How to Fix Yellow Grass and Prevent It: A Guide to Greens Again

How to Fix Yellow Grass and Prevent It: A Guide to Greens Again - My Store
Having a lush green lawn is the pride of every homeowner, but sometimes, the sight of yellow grass can be both frustrating and concerning. Yellowing grass is a common problem that can arise for various reasons. In this blog post, we will delve into the common reasons why grass turns yellow and provide you with effective solutions to tackle this problem head-on.

Common Reasons for Yellow Grass and How to Fix It

Over Fertilizing

A person spreading fertilizer on a lawn.

Overzealous application of fertilizers may seem like a good idea to boost your lawn's growth, but it can actually lead to yellow patches and damage the overall health of the grass. The excess nutrients can burn the grass, causing it to lose its healthy green hue.

The good news is that it can be rectified with some simple steps. If you notice yellow patches on your lawn due to over-fertilization, here's how you can fix it:

Water the affected areas heavily. This will help to dilute the fertilizer and flush it out of the soil. Water the areas for at least an hour each day for a week.

Avoid fertilizing your lawn for the next few months. This will give the grass time to recover.

Aerate your lawn. This will help to improve drainage and reduce the risk of future fertilizer burn.

Apply a slow-release fertilizer in the fall. This will help to provide your lawn with the nutrients it needs without the risk of overfertilizing.

If you have any large, dead areas of grass, you may need to reseed them.

Dog Urine Spots

dog relaxing in the grass with toy

Dog urine spots are a common headache for pet owners and can quickly turn patches of your green lawn into unsightly yellow spots.

If yellow spots have already developed due to dog urine, here's how you can repair them:

Flush the Area: Immediately water the affected areas to dilute the urine's impact on the grass.

Reseed or Resod: For more severe spots, consider reseeding the area with fresh grass seed or resodding it. This will help fill in the damaged spots and promote regrowth.

Neutralize the Soil:  Use a lawn treatment made to cleanse the soil of nitrogen and salts from dog urine. These treatments are available at most garden centers.

Compacted Soil

Compacted soil is a common culprit behind yellowing grass and can significantly hinder your lawn's health by impeding nutrients and water uptake.

Compacted soil is soil that has become tightly packed, leaving little room for air, water, and nutrients to penetrate the ground. As a result, the grass roots struggle to access these vital elements, leading to poor growth, weakened resilience, and the appearance of yellow patches. Compacted soil also inhibits root expansion, further exacerbating the problem.

Aeration is a vital practice to combat compacted soil and revitalize your lawn. Aeration is the process of removing small plugs of soil from the lawn to improve water and airflow. This can help to promote healthier grass growth by allowing the roots to reach deeper into the soil and access more nutrients and water.

Chemical Spills

Chemicals, such as pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers, gasoline, and household cleaners, contain potent ingredients that can harm the grass, leading to yellowing and even death of the affected areas.

When faced with a chemical spill on your lawn, quick action is essential to minimize the harm caused:

Safety First: Prioritize safety by wearing protective gloves and clothing while handling the spilled chemical. Keep children and pets away from the affected area until it's safe.

Contain the Spill: If the spill is limited to a small area, use absorbent materials like kitty litter or sawdust to contain the chemical and prevent it from spreading further.

Dilute with Water: If the chemical is water-soluble, immediately flood the area with water to dilute the concentration and reduce its impact on the grass.

Neutralize if Applicable: For certain chemicals, there may be neutralizing agents available. Consult the product label or contact a local gardening center for advice on neutralizing the spilled substance.

Remove Contaminated Soil: In severe cases, where the spill has caused substantial damage, it may be necessary to remove and replace the contaminated soil to prevent further harm to the lawn.

Grubs and Insect Infestations

Grubs are the larvae of various beetles, such as Japanese beetles and June bugs, and they feed on grassroots, causing them to die off. Similarly, adult insects like chinch bugs, sod webworms, and armyworms also target grass blades, sucking out vital nutrients and causing yellow or brown spots. If left unchecked, these pests can quickly multiply, resulting in extensive damage to your once-vibrant lawn.

