Dormant lawn? This is how you bring your garden back to life

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​Dormant lawn? This is how you bring your garden back to life

Johannes van Graan Johannes van Graan
The Lollipop garden    :  Garden by Robert Hughes Garden Design
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Nobody likes the sight of a neglected garden, especially one that’s located in the front of a house (bad for kerb appeal and first impressions, you know!). But there’s a difference between not giving a hoot about your yard/garden and not knowing what to do to stop those greens from turning brown and lifeless. 

The good news is that a brown lawn, although it may appear lifeless, isn’t necessarily dead. It could just be conserving resources until conditions improve. For both cool and warm climate lawns, seasonal dormancy is normal.

So, what can you do to bring your garden back to life? By continuously taking care of it. But this doesn’t mean pouring water over it every day and hoping conditions approve. A lawn that is well-watered, free of weeds, and mowed properly will experience less dormancy with faster recovery times.

Let’s see how you can revive a dead lawn and make it better than before!

​1. How to revive brown grass

Traditional Garden - Decked Seating Area and Vertical Wooden Screening:  Garden by Unique Landscapes
Unique Landscapes

Traditional Garden—Decked Seating Area and Vertical Wooden Screening

Unique Landscapes

Water it 

Of course a good rainfall will revive a brown lawn. However, if rainfall is insufficient, watering the lawn deeply once a week will help bring your garden back to life. With the right sprinkler, you can customise the spray area so that it waters only the lawn and not the sidewalk. 

Set up a timer on your spigot, allowing the sprinkler to come on for 15-20 minutes per watering session. And the best time to water is early in the morning between 6 a.m. and 10 a.m.

Mow it 

Once your grass starts growing again, it’s okay to mow with your mower set to about 8/9cm. Never scalp the lawn trying to remove brown blades of grass. Instead, allow new fresh grass to grow around them. And leave those grass clippings on the lawn to fertilize the lawn naturally.

Weed it 

Once the soil is rehydrated and grass plants turn green, weeds will spring back to life, too. Remove them by hand or spot-treat with a natural herbicide by following directions on the label.

​2. How to know if your grass is just brown or dead

Tug on your grass plants. If they pull out easily, they’re probably dead. If the roots hold fast when pulled, the plants are dormant. 

You will also notice a difference when you start to water or when rain returns, for the moisture will revive brown grass. However, it will not bring dead grass plants back to life.

homify hint: Grass turns brown in response to stress, caused by heat and drought in summer. Even warm-climate grasses may turn brown for a while.

​3. How to bring your garden back to life in a drought

Droughts are a relatively common feature of UK weather, with one occurring around every 5 to 10 years on average. And while the best thing to do for your lawn is to water it on a regular basis, doing so isn’t always possible in a drought. 

Of course it’s always advisable to purchase a rain barrel that can be filled in times of scarce rain. But besides watering, there are other ways to bring your garden back to life in a drought: 

• Mowing: Taller blades develop a deeper root system, so allow your lawn to grow taller as a drought approaches. When you cut your grass (no more than one-third of the blades’ height), make sure you do so on dry soil to prevent compaction. And make sure that you’re mowing with sharpened blades—dull ones could result in ripped, jagged grass that quickly dries out. 

• Grass-cycling: As said before, when cutting the lawn, leave the clippings behind to act as mulch. Not only will the clippings’ nutrients and moisture prove valuable for your lawn year-round, it will also protect your grass in periods of stress. But check that they don’t get too thick or clump together in mats, as this will suffocate the lawn. If the clippings’ layer is more than 12mm, de-thatch it with a rake or de-thatcher. 

• Aerating: Punch holes in your lawn with an aerator to deliver any moisture directly to the lawn’s root system. 

• Eliminate traffic: Keep off the grass! The added weight will compact the soil, making it harder for your grass to absorb moisture.

​4. Is it really worth saving the grass?

Japanese style planting:  Garden by Earth Designs
Earth Designs

Japanese style planting

Earth Designs

Bringing your garden back to life is more important than you may think. Apart from a beautiful view, a healthy lawn brings with it many benefits, such as a higher home value and healthy playing/socialising/relaxation area for you and your family. 

More importantly, grass has a vital impact on the ecosystem, including topsoil preservation, reduction in CO2 levels, noise and heat reduction, plus a decrease in water runoff and soil erosion, which protects groundwater.

5. What to do before dormant periods

Make sure to water your lawn deeply, but infrequently—about once a week, for 20-30 minutes. 

Watering your grass before a possible summer dormant period will encourage the grass plants to develop deep roots, allowing them better access to moisture in the soil.

​6. Your brown lawn and fertilisers

Want to bring your garden back to life? Then don’t fertilise that brown lawn! You do not want to promote leaf growth at a time when the roots have little access to moisture.

​7. A dormant lawn and weeds

A curved deck links the seating area to the house:  Garden by Lush Garden Design
Lush Garden Design

A curved deck links the seating area to the house

Lush Garden Design

Some weeds may continue growing while the lawn is dormant. Dandelions, for example, are perennial weeds with tap roots that reach into the soil for moisture. They are quite adept at surviving heat and drought. 

The best way to keep weeds in check is to maintain a healthy lawn. If you see weeds actively growing when your lawn is dormant, pull them by hand or spot-treat with an organic herbicide found at a nursery.

So, the next time hot weather causes your grass to turn brown, just stay positive and remember that a brown lawn doesn’t necessarily mean a dead lawn. With a little patience and good lawn-care practices, you can bring your garden back to life in no time!

Have a look at these 7 different garden designs to help you find yours.

Did we help bring your brown lawn back to its green state?
Whitton Drive:  Terrace house by GK Architects Ltd

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