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Dormant Grass Recovery

September 19, 2011

Throughout times of drought, grass may begin to shut down, turn brown and play dead. This is a defense mechanism, and is done to protect itself during harsh conditions (like drought and winter). When rain finally returns, grass will naturally revive itself and with a little help from lawn food will be restored to its beautiful green color. However, often some damage has been done – resulting in bare or thinning patches in the grass. For most lawns, fall is a good time to repair these areas.

How can I best care for recovering grass?

Water Wisely: Take advantage of rainfall when you can to get the needed 1 inch of water a week. When rainfall is sparse, as it is in times of drought, the best rule of thumb is to water ½ inches, 2 days per week, so that the top 6-8 inches of soil remains moist.

Be sure to follow watering restrictions in your local area. For example in Texas go to this website:

Feed and Prevent Weeds: Feed the lawn once rainfall returns as dormant grass will not respond to feeding. Once rain returns or watering is allowed, feed your lawn with Scotts Turf Builder Winterguard to strengthen its root system and replace the nutrients the grass used up in its struggle to survive. Regular feeding will also protect your lawn against heat and drought in the future—a well-fed lawn just does not get as thirsty. Most weeds are more drought-tolerant than grass and will rob your lawn of vital nutrients and water. If weeds are an issue in your lawn, depending upon your grass type use Scotts Turf Builder WinterGuard With Plus 2 Weed Control or Scotts Bonus S Weed & Feed to feed your lawn plus kill weeds. For spot weed control use Ortho Weed-B-Gon Max.  Note:  Do not use weed controls in areas you are seeding or planning to seed this fall.

Seed or Sod and Feed: For lawns with cool-season grasses (like Bluegrass, Fescue and Ryegrass) re-seed your lawn by removing any dead material with light raking and replant with a mix of heat- and drought-tolerant grasses. Apply Scotts Starter Fertilizer to encourage thick, strong grass and root development. For lawns with warm-season grasses (like Bermuda, St. Augustinegrass and Zoysia, you may be able to repair small areas this fall with sod, however major repair jobs may need to wait until spring.

Following these tips will help your lawn pull through stressful drought many areas have experienced this year.

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  1. Joe Giordano permalink

    It,s now April, my lawn looked beautiful the first three weeks. This week I found several 3 to 4 foot area that had turned brown. I use all Scotts products and applied Scotts turf builder the last week of February. I used the product that allows seedind at the same time. All of a sudden I have the problem. The soil is moist, so its not because of lack of water. Can you help?

    • Hi Joe
      Let me know where you are located and the kind of grass you have (if you know). Did you use Scotts Starter Fertilizer OR was it Scotts Starter Fertilizer with Crabgrass Preventer? What kind of grass seed did you put down and did your new grass seed come up? Was there anything else put on your lawn? Thanks for the additional info so I can make a better guess at what is going on with your lawn.

  2. Wayne permalink

    My friend used Scotts turfbuilder plus 2 on his zoysia lawn to fertilize it. It resulted in killing large area of grass right down to the dirt. I am having a problem with Zoysia growing into my flower garden. I just can’t pull it all out. So, I am trying to use the Turf Builder Plus 2 to kill it …After reading these articles it looks like I won’t be able to do it.

    • Hi Wayne
      Do not use Turf Builder Plus 2 in your flower garden. This weed & feed can be used on Zoysia to kill the weeds and feed the grass. You can injure any kind of grass if this product is put down too heavy (which sounds like what may have happened with your friend). Roundup can be used to kill zoysia, however do not get it on any plants you want to keep.

  3. Charles K permalink

    Hi Ashton,

    I live in WI and play soccer. Coming out of winter, how long does it take for grass to recover enough to get a game in? Sports with cleats do damage athletic fields thru use even when the grass is good. The team wants to get out and start early spring practice, but I don’t want to destroy our local park’s field thru early use.

    Charles K

    • Hi Charles K
      If the fields were fed last fall the grass will be stronger this spring. It would be best to hold off until the grass has been mowed a time or two (the roots will be stronger and any grass injury will recover faster). The damage will be greater if the field is extremely wet. If you are practicing multiple days during the week it will be better if you can rotate practice onto several fields. Hope you have a great season!

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