Help! Brown lawn!

void_pointerJune 29, 2014

Hey everyone,

I just joined the community. I'm a first time home owner here in North Dallas, TX. I'm starting to find myself caring more and more about my lawn. I've never had one before, so I'm really clueless about anything that doesn't involve just pushing a mower around :)

First, here are a few pictures of my lawn. I apologize that I did not attach them directly. It appears I can only attach 1 photo but I had a few more. I created an album on Google+ for the rest of them here:

I just got done mowing and then took these photos.

When I moved into this house, the lawn looked pretty patchy/brown already. Previous owner was using a company called GroGreen to keep the lawn maintained (fertilizing and weed killing). I'd rather do all of that myself starting out to save money, so I haven't been using them.

I water 1 time a week (city is starting to only allow 1 watering every 2 weeks now) for about 20 minutes in the back and 40 minutes in the front, but we've been getting a lot of rain the past two weeks or so as well.

Anyone know why the lawn looks so terrible? I expected it to be really green and thick, but it's not. I also think this is bermuda grass (based on pictures I saw online), but I'm not sure what flavor of it. Any lawn care advice for this newbie is much appreciated! Thanks for the opportunity to join the experts in this community.

This post was edited by void.pointer on Sun, Jun 29, 14 at 13:59

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I"m no expert but I live in north Dallas so I can relate a little. I'm surprised about your watering restrictions. We are still at twice a week here. Is that bermuda grass? If so I think your not giving the grass enough water. Bermuda needs about 1 inch a week. 40 minutes every two weeks is not giving you the amount you needed. That's why the grass is going brown. It's basically turning dormant for the lack of water.

There's a lot of experts here that can tell you what to do, but from all my research I believe you need to start watering property, and starting using fertilizer. I've heard that it's a good idea to fertilize bermuda every 4-6 weeks. Don't worry fertilizer is not that expensive. Also dethaching your yard wouldn't be a bad idea unless it's not a good idea to do so when its hot.

There's a chap on here named Texas Weed who wrote an informative piece of literature called the 'Bermuda Bible'. That's providing your turf is bermuda. You can google it easily.

So start watering 1 inch of week. If you can only water every 2 weeks than maybe you'll have to water 2 inches every 2 weeks. Not sure if your lawn can absorb that much water at a time. Maybe the experts can chime in. My amateur hour is over.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2014 at 10:46PM
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i also live in north dallas area and we've been on once every other week watering since before spring.

your grass looks like bermuda, so read the mentioned "bermuda bible" (see link below) and follow it to a T.

couple of notes/questions:
1) i see some shade areas in the pics. do those areas get at least 8 hours of sun a day? if not, the bermuda will thin out no matter what you do
2) bermuda is a nitrogen hog, and it needs 1lb of nitrogen per sqft/month during the growing season. if you haven't fertilized this spring/summer yet, i'd get on that first.
3) how often do you mow? ideally you want to take off 1/3 or less of the green shoots each time you mow. this can mean mowing every 3 days when there's ample water/nitrogen. the browning you see could be alot of the green shoots being mowed.

    Bookmark   June 30, 2014 at 4:45PM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

It is possible to post more than one picture but you have to use HTML coding. Here are a couple of your pictures.

That is just dry grass. With bermuda you do not have to go slowly to get into "deep and infrequent" watering. Just start. Set out some tuna and/or cat food cans and time how long it takes your sprinklers to fill the cans. That's how long you need to water. Do that once, and do it again every 7 days. If you have consistent temps in the 100s, then make that every 5 days. If you get any runoff before you get a full inch, then stop immediately and let it soak in. Come back in a half hour or so and continue until you get the entire inch.

Note the dry grass along the sidewalk. That's because the sidewalk is hot all day and night. The ground next to the hot sidewalk evaporates much more of the moisture away than the soil further away from it.

You might have a serious shade issue with this one. If you have less than 6 hours of unfiltered sunlight, it's going to be thin. You should consider alternative ground covers or perhaps a rock garden. Or flowers.

Your first picture looks like there might be a low spot right in the center - right where the green streak is. Was that picture taken looking east/west or north/south?

Also take note of the concrete visible below the brick on your house. That is exactly how high your soil must remain for safety. And note that the soil slopes away from the house out to the green stripe. That is correct, too. It should start 4 inches below the brick and then drop 6 inches lower out at 10 feet away. That should ensure your house never floods.

    Bookmark   June 30, 2014 at 7:40PM
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Thanks for the replies.

I haven't been fertilizing much. I heard from someone you aren't supposed to fertilize much, maybe a few times a year? Is it worth it to fertilize myself or hire a company to maintain it every 4-6 weeks? Fertilizer at Lowes is Scotts and its expensive, about $40-50 per seemingly small bag.

Is it OK to fertilize when you know the lawn won't get water for a few days? Or do you plan it before the 2 week watering day and/or expected rain?

I also am not a lawn connoisseur, so mowing every 3 days is too tiring for me. I think once a week is going to be my limit. I don't mind taller grass if it means it will be greener and allow longer times between mows. Thoughts?

Basically I'm a "keep it simple" kinda guy. I'm not necessarily lazy, I'll do whatever needs to be done myself, but I don't want to make an intense hobby out of it either. Will the bermuda bible help me despite this?

    Bookmark   June 30, 2014 at 7:40PM
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I'm also wondering if your mower height is either too low or if your blade is dull. I can clearly see the lines from you cutting and that shouldn't be the case. Unfortunately I don't know which of the two scenarios is causing that. Someone else will have to chime in.

    Bookmark   June 30, 2014 at 7:57PM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

Does the soil surface seem smooth or bumpy when you mow?

    Bookmark   June 30, 2014 at 8:01PM
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Thanks for the replies guys. Let me address all questions.


