How To Fix Yellow Grass

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Trying to determine the cause of yellow grass can drive homeowners crazy in the pursuit of a lush and healthy lawn. While some sources of discoloration can be relatively apparent, it is often difficult for lawn care enthusiasts to pinpoint the root cause. To help you and all our readers gain a bit more insight into what’s causing yellow patches to appear in your lawns, we have detailed some common issues and how to resolve them. 

With the knowledge and information in this post, you will be ready to restore your lawn to its glorious green color! Make sure you check out all of our lawn care services in the Salt Lake area after reading!

Wake Up Your Dormant Lawn

Dormancy in grass is a natural protective response to unfavorable growing conditions, typically triggered by extreme temperatures—either too hot or too cold—and inadequate moisture. During this period, grass conserves its energy and resources, causing it to turn yellow or brown as growth halts and photosynthesis slows down. This is a survival mechanism for grass, allowing it to endure harsh weather and revive once conditions improve. While dormancy is generally temporary, the sight of yellow grass can be concerning for homeowners eager to maintain a vibrant lawn.

  • Maintain Moderate Moisture: Even during dormant periods, it's essential to keep the lawn lightly watered. This prevents the soil from drying out completely, which can further stress the grass. Water your lawn sparingly to keep the soil slightly moist but not so much that it becomes soggy.
  • Avoid Foot Traffic: During dormancy, grass is more vulnerable to damage. Reducing foot traffic can prevent additional stress and physical damage, allowing the grass to recover more effectively when favorable conditions return.
  • Plan For Seasonal Care: Adjust lawn care practices seasonally. In the lead-up to typical dormancy periods, reduce the amount of fertilizer applied to avoid forcing growth when the grass is trying to enter dormancy. As conditions improve, a gentle application of fertilizer can help encourage recovery and return the grass to its lush, green state.

Repair Dog Spots

Dog urine can cause grass to turn yellow due to the high nitrogen content in the urine, which, much like an over-application of fertilizer, can lead to a burning effect on the grass blades. When a dog urinates on the lawn, the nitrogen and salts in the urine concentrate in a small area, overwhelming and scorching the turf beneath. This often results in distinctive round, yellow patches that are bordered by a greener, lush ring where the urine has been diluted enough to act as a fertilizer rather than a burn. This effect is more pronounced with female dogs who tend to release urine all at once in a single spot, compared to males who may mark across various locations.

  • Increase Watering In Affected Areas: Diluting the area with water soon after your dog urinates can help minimize the burning effect. Pouring several buckets of water over the spot can effectively dilute the nitrogen levels, protecting the grass from damage.
  • Encourage Use Of Designated Areas: Train your dog to use a specific area of the yard for urination. You can create a gravel or mulch area and lead your dog there each time. This confines the urine to a non-grassy area, preventing damage to your lawn.
  • Repair & Reseed: For areas already affected, reseeding may be necessary. Remove the dead grass, loosen the soil, and apply a layer of topsoil mixed with grass seeds that are suitable for your climate and lawn type. 

Do Not Overfertilize

While nitrogen is a crucial nutrient for the healthy growth of grass, providing it in excess can lead to a concentration of salts in the soil, which draws moisture away from grass roots through pressure. This results in a "burn" effect, where grass blades turn yellow and may even die if the condition is severe enough. Overfertilization damages the immediate appearance of the lawn by causing yellow patches or streaks, particularly where overlap occurs during application, and it can lead to long-term soil imbalances that inhibit future grass growth and increase susceptibility to diseases and pests.

  • Water Thoroughly & Regularly: Immediately after realizing the overfertilization, water your lawn deeply. This helps to flush out excess nitrogen from the soil, reducing the concentration around the grass roots and helping to prevent further damage. Continue to provide ample water over the next few days to aid recovery.
  • Adjust Fertilization Practices: Review and adjust your fertilization strategy. Ensure you are using the correct type of fertilizer for your grass type and soil needs. Use a slow-release fertilizer that provides nutrients at a pace that the grass can absorb, reducing the risk of nitrogen burn. Also, always follow the manufacturer's recommended application rates.
  • Soil Testing & Amendments: Conduct a soil test to understand its nutrient profile and pH level, which will guide you in applying the correct type and amount of fertilizer in the future. If the soil test indicates high levels of nitrogen, consider applying a soil amendment like sulfur or gypsum to help balance the pH and improve soil structure for better nutrient uptake.

