Fescue lawn going brown and dormant
So has your beautiful green fescue lawn suddenly changed to a pale green if not brown color, and you’re wondering what’s up? If you’re a LawnAmerica customer, you’ve had plenty of good fertilizer, so that’s not the issue. The problem is the hot, dry weather and lack of adequate rainfall in Carolina. We experienced a dry summer last year, and 2016 looks to be the same.
Water is one of the most basic requirements for turfgrass, and with all other plants and animals for that matter. And when there is a lack of water, turfgrass, like all other living things, has defense responses which help protect it from dying. In the case of grass, it can go dormant with the leaves turning a pale gray color first and then brown, basically shutting down the plant until soil conditions return to normal. Bermudagrass and zoysiagrass especially can very seldom die due to drought, but it is possible. They just turn brown, stop growing, and maintain what water and nutrients they can in the crown and root system of the plant. Fescue, being a cool-season grass, is much more likely to die during extended periods of heat and lack of soil moisture.
If you choose to not irrigate during times of drought and allow your lawn to turn brown and dormant, once good soaking rains come back, or irrigation is started, the lawn should spring back and recover with growth and green color. In Carolina however, those cool soaking rains may not come until early September, and that’s a long time to wait if your lawn is brown in late June already.
Our recommendation for irrigation is to supply about 1.5” of water per week in order to maintain a green, healthy turf. We recommend to water at least some during drought, and not to neglect turf fertilization. We switch to a more organic-based fertilizer with a humic acid soil amendment when lawns are brown in summer, which will help the turf come back stronger once soil moisture is good again. And Fescue lawns are treated with our custom Soilbuilder organic soil amendment, which helps your lawn perform better during summer heat with a stronger root system. If we go more than two weeks without any rainfall at all, we encourage you to at least wet the top 1/4″ of soil to hydrate the crown of the plant, which is from where new grass growth originates between the roots and the stems. Without a live crown, you’ll have a dead grass plant.
We also like to see a deep, extensive root system on turf during the summer, to reach that deeper soil moisture that is available. One way to do this is to raise your mowing height, as the higher the mowing height, the deeper the roots will grow.
So whether you have a green lawn, brown lawn, or something in between is more a matter now of Mother Nature cooperating, along with some help from you with good irrigation and watering.