Asked on Jul 25, 2013

Why does my grass die every summer?

Karin W
by Karin W
I don't have allot of grass because I prefer flower beds, but the little grass I do have always looks great in spring, but by July it looks like on the attached pictures. It was not very dry or hot this summer, nothing unusual, but it looks awful. I usually reseed in the fall, it looks great for a while but dies in the summer. I always buy the seeds that are drought resistant and for shade and sun.
We also have 3 dachsunds that use the grass.
Any suggestions?
  25 answers
  • 360 Sod (Donna Dixson) 360 Sod (Donna Dixson) on Jul 25, 2013
    I recommend first and foremost that you have a soil test done to see how you can improve your soil. I am guessing (and I am a pretty good guesser:) that it is a combination of soil compaction and water stress. I also recommend that you aerate and top dress to help the soil compaction. I see some weeds as well, so I think a regular weed and feed program would also benefit your grass. It will probably take 2-3 years to get in into shape. can kill out your current grass since you don't have very much, scrape it off, then add lots of good soil, till it and either reseed or sod the area, then put it on a regular weed & feed maintenance.
  • Rocky Road Backpackers Rocky Road Backpackers on Jul 25, 2013
    It seems that your soil food web is not doing well. You should add effective micro organisms EM, When mushrooms or fungi appears on the lawn, you know your soil food web is working and will stimulate growth. Good luck .
  • Gayle Valverde Gayle Valverde on Jul 25, 2013
    Give this a try! ********Jerry Baker's All-Season Green-Up Tonic*********1 can of beer (not light beer)1 cup of ammonia1/2 cup of liquid dish soap (not anti-bacterial or concentrated, trust me)1/2 cup of liquid lawn food (get this at a nursery or farmers' supply)1/2 cup of clear corn syrupMix in large bucket, pour into a 20-gallon hose-end sprayer and spray on everything (grass, bushes, flowers) every three weeks. One batch covers approximately 1500 square feet. I use Fish Emulsion as the lawn food & try adding 1/2 cup of Mouthwash to kill any bad stuff. I think you'll see it green up in about a week. Good luck!!!
  • KrysFL KrysFL on Jul 25, 2013
    What type of seed? Is it like a winter perrenial? Sounds like a silly question but I've recently discovered that some grasses are actually like plants and only live for a season (hence why it looks great when you first seed). Most that advertise themselves as shade grass, filler, etc. are just that.
  • Karin W Karin W on Jul 25, 2013
    Thanks for all the advice! A soil test is sure a good idea. Donna, it sounds like allot of work, but if nothing else helps, I will do that you suggested. Gayle, I think I will try your recipe first and see what happens. Krys, the seed is some kind of seed I buy at Walmart or Homedepot, It think it even is from Scotts. Didn't think it was an annual seed. It is not supposed to be a filler grass.
  • KrysFL KrysFL on Jul 25, 2013
    I would find out the variety and google it... every grass is different and requires different nutrients, water amounts, etc. We bought a short sale last year on 1.3 acres of dead grass... we researched our heart outs and I am happy to say our grass is super green and lush now. It is AMAZING how different each grass is and how easy it is to "kill" your grass by not doing something right. lol
  • Gretchen Gretchen on Jul 27, 2013
    Definitely do a soil test (call your cooperative extension office - in many places they can help you do it very inexpensively or even free), then follow the instructions for soil treatment that will arrive with your results. The other thing that comes to mind is a fungus. Black spot? Dollar spot? A fungicide applied a few times in the summer will help that - IF it is a fungus. (Following label instructions very carefully)! Do these spots green up all by themselves in the spring or do you reseed? Aeration and reseeding is the best thing you can do for your lawn every fall. Of course, the dogs don't help either. But there isn't much you can do about that unless you can train them to go in just one area!
  • Jill Jill on Jul 27, 2013
    It could be your lawn needs aerating and make sure that the water is soaking in good enough. Then never mow your lawn too short. 4" is a good height.
  • Karen Karen on Jul 27, 2013
    Hi, Karen, We live along the Gulf Coast area in Texas. Many of our neighbors "lose" portions of their lawns in the summer right down to the bare dirt. I was advised to try gypsum to loosen up the compacted clay soil. Grass sod or seed won't "take" on that hardened soil! Watering in the gypsum seems to have worked for us but you have to give it time. Also, we do not have a lawn maintenance service but do use Tru-Green. Hope this helps.
  • Catherine Smith Catherine Smith on Jul 27, 2013
    It's normal for grass to die back in the summer, it's hot, grass doesn't feel like growing either. However, I agree as soil test would certainly help you determine if you need additional amendments to help improve your soil's health, your use of chemical fertilizers is contributing to your problems, because they kill off the microbial life in your soil. I suggest you look into some probiotics, like EM-1, it's a concentrated mother culture containing many of the natural beneficial bacteria found in the soil. It's easy to make a dilution using molasses, water and a bucket with a lid. Because it's totally non-toxic you can spray everything with it, it takes about 3 years to get maximum microbial growth, but it will make your soil a welcome area for worms and other helpful critters. Try using some organic methods for fertilizing instead of the chemicals. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.
