When your grass goes from green to brown, whether in winter or summer, it can be difficult to know if it is simply dormant or actually dead.

Since a dormant lawn will return to health when the weather improves, while a dead lawn will need to be removed and replaced, it is always best to be sure before taking any drastic (and expensive) measures.

It can be difficult to tell the difference between dormant and dead grass, since both appear brown and lifeless.

The first thing to note is that the grass generally will go completely dormant in a uniform manner; so, if your grass is patchy or has brown spots among fields of green, the first thing to check is your irrigation system.

It is possible for a section of grass to go dormant if it is not receiving enough water, and, it is also possible for your grass to die in sections due to lack of water.

The most common way to differentiate between dead and dormant grass is to increase irrigation for a few days, and if your lawn is dormant, it should begin to turn green again, while if it stays brown, it is most likely dead.

Dormant Grass

When grass goes dormant, it is conserving energy and water to stay alive, so instead of sending vital resources to developing lush, green blades of grass, the lawn is instead sending nutrients to the roots to stay alive during times of stress (i.e. winter).

Grass goes dormant during the winter when the temperatures drop, and then come back as the temperature rises again. When your lawn goes dormant, it can generally stay in that state for up to about a month before it starts dying.

Dead Grass

Dead grass usually appears the same as dormant grass, but it does not come back when the weather improves or when you take measures to revive it. If your grass is dead, you will need to reseed or replace the grass to once again enjoy a thriving, green lawn.

If you want to be prepared to revive your dormant lawn after the winter months, read our blog on how to do exactly that!

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