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lawn care - dying lawn
Classic signs of early dehydration

Why Lawns Turn Yellow or Brown

Why do our lawns can turn a yellow or brown colour, in sections or even entirely? Like all lawn care, a few simple checks can quickly determine what is going on, and show us the correct method of treating the problem.

While it's normal for lawns to alter in the shade of colour slightly throughout the year as seasons and conditions change, this article will concentrate on quick progressions of change where something is obviously wrong with the lawn.

What Causes Lawns to Lose Colour

The lawn is turning another colour due to sickness, something is either missing from it's environment that it requires for health, or something has been added to its environment to make it sick.

If our lawn is only lacking its normal dark green colour, then symptoms are milder and there may be a different problem. Check out the article Lawn Has Lost It's Dark Green Colour if this applies to your environment, and more accurately reflects the problem being experienced.

Lawn Watering

Lack of water is the first culprit to investigate. Even in the beginning of Spring soils can become very dry, very quickly. Even though the weather may still be mild, and just coming out of Winter, attention needs to be paid to ensure the lawn is receiving adequate water.

First grab a spade and dig a sample from the affected part of the lawn, this 1 minute check is very easy to do, and may give our answer instantly. If the soil is dry below the top few centimetres, then this most likely is the problem.

If only a section the lawn is affected, then a broken sprinkler may be to blame, switch on the reticulation and check all sprinklers for functionality.

If the entire lawn is affected, it's time to increase reticulation times.

dry lawn soil
Checking for water retention
dry lawn soil
Soil is dry 10 cm below the surface

Herbicide Use on Lawns

If the lawn has been treated with a herbicide recently, this may well cause the discolouration. Herbicides are often used to selectively remove certain weeds like Bindii from lawns.

If the lawn was treated safely with the right match between herbicide and lawn type, then the discolouration will disappear very quickly with regular care. If a product such as a Granular Weed and Feed was used, then the lawn is supposed to turn yellow, brown for up to a week or two in order for the product to work, so this is normal.

Some lawn varieties don't like being treated with herbicides at all, and the lawn may suffer or even die from the treatment, this includes using Spray-on Weed and Feed style products. Buffalo is highly susceptible to being damaged from the use of many herbicides. Lawns such as Saltene may also react to some herbicides, and having the poison work against the lawn itself. And Queensland Blue may also have trouble with some herbicides. If you have these lawn type, please contact a Licensed Professional Spraying Contractor.

Buffalo Weed Sprays - if we have a Buffalo lawn, then there are several high quality weed sprays especially formulated for safe use on Buffalo grass, which are available for the homeowner to purchase and use. One such example is Yates Buffalo Pro.

Lawn Stress

Has something happened to the environment recently that may have caused stress to the lawn? This can often be a very hot day suddenly appearing, or may even be a week or two of increased temperatures without extra water being made available. While there may be days around 15 degrees at the end of Winter, the temperature can easily rise to 25 degrees and stay there for a week or two in Spring. This is enough to shock the lawn if it hasn't received adequate water to compensate.

The solution is to increase watering to adequate levels, do not add anything else to the lawn, and the lawn will eventually right itself to a state of health within a week or two.

Heat stress most easily occurs when the root system of the lawn is very shallow. When the heat arrives, the roots dry out and the lawn suffers badly. A shallow root system occurs due to frequent light watering. Giving deeper roots to a lawn is very simple, and is achieved by watering less often and with higher amounts of water.

lawn care - dry soil
A lawn under heavy stress from lack of water.
This photo was taken in mid Spring without having seen a day over 28 degrees.

Lawn Fertilisers

Has the lawn been fertilised recently? If so, it is important to water in all fertilisers on the day they are applied. If not watered in, the Nitrogen in the fertiliser can burn the blades of grass, which will result in the discolouration being seen.

The solution is to increase watering to adequate levels, do not add anything else to the lawn, and the lawn will eventually right itself to a state of health within a week or two.

Lawn Mowing and Thatch

If the lawn has been left for a long time between mowing, or hasn't been vertimowed for a long time, then the problem of brown patches over the lawn may be due to Lawn Scalping. This simply means the lawn has been mowed into the thatch layer, which may shock or sometimes kill the lawn in the affected area. This doesn't mean the lawn has been cut too low, and raising the height of mowing may just make the thatch layer increase at a more rapid rate.

The solution is to mow more regularly, and if this doesn't remove the problem after a few services, then the lawn may need to be Vertimowed.

Lawn Disease

Some lawn diseases will cause discolouration of lawns, but the symptoms are almost always easy to distinguish by circular patterns and other tell tale signs.

Check the Lawn Weeds| Pests | Diseases section for more information if necessary.

Dogs on Lawns

Dog urine can cause burnt spots appearing on the lawn, check the article Lawn Burn from Dog Urine for more information. Both good lawn care and pet care can reduce the severity of this problem.

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Lawn Care Facts
Lawn Fact:
Frequent shallow watering promotes a shallow root system that struggles for life under heat stress. A lawn constantly under stress will send out masses of seed heads, be weak and easily damaged, be slow to repair, and be far more susceptible to diseases and weeds.
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