Your Brown Winter Lawn isn't Dead, it's Dormant!

Submitted on January 23, 2019

It’s no secret that our lawns take a beating during the winter season. When the cold weather hits you might notice your lawn turning brown, but why? Is your lawn dying? While it may look like it, during the winter months our lawns transition into a dormant state as a survival mechanism.

The Science Behind Lawn Dormancy

It is common knowledge that plants need water, sunlight and nutrients to survive. When your turf detects that it is not getting enough of these elements, it will “go to sleep” and begin to conserve its resources for survival. When your lawn goes dormant it turns brown because it is holding all of its water and nutrients in its most vital part, the plant crown.

While it is common for lawns to go into dormancy in the winter, lawns also commonly go dormant during the hot months of the summer due to drought and heat stress. Homeowners often think their lawns are dying; however, when ideal growing conditions return your dormant grass will quickly recover.

The Difference Between Dead and Dormant Grass

A brown lawn does not always mean that your lawn is dead. So, when the snow melts away and your brown lawn is revealed how will you know if it is dead or dormant?

  1. Try the tug test

If you tug on your brown grass and it is secure, your lawn is most likely dormant. However, if you tug on the grass and it pulls out easily, that area of grass is likely dead and will not recover. You will either need to reseed or sod that area to repair the damage.

  1. Water your lawn

One of the main reasons that lawns go into dormancy in both the winter and summer is because of the lack of precipitation. Often when the snow melts enough water is returned into the lawn that it will green up on its own. However, if this is not the case you may need to water the lawn to help it recover from its dormant state. If the lawn does not recover with watering, it may be dead.

  1. Look for a pattern

Is your entire lawn brown, or is it only brown in certain areas? If your entire lawn is brown, then that is more likely a sign of dormancy. If your lawn is brown in patches, then that could be a sign of disease or an indication of other winter damage.

  1. Contact a lawn care professional

If you are having a hard time deciphering if your lawn is dead or dormant, contact your local Weed Man. We can inspect your lawn and determine what needs to be done to either repair your lawn from damage or help it return to a healthy, vibrant state.


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