Organic Control Methods

If you prefer environmentally-friendly solutions, organic control methods can effectively combat grubs and insect infestations:

Nematodes: Beneficial nematodes are microscopic organisms that naturally occur in the soil. They are non-toxic to humans and pets but are lethal to grubs. Apply nematodes to your lawn, following the package instructions, to target and eliminate the grub population.

Beneficial Insects: Encourage beneficial insects, like ladybugs and lacewings, which are natural predators of harmful insects. Creating a friendly environment for these beneficial insects can help keep the pest population in check.

Healthy Lawn Maintenance: A well-maintained and healthy lawn is less susceptible to pest infestations. Regular mowing, proper watering, and adequate fertilization will strengthen the grass and make it more resilient against pests.

Chemical Control Methods

For severe infestations, chemical control may be necessary. Here are some chemical solutions:

Insecticides: There are various insecticides specifically formulated to target grubs and lawn-damaging insects. Follow the manufacturer's instructions carefully and apply the insecticide as needed to treat the affected areas.

Systemic Treatments: Systemic insecticides are absorbed by the grass and translocated to all parts of the plant. When insects feed on the grass, they ingest the insecticide, leading to their demise.

Nitrogen Deficiency

Nitrogen plays a crucial role in various metabolic processes within the grass, promoting cell division and chlorophyll production. Chlorophyll is responsible for the green pigmentation in plants and is vital for photosynthesis, the process through which plants convert sunlight into energy. When your lawn lacks sufficient nitrogen, it can't produce enough chlorophyll, resulting in a pale, yellowish appearance.

To address nitrogen deficiency and promote healthy green grass, follow these recommendations:

Choose the Right Fertilizer: Opt for a high-quality, nitrogen-rich fertilizer. Look for fertilizers with a higher first number in the N-P-K ratio (e.g., 20-5-10 or 30-0-4), indicating a higher percentage of nitrogen.

Time the Application: Apply nitrogen-rich fertilizer during the active growing season of your grass. For cool-season grasses, the best times are early spring and fall, while warm-season grasses benefit from fertilization in late spring and summer.

Follow Application Rates: Carefully follow the recommended application rates provided on the fertilizer packaging. Over-fertilizing can lead to excess nitrogen and cause more harm than good.

Water after Application: After applying the fertilizer, water the lawn lightly to help activate the nutrients and prevent any potential burn from concentrated nitrogen.

Regular Fertilization Schedule: Establish a regular fertilization schedule to maintain a steady supply of nutrients for your lawn. Follow the recommended frequency for fertilizing your specific grass type and local climate.

Lawn Fungi and Disease

Fungi in the grass.

A beautiful lawn can fall victim to various fungi and diseases, leading to yellow patches and other unsightly issues. Here are some common lawn fungi and diseases that can cause yellowing:

Dollar Spot: Dollar spot is a fungal disease that forms small, circular patches on the lawn, usually the size of a silver dollar. These patches turn yellow or straw-colored and may have a reddish-brown border.

Brown Patch: Brown patch is another fungal disease that results in irregularly shaped, yellow to brown patches. The patches can grow to several feet in diameter and are more prevalent in hot and humid conditions.

Fairy Ring: Fairy ring is a fungal disease that causes circular patches of dark green or brown grass surrounded by a ring of yellow or dead grass. It occurs due to the presence of fungi in the soil.

Rust: Rust is a fungal disease that gives the grass a yellowish or orange appearance. It often leaves a powdery, rust-like substance on the grass blades when touched.

Pythium Blight: Pythium blight is a fast-spreading disease that can cause extensive yellowing and wilting of the grass, particularly during hot and humid weather.

Necrotic Ring Spot: This disease affects the root system of cool-season grasses and results in circular patches of yellow or dead grass with a dark brown center.

Here are some tips for fixing yellow grass caused by lawn fungi and disease:

Improve Air Circulation: Proper lawn aeration can improve air circulation and reduce fungal growth in damp areas.

