Summer Lawn Dormancy: What Causes it, and How Can You Prevent It?

Is your grass turning brown in the middle of summer? Even if you did everything right caring for your lawn, heat and a lack of rain can be too much for your grass. This forces these plants into dormancy. In this state, growth slows to a crawl, so the grass doesn’t overextend itself. Here’s how you can help your lawn get through this period, and some steps you can take to prevent it next year.

What is Dormancy?

Dormancy is a defense mechanism grasses use to survive weather that isn’t conducive to growth. The grass shuts down most of its processes and goes into hibernation. When this happens, it turns brown.

Grass spends much of its time during the growing season storing sugars to use during its winter dormancy period. However, grass also goes into dormancy in the summer if there isn’t sufficient moisture. In this state, the grass doesn’t have large food stores to depend on. On average, the lawn will survive for three to four weeks when daytime temperatures are in the 80s, and two to three weeks when temperatures are above 90.

How Do I Prevent Dormancy?

If you want to keep your lawn looking green through the summer, you need to keep it watered. The amount of water your grass needs varies depending on the variety. Use a rain gauge to measure how much water your lawn gets from nature, watering to keep up with your lawn’s needs. Infrequent, deep watering encourages root growth, which improves drought resistance.

The next time you overseed, consider adding a drought-resistant variety to your mix. Tall Fescue, Fine Fescue, and Kentucky Bluegrass are the most drought-resistant cool-season grasses. Buffalo Grass, Bermuda, Zoysia, and St. Augustine is the most drought-resistant warm-season grasses. If you live in a transitional area that supports both cool and warm-season types of grass, you need drought-resistant warm-season grass to keep your lawn green through the summer.

How Do I Help My Lawn Survive Summer Dormancy?

You still want to water your lawn, but not enough that it’s forced out of dormancy. If it has to shut down a second time during the summer, it may not survive. Applying a half-inch of water every three weeks should be enough to extend your turf grass’s life until it can return to normal.

Growth doesn’t stop during dormancy, but it does slow significantly. Adjust your mowing accordingly, and make sure you’re using sharp blades. This reduces stress on the grass.

Since this problem is caused by drought, fertilizing won’t help. In fact, it’s more likely to burn your lawn.

Your Lawn Care Headquarters

From string trimmers to commercial mowers, if it’s lawn care, you can find it at Shank’s Lawn Equipment. We carry most major brands, and we’ve helped locals with their outdoor equipment since 1985. Visit us at 4900 Molly Pitcher Highway in Chambersburg, PA. Looking for parts or accessories? We ship across the United States and Canada. To order, visit

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