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Why is Grass Brown in the Winter?

brown grass in the winter

As the winter weather begins to improve in the Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) area, many people are getting impatient for their yards to return to a lovely spring green hue.

Time to kick that drab winter brown grass to the curb! If you're wondering how you can help your grass green up or if you're wondering why your lawn is brown at all – we have the answers for you!


Is my grass dead in the winter?

It is a common misconception to think that brown grass equals dead grass. Therefore, homeowners frequently believe that during the winter season, their lawn is brown, patchy, and straw-like because it has died from the cold.

And, trust us, no one can blame you for thinking that because your grass really does look dead during the winter. However, the good news is that it is unlikely that your grass’s winter brown color is due to plant death.

The real cause of your ugly looking winter lawn is grass dormancy.

Grass enters a dormant state in the late fall or early winter when temperatures are consistently below 60℉. Many different factors determine precisely when your lawn will enter dormancy. The type of grass and soil, tree coverage, and extra soil warmth from nearby concrete or plants are just a few of many things that impact how your lawn will react to cold temperatures.

In southern regions like DFW, warm-season grasses gradually turn brown in colder weather. Although the grass looks dead, during natural winter dormancy, the grass's crowns will stay alive.

This is an important difference between grass death and grass dormancy. On a blade of grass, the crown is at soil level and supports the grass’s ability for regrowth. If the crown remains alive, your grass should be able to green again after winter dormancy.

What is grass dormancy?

Grass dormancy is a suspended state of plant life during which your grass focuses solely on conserving water, nutrients, and energy for survival. Essentially, your yard is "sleeping" during the long, cold winter when warm-season grasses can not thrive.

It is a normal natural process for grass to stop growing, turn brown, and enter a dormant state during winter. Much like animals that hibernate in the winter, your lawn is basically in survival mode to protect itself from harsh cold weather.

Can I prevent my grass from browning in the winter?

Dormancy is a completely natural process for warm-season grasses during the cold winter. So, unfortunately, there isn't a way to prevent your grass from turning brown. However, there are some options to try to mitigate the overall "brown look" in your yard.

Warm-season grass types, such as bermudagrass, thrive in southern regions because they are hardy during long periods of hot weather. These grasses may go dormant during our southern winter, but they hold up well in drought. Northern regions typically plant cool-season grasses, such as Kentucky bluegrass, because these grasses thrive in opposite circumstances.

If your goal is to have your lawn as green as possible year-round, then your best option is to try overseeding your lawn with a cool-season grass. With this scenario properly orchestrated in your yard, you should have a decent showing of green from your cool-season grass during the winter. During the hot summer, your cool-season grass will go dormant, allowing your warm-season grass to shine through.

While this option may seem like a perfect idea, having two types of grasses to care for requires extra maintenance. While selecting your grass type, you’ll need to factor in your location, your soil consistency, and your yard’s tree/plant coverage.

The cool-season winter ryegrass does well overseeded in the DFW area. However, if you’re considering overseeding, we recommend that you talk to a local lawn care professional for advice and assistance.

How do I green up my lawn for spring?

Fortunately, dormant brown grass should naturally return to green once the weather warms up a bit and conditions improve. This doesn’t, however, mean that your lawn should be ignored and left to fend for itself all through winter and the spring transition. There are a few things to be aware of during grass dormancy and while the grass is "waking up" from dormancy.

While your grass is dormant, it is particularly vulnerable to damage because it isn't in an active growth and repair state.

Try to avoid major activity on your lawn. Even a moderate amount of foot traffic can lead to issues that you'll have to repair in the spring. It is also best to avoid mowing too often, and you should avoid mowing the grass too short. If your grass has longer blades, it'll be easier for it to hold moisture in.

Check out our winter lawn care tips for more information on how to take care of your lawn during the winter. 

If your lawn isn’t greening up come spring and you’re concerned that it may be dead, try heavily watering it for a couple of days. This amount of water should drag your lawn out of dormancy – like pulling a child out of bed for school.

However, if your lawn still doesn't "wake up" from dormancy, then it may have died during the winter season. Whether it's due to damage, severe dehydration, or disease, grass death can occur.

It's tough to tell the difference between dead and dormant grass by sight alone. You can contact a lawn care company to check it out for you or try heavily watering when spring arrives.

How Gecko Green can help your yard!

With Gecko Green’s comprehensive year-round lawn care program, you’ll be able to relax all season long – every season! Our local, family-owned company cares about your yard and our community.

Our highly trained professionals have been keeping the lawns of the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex area healthy and beautiful for over 30 years. Call us today for a free quote!

Not sure if your grass is dead or dormant?

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