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Why Are Some Lawns Brown in Winter While Others Are Green?

February 14, 2017

This question arises for those of you located in areas that can grow both Northern and Southern Grasses.  Turf experts call these areas the “transition zone”.  You can tell if you are in the transition zone if some lawns in your neighborhood are brown (dormant) this time of year and some remain green in winter (especially if you fed your lawn a couple of times in fall).

Winter dormant Bermuda on the left and a blend of Fescue/Kentucky Bluegrass on the right

Winter dormant Bermuda on the left and a blend of Fescue/Kentucky Bluegrass on the right (click photo to enlarge)

Northern Grasses (like Bluegrass, Fescue and Ryegrass)

  • Stay green all winter, especially with a couple of fall feedings.
  • Can grow in sunny areas and can tolerate a fair amount of shade.
  • Healthiest growth with 4 or 5 feedings a year during spring and fall when daytime high temps are below the 90’s.
  • Grass height should be around 2-1/2 to 4 inches after mowing.
  • New grass seed can be planted in early spring and early fall.

Southern Grasses (like Bermuda, Zoysia, St. Augustine, Bahia and Centipede)

  • These lawns are brown in the winter when they go dormant (except in very southern areas).
  • Grow best in full sun, however St. Augustine and Zoysia have some tolerance for shade.
  • Feed 4 or 5 times a year. Spread the first feeding when you are starting to see about 50% green up in early spring from the winter brown color. Then feed every two months through the end of September.  Centipede lawns do best with 2 or 3 feedings a year.
  • Grass height should be (after mowing): Bermuda ½ to 2 inches, Zoysia ¾ to 2 inches, St. Augustine and Bahia 2 to 4 inches, and Centipede 1 to 3 inches.
  • Bermuda, Zoysia, Centipede and Bahia can be seeded in late spring. St. Augustine needs to be sprigged or sodded.

If you want to figure out what kind of lawn you have, click here to go to Scotts easy to use grass type identifier.  This tool uses your zip code to narrow down the kind of lawns that grow in your area with descriptions and pictures.

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