Remedy Grub Damage

Lawn grubs, often the larvae of beetles such as Japanese beetles, June bugs, and chafers, can cause significant damage to lawns, leading to yellowing grass. These grubs live beneath the surface of the soil, feeding on the roots of grass plants. As they consume the roots, the ability of the grass to absorb essential water and nutrients is severely diminished. Without a healthy root system, the grass becomes less resilient to environmental stressors and more prone to yellowing and wilting. The damage typically appears as irregular patches of yellow or brown grass and can be severe enough to allow the sod to be rolled back like a carpet, revealing the grubs underneath.

  • Apply Pesticides: Choose an appropriate insecticide for treating grubs. Products containing chlorantraniliprole, imidacloprid, or thiamethoxam are effective. It's essential to apply the insecticide at the right time of year, typically late summer or early fall, when grubs are young and most vulnerable. 
  • Encourage Natural Predators: Promoting a biodiversity-friendly environment can help manage grub populations naturally. Birds, beneficial nematodes, and other predatory insects can control the number of grubs in your lawn. Installing bird feeders and houses encourages birds to visit your lawn more frequently, aiding in natural pest control.
  • Maintain Healthy Lawn Practices: A strong, healthy lawn is more resilient and can recover more quickly from grub damage. Water deeply but infrequently to encourage deep root growth, mow at the recommended height for your specific grass type, and fertilize appropriately to ensure your grass has the nutrients it needs to thrive. Regular aeration can also improve soil conditions, making it less inviting for beetles to lay eggs.

Combat Fungal Lawn Diseases

Fungal lawn diseases are a prevalent issue that can lead to the yellowing of grass, primarily caused by a range of pathogenic fungi that thrive under specific environmental conditions such as high humidity, excessive moisture, and inadequate sunlight. Common fungal diseases like brown patch and dollar spot manifest as distinct patterns and spots of yellowing and dying grass, often exacerbated by stressful lawn conditions, including nutrient imbalances, poor drainage, and compacted soil. These fungi attack the grass blades and roots, inhibiting the plant's ability to conduct photosynthesis and absorb water and nutrients effectively.

  • Improve Airflow & Sunlight: Regularly prune trees and shrubs to enhance airflow and reduce moisture retention on your lawn. Increasing sunlight can help dry out excess moisture that facilitates fungal growth. Air circulation can be further improved by periodic aeration of the lawn, which helps break up compacted soil and allows grass roots to breathe better.
  • Adopt Proper Watering Practices: Water your lawn deeply and infrequently to encourage deeper root growth and reduce surface moisture that supports fungi. The best time to water is early in the morning, which helps ensure that the grass blades dry quickly as the sun rises, minimizing the duration of wetness.
  • Use Fungicides Wisely: If cultural practices do not sufficiently control the disease, consider applying a fungicide. It's important to correctly identify the fungal disease affecting your lawn to choose the appropriate fungicide. In many cases, a targeted application during the early stages of infection can prevent the disease from spreading and causing further damage.

Avoid Low Mowing Heights 

Mowing grass too short, a common practice known as "scalping," can severely stress lawn grass and lead to yellowing. When grass is cut too close to the soil, it limits the plant's ability to produce enough energy through photosynthesis because it reduces the leaf area exposed to sunlight. Short grass exposes the soil to more intense sunlight, which can increase soil temperature and reduce moisture levels, further stressing the grass. Short root systems, which are a consequence of consistently low mowing, cannot reach deeper water reserves and are less able to absorb nutrients, making the lawn more susceptible to drought, pests, weeds, and diseases. 

  • Adjust Mower Height: Raise the cutting height of your mower. For most grass types, the ideal cutting height is between 2.5 to 3.5 inches. This height helps maintain a healthy grass blade surface area that is optimal for photosynthesis and promotes a deeper, more resilient root system.
  • Sharpen Mower Blades: Ensure that mower blades are sharp to achieve clean cuts. Dull blades tear the grass, causing damage and stress to the blades, which can result in a yellow appearance. Clean, sharp cuts heal faster and reduce the risk of disease.
  • Follow the 1/3 Rule: Never remove more than one-third of the grass blade in a single mowing. This practice helps avoid stress and maintains adequate leaf surface for healthy growth and greening. If the grass is unusually high, gradually reduce its height over multiple mowings to prevent shock.

Call Holmes For Green Grass In Utah!

If your best efforts still prove ineffective, you may just need a professional touch to restore your turf’s color. Though the remedies mentioned above are great ways to help yellowing grass, certain fixes can do more harm than good if they are performed and applied incorrectly. Trying to overcorrect with chemicals and fertilizers can be useful, but these methods are best left to the professionals who know how to handle these products safely. 

If you are not seeing the results you want in your Utah lawn, call Holmes Lawn & Pest today to diagnose the problem and give you back a healthy, green property!

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