Dying Grass and How to Save it

Is your grass slowly dying? If so, it might be a good time to invest in a soil test before it’s too late. Dead grass is not only visually unpleasant, but it will also lead to soil erosion. Grass serves to hold your soil in place, and without it, your soil will erode over time, especially in the presence of rain. How can I rehabilitate my dying grass? Well, in order to solve this problem, you must know what is causing it. The best way to identify the culprit is by purchasing a soil test. According to Dr. Han, associate professor and extension specialist (turf) Crop, Soil, and Environmental Sciences faculty at Auburn University, “If you haven’t had a soil test in about a year it is time to invest in [one]. If your grass starts to look a bit off, I would say invest in a soil test, because the problem often goes back to the soil.” 

There are many things that can cause your grass to die, such as diseases or insect infestation, but the most effective way to find out the source of your problem, and ultimately how to solve it, is by purchasing a soil test. Dr. Han continued, “The main reason you want to use a soil test is to check to make sure that the pH is where it is supposed to be and to check that the nutrient levels are where they are supposed to be too. A soil test will also pick up issues with nutrient deficiency,”  a common cause of dying grass.  If the soil test isn’t able to tell you what you need to know, however, Dr. Han recommends that you have somebody, like a landscaper, come and look at it. Often, it is easy to visually pinpoint the problem.

Soil Chemistry

What soil chemistry might make your grass more susceptible to disease? Many factors go into determining the optimal chemistry for your grass, such as the type of grass you are growing or the type of disease you are dealing with. In Alabama alone there are 5-6 different species of grasses, so the type definitely plays a role in what chemistry to maintain. Dr. Han explained, “From a pH standpoint, I say until you have a good diagnosis on what the pH might be, I would just try to keep the pH at 6-6.5, or add extra fertilizer. Until you know exactly what you’re dealing with, it’s hard to give a blanket recommendation.” Again, a soil test would be useful in determining the pH level your grass is at and if this might have anything to do with an underlying disease such as iron deficiency.

What if it is too late? That is very possible. Dr. Han said that it is usually too late to remedy when the roots of the grass are gone. He recommends that you dig into the soil and check on the roots before going any further. If the roots are no longer alive, then you’re looking at re-sodding. So, in conclusion, it is important to regularly test your soil, especially if you are experiencing problems with your lawn.