Kansas State University


K-State Turf and Landscape Blog

“Is this lawn still alive?”

Dead or alive??


You be be getting questions from homeowners who allow their cool-season lawn to go dormant during summer but are wondering and worrying if the grass is still alive. How can you tell? How can those lawns be managed to ensure they stay alive through the dormant period?


This article is by Ward Upham, KSU Dept of Horticulture and Natural Resources:

Normally, a healthy lawn can stay dormant for a good 5 weeks and still recover. After the five weeks are up, it is important to keep the crown hydrated because if the crown dies, the plant dies.
Apply about 1/4 inch of water every two weeks to hydrate the crown. This will be enough to hydrate the crown but not enough to encourage weed germination and growth.
The recommendations differ for a lawn that was overwatered or received so much rain this spring so that it produced a limited root system. Such a lawn may die unless allowed to slowly enter dormancy. This is done by shutting off the water gradually. For example, instead of watering several times a week, wait a week before irrigating. Then don’t water again for two weeks. Thereafter, water every two weeks as described above.
If you are wondering if the turf is still alive, pull up an individual plant and separate the leaves from the crown. The crown is the area between the leaves and the roots. If it is still hard and not papery and dry, the plant is still alive. When rains and cooler weather arrive, the turf should come out of dormancy. However, we will probably have to deal with weeds that germinate before the turfgrass grows enough to canopy over and provide enough shade to keep weed seeds from sprouting.

(Ward Upham)