9 tips to revive dead grass and make your lawn green again

Dry grass next to green grass
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Now that we’re well into fall, it’s time to step back and assess the summer damage to our lawns. A combination of increased footfall, vacations and the heat will likely have taken its toll, yellowing and perhaps killing our lawns in the process. That’s why so many of us are looking up how to overseed your lawn in the fall and when to do it. But it may take more than overseeding to get your lawn to thrive again. 

To help revitalize your lawn and bring it back to its green glory, we’ve listed 9 tips to revive dead grass. From fertilizing advice to soil aeration, here we cover the best methods you can implement to improve your lawn’s health. Follow these tips, and your lawn will look thick and vibrant in time for the winter months.

How to revive a dried lawn

Before you tackle your dried lawn, you’ll need to know whether your grass is dead or dormant. Simply tug at a piece of grass, and if it easily comes away at a pull, that means it’s dead. Other signs to lookout for include distinct patterns or areas or circles of brown grass. On the other hand, dormant grass is essentially still alive, and can spring back to life after about 10 to 14 days by following the steps below. 

1. Dethatch your lawn 

Raking leaves on lawn

Raking leaves on lawn (Image credit: Shutterstock)

The first step is to dethatch the lawn. This involves raking it over to allow air or moisture to penetrate the grass better. 

Thatch is a layer of decomposing plant materials, such as dead leaves, that builds up on the surface of the soil. If it gets thicker than half-an-inch, this can prevent your lawn from getting enough air, water and nutrients. It also prevents healthy root development and can make your grass prone to insect and disease issues.  

2. Aerate the soil

Aerating soil with fork

Aerating soil with fork (Image credit: Shutterstock)

When the soil is too dense, it prevents air and moisture from penetrating the surface, which can eventually kill the grass. Aerating your lawn helps solve this — it punctures the ground, allowing air, water and nutrients reach the roots. 

Look at our instructions on how to aerate a lawn for step-by-step guidance. This way you'll help your lawn receive all the nutrients it needs to thrive.

3. Kill weeds and dandelions 

dandelions in grass

dandelions in grass (Image credit: Shutterstock)

Weeds can spring up quickly in open spaces, feeding on any moisture available in the ground. When you have weeds growing alongside grass, this creates competition, meaning there is less water and space for grass to grow. 

Remove weeds by hand-pulling them out by the root or by using a tool like this Walensee Weed Puller ($29, Amazon). Similarly, knowing how to get rid of dandelions also helps retain more moisture and nutrients for the grass. 

4. Fertilize it 

Man putting fertlizer in sprayer for lawn

Man putting fertlizer in sprayer for lawn (Image credit: Shutterstock)

Lawns need a consistent supply of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium to help develop and stay healthy. Depending on your soil type (clay or sandy), there are suitable fertilisers in granular or liquid forms which can improve conditions. 

In addition, you can naturally fertilize using compost or grass clippings, both of which double up as a great defence against weeds. This is one of the 9 ways you can reuse grass clippings after mowing.

To find out what your soil is lacking, use a soil test kit, such as MySoil Soil Test Kit ($29, Amazon). 

5. Plant new grass seeds or lay sod 

Sod being laid on a lawn

Sod being laid on a lawn (Image credit: Shutterstock)

If your dried lawn is receding or patchy, you’ll need to know how to plant grass seed and get a greener yard. It’s always best to choose a high-quality grass seed and spread it evenly over your prepared lawn. Once the seed is completely laid down, cover it with a thin layer of soil. 

Alternatively, if you don't want to wait too long for your grass to grow, learn how to lay sod for an instant upgrade. Sod is grass that is already growing and comes in rolls or squares that you lay over your soil. If you are only filling in dead patches, you can simply use sod to plug wherever you need new grass. 

6. Change grass type 

Grass seed being spread by hand on soil

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

If your lawn has seen similar damage in previous years, and it needs immense repairs after each summer, it might be worth switching to a more appropriate grass type. Different grass types have different qualities, as well as being better suited to alternate regions. For instance, some grass types thrive in the shade, while others are disease resistant. Then there’s grass types which are drought tolerant, preferring full sun exposure and higher temperatures.

These are the types you may want to consider planting for less maintenance in the future, particularly if you’re prone to hot summers. It includes the likes of Bermuda grass, Zoysia grass and Buffalo grass, which are all warm-season types suited for the southern region. Tall fescue is a drought tolerant option for cool-season types of grass. Be sure to check the type of grass you’re considering is appropriate for your location via your local garden center. Here’s our guide on 7 of the best grass types to grow for more info. 

Alternatively you can plant 7 fast-growing trees for shade and privacy, to create more shade in the future for your lawn.  

 7. Water frequently  

Watering lawn with sprinklers

Watering lawn with sprinklers (Image credit: Shutterstock)

Dried lawns are a sure sign of dehydration, so you’ll need to soak the lawn thoroughly. Bear in mind that you need to water at the right times. Experts advise the best time to water your lawn is early morning or late evening when it’s cooler. Watering during hot periods of the day will evaporate most of the moisture, so it won’t be absorbed into the soil. 

It’s best to use a sprinkler system to ensure the lawn gets a thorough soak. There are many affordable sprinkler systems available, like this Goldflower Garden Sprinkler ($8, Amazon).  

 8. Top dress the lawn 

Preparing soil

Preparing soil (Image credit: Shutterstock)

Topdressing involves applying a layer of compost or other nutrient-rich soil over the surface of your lawn. This will give the dried lawn a nutrient boost and improve the structure of the soil at root level, again helping absorbency. 

With the help of aeration and a better water flow, the lawn can absorb the nutrients naturally through decomposition, helping the grass grow thicker. In addition, you can top dress the lawn with sands or other mixtures, depending on your soil type. 

9. Cut back on mowing 

A lawn mower cutting the grass

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

We mow frequently through the summer and naturally cut back in the fall. But, if your lawn appears dry and yellowed, you’ll want to keep your mower stowed away. Vulnerable grass can be easily damaged or even killed by a lawn mower, particularly when it’s cut overly short — here’s 9 signs that you’re cutting your grass too short for guidance.

Taller grass naturally has a better chance of survival. The longer leaves provide shade for the soil surface, which helps it retain moisture better. Plus, the leaves have more length to better photosynthesise. In short, there’s still a chance it will bounce back from the hot summer, but by mowing it, you will make the conditions more challenging. If you must cut the grass, make sure to keep your lawn mower on the highest setting to lessen the damage.   

Other tips to keep your lawn green 

  • Don’t cut your grass too short. Experts advise cutting grass down to 2.5 to 3 inches, which is a healthy height
  • Experts also suggest mowing your lawn at least once a week in summer and once every two weeks for the remaining seasons 
  • Make sure your lawn has good drainage to avoid it getting waterlogged
  • Grass seed will need to be watered regularly to start with — 1 to 2 times per day, cutting this back once it reaches 1 to 2 inches in height

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Cynthia Lawrence
Content Editor, Homes

As the Homes Content Editor, Cynthia Lawrence covers all things homes, interior decorating, and garden-related. She has a wealth of editorial experience testing the latest, ‘must-have’ home appliances, writing buying guides and the handy ‘how to’ features. 

Her work has been published in various titles including, T3, Top Ten Reviews, Ideal Home, Real Homes, Livingetc. and House Beautiful, amongst many.

With a rather unhealthy obsession for all things homes and interiors, she also has an interior design blog for style inspiration and savvy storage solutions (get rid of that clutter!). When she’s not testing cool products, she’ll be searching online for more decor ideas to spruce up her family home or looking for a great bargain!

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