Fungicides: In severe cases, consider using fungicides specifically designed to target the identified fungal disease. Follow the application instructions carefully.

Remove Affected Grass: If the disease has caused significant damage, consider removing and replacing the affected grass with disease-resistant varieties.

Promote Overall Lawn Health: A healthy lawn is better equipped to resist and recover from fungal diseases. Ensure proper fertilization, mowing, and overall lawn care.

Dry Weather

During dry weather and drought conditions, your lawn faces a significant challenge in maintaining its lush green appearance. Lack of sufficient water directly affects the grass's ability to perform essential functions, leading to yellowing and stress.

Effectively managing watering during dry periods can help prevent or minimize yellowing and keep your lawn healthier:

Deep and Infrequent Watering: Instead of frequent light watering, water your lawn deeply but less often. This encourages the grass roots to grow deeper into the soil in search of water, making the lawn more drought-resistant.

Water Early in the Morning: Watering early in the morning allows the grass to absorb moisture before the sun's heat intensifies. This reduces water evaporation and ensures efficient water usage.

Use a Soaker Hose or Drip Irrigation: Soaker hoses and drip irrigation systems deliver water directly to the soil, reducing water wastage and ensuring even distribution.

Observe Watering Restrictions: If there are watering restrictions in your area, adhere to them and adjust your watering schedule accordingly.

Use a Smart Irrigation Controller: Consider investing in a smart irrigation controller that utilizes weather data and soil moisture sensors to adjust watering schedules automatically.

Related Reading: Rescuing Overwatered Grass

Mowing Problems

An active man skillfully mowing the lush green grass with a powerful lawn mower on a sunny day.

Proper mowing practices are vital for maintaining a healthy and vibrant lawn. However, two common mowing-related issues can lead to yellowing grass and impact the overall appearance of your lawn:

Dull Mower Blades

Instead of providing clean cuts, dull blades tear and shred the grass blades. This leaves the grass vulnerable to stress, disease, and dehydration. As a result, the lawn may develop yellow or brown patches and the overall health and vigor of the grass decline.

Improper Grass Height

Cutting the grass too short stresses the plants, making them more susceptible to disease and drought. On the other hand, letting the grass grow too tall can create shade and trap moisture, leading to fungal issues. The key is to follow the one-third rule: never remove more than one-third of the grass blade length in a single mowing.

Mowing Guidelines to Prevent Yellowing

Follow these mowing guidelines to keep your lawn healthy and prevent yellowing:

Adjust Mower Height

Set your mower to the recommended height for your grass type. For cool-season grasses, the ideal mowing height is around 2.5 to 3.5 inches, while warm-season grasses are best kept at 1.5 to 2.5 inches. Never scalp the lawn by cutting the grass too short in a single mowing session. Scalping stresses the grass and exposes the soil, promoting weed growth.

Mow Regularly

During active growth, mow your lawn regularly. Cool-season grasses generally benefit from being mowed once a week, while warm-season grasses may require more frequent mowing during peak growing seasons.

Mow When Dry

Avoid mowing wet grass, as it can lead to uneven cuts and clumping, both of which can contribute to yellowing.

Overwatering Or Underwatering

Finding the right balance when it comes to watering your lawn is essential to maintain healthy and vibrant grass. Both overwatering and underwatering can lead to yellow spots and negatively impact your lawn's health.

Overwatering can suffocate the grassroots by filling the air spaces in the soil with water, depriving the roots of much-needed oxygen. Consequently, the grass roots become weak and susceptible to diseases, and the grass blades may turn yellow or develop fungal diseases like root rot. Overwatering can also encourage shallow root growth, making the lawn more vulnerable to drought stress.

On the other hand, underwatering can result in the grass becoming stressed due to lack of moisture. As the grass attempts to conserve water, it may enter a state of dormancy, causing the blades to turn yellow or brown. Additionally, underwatered grass may become sparse and thin, making it easier for weeds to take over.

