This time of year, as temperatures drop and rainfall becomes infrequent, lawns all over the country turn dry and brown. At first glance, it might appear that the grass is diseased or even dead. In fact, chances are it’s actually doing something pretty remarkable.
When grasses are under intense stress, they’re able to redirect resources away from blade growth and towards the preservation of their essential root systems. In essence, dormancy is very similar to hibernation. The grasses conserve water for their roots, while allowing their blades to temporarily whither. Once the stress on the grass is alleviated, the blades will turn green and begin to grow again. Here in California, we tend to see grasses go dormant during periods of drought. Throughout much of the country, grasses go dormant during the winter as well.
The easiest way to tell is to water your lawn or wait for rain. If the grass is dormant, it will return to normal once it’s been properly hydrated. If it’s dead, it won’t be revived with watering.
Bear in mind that grass tends to go dormant uniformly as well. If your lawn is patchy and brown, it may be suffering from a disease or pest infestation. White spots are usually indicative of mold growth. If your lawn hasn’t received much water recently and it turns an even shade of brown, chances are it’s just conserving energy until conditions improve.