Dormant Does Not Equal Dead: How to Tell if Your Lawn Has Gone Dormant

Dormant Grass


Did you know your lawn has a superpower? While it can’t leap tall buildings in a single bound and it isn’t faster than a speeding bullet, lawns do have one amazing ability- in periods of drought they go dormant. That’s right, lawns hibernate. You know that plants need water to stay alive, but plants will “go to sleep” when they do not get enough water. During periods of dormancy, grass will turn brown in order to conserve water.  Winter is just such a time. For most of the winter, your lawn will look brown, not because it is dead, but because it is not getting enough water.


It can be difficult to tell if your lawn is dormant or dead, but generally if you water a brown lawn for a few days, and it turns green again, it was dormant. If it stays brown, it’s dead, Jim.


A dormant lawn has different needs than a non-dormant lawn. Caring for a dormant lawn in the winter, or during the hottest months of the summer (when lawns often become dormant) is important, but many lawn owners do not know the best ways to care for their sleeping yards.


  1. Water your lawn enough to keep it alive, but no more. As long as it rains or snows once within a two-week period, do not water your lawn at all. Dormancy helps protect your lawn against adverse weather conditions in the winter.
  2. Minimize foot traffic. It’s important not to let too many people walk over your lawn will it’s dormant. While your lawn is brown, it is easier for people walking over to do damage to it.
  3. Weed your lawn. While many types of grasses go dormant in the colder months, many types of weeds do not.  Periodically walk through your yard in the colder months looking for weeds. If possible, pull them out by hand.


When spring rolls around your dormant lawn should become vibrant and green again as temperatures rise and warm spring rains fall. If you find you have patches on your lawn that stay brown, you may want to re-seed them as they may have died during the winter. However, if you follow the steps described above, you should have kept this problem to a minimum.

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