Related Reading: Rescuing Overwatered Grass

Dormancy during Certain Seasons

Dormancy is a survival mechanism that allows grass to conserve energy and protect itself during harsh environmental conditions, such as extreme temperatures or drought. Warm-season grasses, like Bermuda grass and Zoysia grass, tend to go dormant during colder winter months when temperatures drop. On the other hand, cool-season grasses, such as Kentucky bluegrass and fescue, may go dormant during hot and dry summer periods. This dormancy causes the grass to appear yellow or brown, but it is a normal and temporary response to environmental stress.

Maintenance Tips During Dormant Periods

While dormant grass may not have the vibrant green appearance you desire, proper maintenance during these periods can ensure a healthier lawn when the growing season returns:

Avoid Fertilizing: Refrain from applying fertilizer to dormant grass, as it won't actively utilize the nutrients, and excess fertilizer can run off and cause environmental issues.

Reduced Watering: During dormancy, grass requires significantly less water than during the active growing season. Adjust your watering schedule to provide minimal irrigation to the dormant lawn, mainly to prevent severe dehydration.

Keep the Lawn Clean: Remove debris, fallen leaves, and any accumulated thatch from the lawn during dormancy to prevent disease development and ensure a clean slate for new growth.

Avoid Heavy Foot Traffic: Minimize foot traffic on dormant grass, as it is more susceptible to damage. Restrict activities that could compact the soil or cause stress to the grass.

Overseeding in Fall: If you anticipate dormancy for cool-season grasses, consider overseeding in the early fall with a drought-resistant variety. This can help maintain some green coverage during dry periods.

Be Patient: Understand that dormancy is a natural part of the grass's life cycle. Be patient and allow the grass to naturally recover and return to its green state when favorable conditions return.

Related Reading: How To Water Your Landscape Wisely During Droughts

How to Water Your Lawn in Winter 

How to Prevent Yellow Grass

Choose the Right Grass for Your Region

An image featuring a dense patch of Baffalograss, a native and drought-resistant turfgrass species. The fine-textured, blue-green blades form a low-growing, resilient carpet, perfect for sustainable and water-efficient lawns.

Different grass species have varying levels of tolerance to heat, cold, drought, and humidity. Selecting a grass type that thrives in your climate will reduce the risk of yellowing and other lawn problems.

For cool-season regions: Fescue, Kentucky bluegrass, and ryegrass are excellent choices due to their cold tolerance.
For warm-season regions: Bermuda grass, zoysia grass, and St. Augustine grass are well-suited to hot climates.

Improve Lawn Drainage

Waterlogged or poorly drained lawns can lead to a host of problems, with yellowing being one of the most visible signs of distress. When water accumulates on the surface or in low spots, it creates an oxygen-deprived environment for the grassroots, making them vulnerable to root rot and other diseases. Additionally, excessive moisture can encourage the growth of moss and weeds, further contributing to the decline of the grass.

To address drainage issues effectively, it's essential to identify problem areas in your lawn. Walk around your yard after heavy rainfall or irrigation and observe where water tends to pool or flow unevenly. These areas could be low spots, poorly sloped sections, or places with compacted soil that hinders water infiltration.

Solutions to Improve Drainage

Grading and Leveling: For low areas that accumulate water, leveling the lawn can improve drainage. Fill these depressions with a suitable topsoil mixture and level the surface, encouraging water to disperse evenly.

French Drains: Installing French drains in problem areas can be an effective solution. A French drain consists of a perforated pipe surrounded by gravel, which helps to channel excess water away from the lawn.

Rain Gardens: If there are areas that consistently collect water, consider creating a rain garden. These landscaped depressions can absorb and filter excess water, promoting healthier drainage.

Strategic Planting: Planting water-absorbent vegetation like deep-rooted grass varieties or native plants can help soak up excess water and improve overall drainage.

Regular Soil Check-ups and Fertilizer Use

By conducting a soil test, you can learn your soil's nutrient levels and tailor your lawn care routine accordingly. Knowing exactly what your lawn needs allows you to address nutrient deficiencies and steer clear of yellowing or lackluster growth. It's like giving your lawn a personalized nutritional plan.

