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With the Heat: Is My Lawn Dead or Dormant?

 In Lawn Care Tips

2021 has offered record breaking temperatures. Just a few days ago FOX31 reported that this year has placed 5th (thus far) on the list of years with the most days with temperatures exceeding 100 degrees Fahrenheit. It would be an understatement to say it has been a hot summer. You may ask yourself, is the lawn dead or dormant? Turf grass really takes a beating from the sun; at times our customers find themselves thinking they’ve lost their lawn.  While this can be true, there is also the probability that the lawn has gone dormant until favorable conditions return.

Kentucky Bluegrass, one of the most commonly used turf grasses, and other species of cool-season grasses thrive in Colorado. A dry, cool and invigorating climate that brings out the best in cool-season grasses is the result of our high elevation, lying nearly  40 degrees north of the equator and being interiorly located geographically. We have some of the greatest conditions for these species here.

Life in general wants to survive. It’s not uncommon to see grass growing through sidewalk cracks and various other places that don’t appear habitable. Simply planting grasses like Kentucky Bluegrass, Perennial Ryegrass or Tall Fescue gives you a head start to a lush lawn. The health of your lawn is always dependent on the root system. If you have over seeded in the fall, aerated, fertilized regularly, treated with pre-emergent in the early spring, watered consistently throughout the start of the growing season and beyond and have no suspicions of grubs or other pest problems, your root system is likely to be solid. These deep and networked roots are the foundation of your lawn.

The growth pattern looks like this: first growing fast in the spring, stalled growth in the summer, growing rapidly again in the fall and going dormant in the winter. Dormancy means that the grass blades on top of the soil brown and die; the root system below is still strong and intact. When the cool-season grasses approach the unfavorable conditions that come with winter the blades die so the grass can conserve resources to make it through the hard times. If you are a lawn lover you have experienced this every year; your lawn turns green again in the spring when desired conditions are met. In a harsh summer your lawn can go into dormancy in an attempt for survival.

We see lawns go dormant more frequently in neighborhoods that have summer water restrictions. There are also instances, multiple days in a row of extreme heat, where even a regular watering schedule may not be enough to encourage a lawn to stay out of dormancy. If you have a lawn that is more than a few weeks into dormancy, it is best to just let it be. It will turn green again in the fall. Trying to bring it out of dormancy forcefully with inconsistent watering will drain the lawn of its reserves. This causes the blade grow vertically and will ultimately lead to a more shallow and thin root system.

If the lawn is actually dead and not dormant, watering at this point will only be a waste of resources. Cutting your losses and committing to reseeding in the fall is the best route in that scenario.

So how do you know if your lawn is dead or just dormant?

First,  with a soil thermometer you’ll want to check the temperature of various spots in your lawn. At about 5 inches deep, if the soil is beyond the upper 70’s in Fahrenheit your lawn is in a danger zone in which temperatures are too high for survival. If it is below that temperature it is likely dormant. Second, take a look around your lawn. If you only see brown and there is not a sliver of green in sight then it is likely dead.

One of the best ways to know for sure what the fate of your lawn is, hire a lawn care expert to do a thorough investigation and health checkup on your lawn. Erbert Lawns can have eyes on your property on a monthly basis with our Weed Wipe-Out & Fertilization program. While taking the job of feeding your lawn with a high quality blend of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium off your hands we also will be able to alert you if an issue ever arises. Call or text us today!

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