You mentioned: "With bermuda you do not have to go slowly to get into "deep and infrequent" watering.". What does this mean? I don't quite understand.

Also I am not allowed to water every 7 days, only every 14 days now :-( I really feel like the city is "killing my grass" for what seems like political nonsense...

The shady part you commented on is right next to a round rock formation with a tree in the middle of it (you can see it in the picture where you commented about the sidewalk). The picture was taken at the ground positioned south-west of the tree. The shadow of the tree moves throughout the day so I am not sure if that's the problem. What do you think?

That green line is in the back yard and it's kind of at the bottom of a "V" shaped slope. I think water runs there and soaks in after a rain, which is why it probably grows better than anything else.

The green line of grass runs North-East to South-West. The side of the house you see there faces South-East.

You mentioned "Also take note of the concrete visible below the brick on your house. That is exactly how high your soil must remain for safety.", what do you mean? Are you saying the soil is too low and it should touch the brick?

As to your question regarding bumpyness, it's only bumpy when I mow the side and the front. The side of the house can be seen in the picture with the sidewalk. That is a huge slope and it's very difficult to mow, and is indeed bumpy because the grass on that end of the yard is really really bad. I think maybe because of the slope, water doesn't soak in or something. The back yard is very smooth, though.


The mower I have is a Honda and I just bought it like a month ago. I've only been using it 1 time a week. I'm assuming since it's brand new from the factory, that the blades would be as good as ever. I noticed when I mow there is a green strip along the brown in the direction I mow. I assumed it was the wheel folding the grass down as I mow. Any ideas? I think it certainly does look ugly. Maybe I'm not using good mowing technique? I just go in circles around my lawn. Is that how you are supposed to do it? I did it that way growing up as a kid on my parent's farm :-)

My cutting height is on the "2nd to last notch". Each wheel has an adjustment. I think it's around 1.5" or 1.75". When I raise it to the 3rd level, lawn doesn't look so brown but grass is above 2", closer to 2.5". It's not exact.

    Bookmark   July 1, 2014 at 7:18PM
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I would try raising it a notch just to see.

The way I mow is I cut headers and then I go in the same direction for the duration of the mowing. Next time I do the same thing but I go in a perpendicular direction to what I did last time. That keeps me from wearing out the grass by constantly turning the mower in the same spot.

    Bookmark   July 1, 2014 at 9:05PM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

It would be slightly better to mow a rectangular lawn like a Zamboni ice machine and reverse it every now and then.

Deep watering means 1 inch all at one time. Infrequent means once a week when temps get up to 90 or higher. Every other week with temps in the 80s. Not having to go slowly means other grasses have to be weaned into once a week watering. Bermuda can go cold turkey. Once every other week is practically idea for bermuda. Just be sure you get a full inch. Use your tuna and cat food cans to measure.

With your back yard getting only morning sun, it is going to thin out. St Augustine would be better there.

When that tree in the round rock planter gets bigger, it will shade grass all day. Then it will be an issue.

The area at the bottom of the V where it is green points to the issue. You're not getting water in the soil. Check the coverage with tuna cans and see if you are watering long enough to fill the cans.

Your soil height is perfect against the house. Don't bring in more soil or you can affect the drainage. You have a nice buffer zone there. That's the way it is supposed to be.

Good that you have a big bumpy area and a small one. When you decide you want to level them, you can practice on the small area first. Ask here how to do that.

    Bookmark   July 3, 2014 at 12:57AM
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If the area is a 'difficult slope', did you consider a self propelled mower? I use one on my small, flat Indiana turf. No other advice. Mother Nature will eventually cure your woes.

    Bookmark   July 3, 2014 at 7:01PM
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I don't think you can water every other week if temps are mostly 100+ especially on the slopes. Your lawn will suffer under these conditions. As for fertilizer you want to water right after you apply. If you don't you will burn the lawn. Now if you were to go organic then you could apply without water.

    Bookmark   July 4, 2014 at 12:07PM
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I think mowing in a pattern like that is going to be impossible in the front and sides of the house. The back yard is mostly rectangular so I could get away with it. But the front is just too much of a weird shape.

    Bookmark   July 4, 2014 at 12:43PM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

I don't think you can water every other week if temps are mostly 100+ especially on the slopes. Your lawn will suffer under these conditions.

Some of the water restrictions we have around are brutal. My particular area allows every other week sprinkler during Stage 4 restrictions; however, they do allow daily soaker hose during certain hours. That has saved my lawn at least twice in the last year. Normally once every other week seems to work. We're having an El Nino this year so rain is coming regularly.

    Bookmark   July 5, 2014 at 10:00PM
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I don't really have any solutions to contribute, but I'm just curious about the water restrictions...I've heard of these before but how are they enforced? Is it just the honor system or do they try to determine if you're following it based on the total amount of water used per month?

    Bookmark   July 5, 2014 at 11:47PM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

Rules are enforced by local police. My rules give us one day a week (or two weeks) to water. Addresses ending in 0 or 1 get to water on Monday. 2 or 3 on Tuesday, etc. Nobody gets to water on weekends. Watering is restricted to certain hours. I can water on Tuesday from 7am to 10am and 8pm to 12pm. We can apply as much water as we can flow but only during our specified times. If we are on a 2-week interval, nobody can water during the off week.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2014 at 12:10AM
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Hey quick question about the tuna can 1 inch method. I live in the Dallas area and we are still allowed twice a week. Ive trying waterging my

This post was edited by HomieTheClown on Thu, Jul 10, 14 at 0:50

    Bookmark   July 10, 2014 at 12:44AM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

Wanna try again, Homie?

    Bookmark   July 10, 2014 at 7:21PM
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