Brown Lawn won't green up

sc00b3rts123June 13, 2008

Our lawn last year was really full and green. This year we have one large spot (maybe 10x10) that is not greening up. Its just brown. I dug up an area to chcek for bugs and there are none. The lawn is tilted downward. This area sits at the very top. It is a newer home (constructed in 2001).

Picture available here:

1. Where you live? Colorado

2. What type of grass you have? No idea. I think Kentucky Bluegrass mix of some type. The previous owner put sod down.

3. What products you have applied to your lawn, and how much? At this point I have put water and a bit of plant food (not fertilzer). I put the plant food down in hopes of it encouraging the area to grow. The rest of the lawn loved it and is now even thicker and greener.

4. How often and how long you irrigate? I am watering daily with a frog type sprinkler head. I leave the water in one spot for about 25 minutes.

5. Is the lawn established, or have you recently seeded/re-seeded or added sod? If so, when? Established.

6. At what height you mow and how often? Usually keep the deck at about 3inches. I mow typically every 2 weeks.

7. Results of soil test if applicable. None done, yet.

8. Entire lawn is affected or a specific area(s)? Specific area.

9. If it is a specific area, what is different about this area? This can include: Shade, standing water, insects/pests, weeds, moss, rocks, heavy traffic, etc. Also, if the problem area is ring-shaped or spreading in any way.

The area is up against the house where the most shade hits. This area is also typically where the snow sits the longest. Typically every year this is the area that greens up the fastest and is the thickest with grass.

  1. How long you have noticed this problem and it is recurring? This is the first year this problem has occurred.
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At first I was going to guess that the previous owner planted buffalo grass there and it's just not warm enough for that to be green yet, but that doesn't fit with the other details you provided (thanks for providing all the detail, by the way).

If it was covered by an unusually large amount of snow, it could have been hit by mold. Mold is not usually much of a problem in the intermountain west because of the dry air, but this spring seems to have produced conditions that were almost perfect for snow mold. There was a lot of snow and then it warmed up to a temperature that left a lot of the snow there but allowed the mold to grow.

Usually, even when mold does strike here, it goes away pretty quickly, but it could be that there was so much that it killed the grass in that area.

If it's snow mold, you should make sure you give the grass and soil a chance to dry out. Watering may be making it worse, rather than better.

This is a bad time of year to try to seed a lawn in CO, especially if you've got watering restrictions. If it's not dead, it may come back. If not, you'll probably need to reseed in the fall.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2008 at 1:10PM
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Thanks for your reply. We can't water with a sprinkler from 12 to 5, but can hand water. I guess I can try to dig this all up and restart again. Our neighbor (after thought here) last year had to tear up almost 50% of their front yard because of brown areas that wouldn't come back. Their new sod in areas is a grayish color and will need to be replaced again.

Is there anything I can do to prevent this from occurring again in the future, or is it completely beyond my control?

    Bookmark   June 13, 2008 at 6:00PM
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I don't think I'd dig it up. If you put down sod, you'll need to water often until it gets established.

If it were my lawn, I think I'd check to see how wet the area is. If it's too wet, I'd stop watering there to give it a chance to dry, then start watering periodically. If the grass comes back, you're done. If not, the snow mold probably got it.

I don't think there's much you can do about snow mold, but it doesn't happen often here.

I also wouldn't water daily. It keeps the surface wet and encourages shallow roots. Also, since there's more water near the surface all the time, you lose more to evaporation.

Instead of watering daily, water every other day, but water for a longer period of time. After a while, cut back to watering twice a week. You'll still apply as much water, but in two days instead of 7. Next year, during spring and fall, water only once a week and only water twice a week in the heat of the summer.

I would wait until the end of the summer to see if that area comes back. This is a tough time of year to try to get a lawn started, even with sod. Once it cools off a bit, you can core aerate or vigorously rake the area that died off and put down some seed and water that area 3 times a day just long enough to get the seed and maybe 1/2 inch of soil wet. Keep that up for t-2 weeks, then cut back to watering daily for a week, then every other day for a week, then twice a week until it's time to quit watering. The grass that is there now is probably something "off the shelf" so you can probably buy any seed and come close to matching the rest of the lawn. The one caveat I have is that you want to make sure there's no K32 (or KY31) fescue in the mix. It's common in inexpensive "drought tolerant" seed mixes. It's got wide blades and can get very bunchy in appearance. It also grows a lot faster than the KBG, so it really sticks out.

If you want to quit watering completely, then instead of buying an off the shelf bag of seeds for that one section, kill the rest of the lawn and seed with native grasses. Note that I'm overseeding without killing the existing lawn and really wish I had killed the whole thing when I started.

The native grasses will be a different color from what you're used to, so you should do that if light green to blue green lawn is acceptable to you.

If you want to know more about this, let me know and I'll give more details. Better yet, start a thread on the Rocky Mountain Forum because there are several people there who have gone that route and several of them have established native lawns (I'm still working on getting the natives to dominate the traditional lawn).

    Bookmark   June 14, 2008 at 12:28AM
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