  • Dianne Johnson Dianne Johnson on Jul 27, 2013
    I have a lot of grass and decided I was tired of beating my head against the wall. I researched this and if there was any way I could afford it, It would already be done. Every once in a while I go to the Facebook site and drool. Forever Lawn Georgia has some before and after pictures that are amazing. No more headaches, mowing, edging, watering or raking. I don't work for them!! But maybe I should. I wonder if they have an employee discount? Haha.
  • Peg Peg on Jul 27, 2013
    Karin, are your dogs female? Their urine s stronger than males. Dog urine has nitrogen in it, which is good for lawns, but, too much will burn it too. But, if it were urine, you would also have healthier green rings of grass around the burnt grass. I think you have a soil problem or fungus. Soil may need to be aerated, add organic matter so it's not so hard so the roots can grow. The areas in my yard where the grass won't grow or dies off, that soil is dry, dense and had little organic matter in it. It's a work in progress. Good luck!
  • Patricia Giuria Patricia Giuria on Jul 27, 2013
    It seems that it has moth, is a bug that eats the root and remains so, you would have placed the hand under the grass, if is moth you are going to see something of black rings. That is moth! you need to fumigate the area. If you got a gardener and he came from other work with the trimmer without clean he contagion your grass.
  • Ann S Ann S on Jul 27, 2013
    Try Epsom salt! That's what I use for our yellowing spots in yard & safe for pets!
  • Lora Collins Lora Collins on Jul 27, 2013
    I take it you also make sure that you are using fertilizer for the proper grass.... I have watched someone kill their st. Augustine by using fertilizer for Bermuda grass on the St. Augustine.(the same can go for Bermuda grass it can get killed by a St. Augustine fertilizer) Also, as someone stated start with a soil test by the county. Those are usually free and take 4-6 weeks. You need to get your soil neutralized and proper enzymes going. Then start in the fall...winterize, then pre-emergent. has a lawn phone app. you can get a reminder scheduler going for feeding/weeding/etc your yard and find problems. At the bigger Home Depot's Scotts/Miracle Grow usually has a representative there on the weekend (specially in spring and fall). Good Luck! I will be looking for an updated picture next summer.
  • Grass naturally goes dormant in the heat, it's part of it's life cycle. If you can handle it being brown in the summer heat, then when the cooler weather and rain come again, it will grow back healthy and green. I'm all for natural lawns and can handle a few months where it takes a rest. But I know that most folks like to keep it green...which means lots and lots of water.
  • Irish53 Irish53 on Jul 27, 2013
    Epsom salt are loaded with nitrogen - great for lawns. Do lots of research for next season. We use Pennington seeds here.I get better results than Scotts.
  • Elaine Young Elaine Young on Jul 27, 2013
    This has been happening to our NY lawn for the past couple of summers. In our case it was grubs - Japanese beetle larvae eating the roots of the grass. Can you peel back your grass like a carpet? If you did into the soil below (not even too far down) do you see the white curled up grubs? We applied beneficial nematodes and that has helped a bit, but we need to reapply them in the fall. We are also going to try milky spore applications, although that can take a few years to be effective. Both the nematodes and the milky spore are organic methods. There are, of course, chemical pesticides, but you may not want to use them, especially if you don't want your dogs (or yourself!) exposed to chemicals.
  • Karin W Karin W on Jul 29, 2013
    @TJB-INC Landscape Contractor , not watering is not the problem. That's the only thing I am sure of in this case.
  • 360 Sod (Donna Dixson) 360 Sod (Donna Dixson) on Jul 29, 2013
    HI @Irish53 and everyone....I feel compelled to correct the false assumption that Epsom salt is loaded with nitrogen. Epsom salt is in fact magnesium sulfate. It contains no nitrogen. If you plant is suffering from lack of magnesium, it will help. There is some evidence that it helps seeds germinate. There is also evidence that it helps the production of chlorophyll (hence the greening of the plant after applying). There is definitely a place for it in your garden for sure, but it doesn't replace fertilizing with nitrogen.
  • Cathe Ashcraft Cathe Ashcraft on Jul 29, 2013
    I would think what you have is a winter grass, like winter rye or something similar, I have a few patches also, that do well unil it gets hot, no matter how I water or fertilize.
  • Don Goldwyn Don Goldwyn on Jul 30, 2013
    After your Doggies have Urinated on it .Water it down to dilute the urine ASAP
  • Peg Peg on Jul 30, 2013
    I'm on the same page as Donna Dixson with my thoughts on using epsom salt. If the dying of the grass is from too much nitrogen from dog urine, epsom salts helps grass absorb nitrogen, (not that it supplies it) so then there would still be an issue of too much nitrogen which would kill grass. Also, did you know that if you have a male and female dog, the male usually urinates on top of where a female did, which helps dilute her urine, then there's not much of a urine burn issue for those pet owners. cool, huh?
  • Caroline Caroline on Jul 30, 2013
    Aerating soil and adding compost should help. Soil is probably very compact. Have similar problem with my lawn which also looks great in the spring, but once the hot weather comes in all the lawns on my block look terrible. Come the fall and cooler weather, grass picks up and looks pretty good. Know it has nothing to do with watering as I have been very diligent about giving a thorough watering regularly to no avail. Also heard that adding gypsum helps in loosing up the soil. Wishing you well.