q. Does Mowing Dead Grass Help it Grow? 

A. In some cases, dead grass can benefit from a fresh mow. Mow your turf and leave a thin layer of grass clippings behind, which is the grass acting as its fertilizer. 

Here is an informative video on how to revive dead grass lawn:

How To Revive Dead Grass Lawn DIY How to Go From Dry Grass to Beautiful Green Grass Step by Step

Final Thoughts

If you have dead grass in your lawn, there’s no need to break a sweat just yet as there is more than one way to revive dead grass. However dead grass due to drought can’t be revived. 

Common reasons for your lawn turning lifeless brown are fertilizer burn, overwatering, under-watering, and thatch buildup. 

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