Think of fertilizers as little boosters for your lawn's health. But beware - just like with any supplement, moderation is key. Applying fertilizers in the right quantity and at the right time ensures your grass gets the right amount of nutrients to thrive. Overdoing it can lead to an imbalanced diet, resulting in excessive growth and vulnerability to diseases. On the other hand, depriving your lawn of essential nutrients leaves it weak and more susceptible to yellow patches.

Tips for Effective Fertilizer Use

Get a Soil Test: Before reaching for that fertilizer bag, take a soil sample and get it tested.

Choose the Right Fertilizer:  Match the fertilizer type with your soil test results and your grass's specific needs. Just like you wouldn't take a medicine that isn't right for you, don't feed your lawn the wrong nutrients.

Follow Application Instructions:  Adhere to the guidelines on the fertilizer bag for application rates and timing.

Use Slow-Release Fertilizers:  Opt for slow-release fertilizers, like "slow and steady" friends, providing a steady supply of nutrients over time, avoiding nutrient overload, and offering a consistent boost to your grass.

Fertilize During Active Growth:  Treat your lawn to a little feast when it's most receptive. For cool-season grasses, that's during the spring and fall, while warm-season grasses love a summer meal.

Water After Application:  Give your lawn a refreshing drink after fertilizing, so it can soak up those nutrients and grow strong.

Aeration for Improved Water and Airflow

Person aerating lawn with fork using feet, wearing rain boots.

When grass is growing in compacted soil, the roots cannot spread properly and have difficulty accessing oxygen. Aeration helps alleviate soil compaction by providing channels for increased air circulation. It also creates space for water to infiltrate through the soil rather than running off the surface of a dense lawn. The improved moisture and oxygen levels provide better-growing conditions for the grass.

There are two main types of aeration: core aeration and spike aeration. Core aeration removes plugs of soil, while spike aeration creates small holes in the soil. Core aeration is more effective at improving water and airflow, but it can also be more disruptive to the lawn. Spike aeration is less disruptive, but it is also less effective at improving water and airflow.

The best time to aerate your lawn is in the spring or fall when the grass is actively growing. Aerating in the summer can stress the grass, and aerating in the winter can damage the roots.

FAQs about Yellow Grass

Green lawn next to brown lawn.

Q: Is my grass dormant or dead?

Dormant grass appears brown or yellow but is alive and will recover when favorable conditions return. Dead grass, on the other hand, is lifeless and will not recover. Perform a simple scratch test: If the grass at the base is green, it's dormant; if it's brown and dry, it may be dead.

Q: Why is my grass turning yellow in summer?

Summer yellowing can be attributed to various causes, such as:

  • Drought stress due to high temperatures and inadequate watering.
  • Nutrient deficiencies resulting from nutrient leaching or improper fertilization.
  • Insect infestations damaging the grass.
  • Lawn diseases thriving in warm and humid conditions.

Q: Why is my grass turning yellow in winter?

Winter yellowing can result from various factors, including:

  • Cold temperatures and frost affecting the grass's metabolism.
  • Reduced sunlight and limited growth during the dormant season.
  • Soil compaction preventing nutrient absorption.
  • Snow mold or other lawn diseases thriving in moist winter conditions.

Q: Is yellow grass dead?

Not necessarily. Yellow grass can indicate stress or nutrient deficiencies, but it may not be dead. Yellowing is often a sign that the grass needs attention and care. Identifying the cause and taking timely action can revive the grass and bring it back to life.

Q: Should you water yellow grass?

Yes, but with caution. Proper watering is essential for yellow grass recovery. Ensure you water your lawn based on its specific needs and the underlying cause of yellowing. Avoid overwatering, as this may worsen the problem, and focus on deep, infrequent watering to encourage healthy root growth.

Q: Can grass come back from being yellow?

Yes, yellow grass can recover and return to its healthy green state. Identifying the cause of yellowing and taking appropriate corrective measures can help the grass rebound. By providing proper care, including watering, fertilizing, and addressing any underlying issues, you can nurse your lawn back to health.