Your lawn grows strongly and looks great in the warm months of spring and summer, but growth tends to grind to a halt at certain times of the year. But why and when does grass stop growing, and is there anything you can do to help it grow all year round?
Grass stops growing when the temperature drops below 50°F (10°C). Most grasses enter a dormant state below this temperature but will resume growth once temperatures rise again. Many grass varieties also go dormant if the temperature consistently reaches 90°F (32°C) or in drought conditions.
Depending on the climate you live in, the type of grass you have, and the temperature, grass will have a longer and shorter growing season. Many types of grass will fight to stay alive by going dormant while they wait for water. Grasses with a high heat tolerance will stay alive for up to 60 days without water. Hopefully, understanding the types of grass in your area, and how you can help them stay alive will help you grow a healthier lawn.
Types of Grasses
There are many different kinds of grass, but many common ones are used in lawns and backyards. Depending on where you live, you are likely to bump into different grasses. These are commonly divided into cool-season, warm-season, and transitional grasses.
In the US, for example, you will find cool-season grasses in Minnesota, Washington, or even New York. On the other hand, if you are in the lower Unites States, on the coast of Texas, Florida, or near Southern California you will find warm-season grasses. In between these two weather types, you will find transitional grass or grasses of both cool and warm seasons. These grasses are normally found in Tennessee or on the bottom end of Nevada and Utah.
Cool Season Grasses
Cool-season grasses are more tolerant of cold conditions and lower light levels. In chillier climates, it is important to find grass that is suited to handle the cold weather, long winters, and short summers.
Normally when you would buy a mix at a local seed store, you would find that they have a mix pre-prepared which has many types of grass that all handle the weather well. Here is a list of a variety of cool-season grasses, when they stop growing, and how they perform in certain climates, as well as some other defining attributes.
- Kentucky Bluegrass – This grass is really great for a number of reasons. It has dark green, plush leaves which makes it resistant to wear from foot traffic and it recuperates quickly. It also will fill in spots where grass has died as its spreads fairly quickly. It can do both shaded areas of a lawn or consistently sunny lawns. It also goes dormant if it doesn’t get enough water. According to a research article from Iowa State University, When Kentucky bluegrass is exposed to drought, they turn brown and enter a dormant state. This enables them to survive hot, dry conditions even if they don’t grow during this time. Once the grass is dormant, the crown, or where the roots connect to the stem will remain alive. It will usually stay alive for about 4 to 6 weeks from its last watering. After the first frost, the grass will begin to go dormant and turn brown in time for winter.
- Perennial Ryegrass – This grass is not as good at spreading as Bluegrass is, but it can handle a high volume of foot traffic and be perfectly fine. It is really quick to germinate and helps to prevent erosion of the soil. Perennial ryegrass usually goes dormant once the temperature drops below 41°F, or if temperatures exceed 87°F. If temperatures rise to 100 degrees Fahrenheit, that can easily kill ryegrass, especially if these temperatures last for several days. Source.
- Fine Fescue – Hard fescue, creeping red fescue, sheep fescue, and chewings fescue are all different varieties of fescue. They have very high drought tolerance and shade tolerance. They all grow very quickly, which is why they are used in many grass mixes. They are not super great for trafficked areas as they start laying down and don’t recuperate. Fine Fescue will stop growing when temperatures exceed 90°F or go below 50°F.
- Tall Fescue – While this is a cool-season grass, it is really popular in the transition zone because of its high heat and drought tolerance. Yet, it also has high cold tolerance! It is also a bunch type grass that generates really deep roots. It will stop growing about the same time as Fine Fescue when it is over 90°F or under 50°F.
Warm Season Grasses
Warm Season grasses thrive in temperatures that cool-season grasses go dormant in. Most warm-season grasses are native to tropical areas, so they can survive in very hot temperatures that would stunt or kill other types of grass. As a matter of fact, warm-season grasses actually thrive in the temperature range of 75-90°F. Source The most common types of warm-season grasses are St. Augustine grass, Bahia grass, centipede grass, Bermuda grass, and zoysia grass. We won’t go through all of these, but the list below contains some details.
- St. Augustine grass – As with all warm-season grasses, they will be along the southern coast. St Augustine grass fills that role well as it is tough in heat and humidity and handles salt really well. This grass will stop growing and go dormant when the soil temperature goes below 55°F.
- Bahia Grass – This grass has a high heat tolerance and a low water tolerance. It is a great grass for coastal areas. It is also very low maintenance. It grows quite slow and will also allow weeds to grow as well. it grows best between 76-86°F, extremes to either side of that will cause it to quit growing.
- Bermuda Grass – This is great grass across all boards. It has high heat tolerance, high traffic tolerance, high drought tolerance. It will stop growing when soil temperatures go below 60°F and will start to truly become dormant at 55°F.
- Centipede and Zoysia Grass – Both of these grasses will also stop growing when the soil drops below 55°F.
In order to get the best of both worlds, in some places homeowners will plant a mixture of both warm-season grasses and cold season grasses so that all throughout the summer months they have plush green grass, and in the winter months the cool-season grasses are able to grow and keep the lawn green all year round.
Obviously, this can only take place in summer, but this way you have dormant and active grass all year round. They switch their active growth phases.
Essentials Of Grass Growth
Just as we all learned from a young age, the foundation needed for plant growth is soil, water, light, and air. Each of these things is essential to its growth and well-being as a plant. If you do anything wrong, the plant will die. If you plant the seed too deep in the soil, it won’t get enough light. If you go on vacation and forget to water them for a week, they won’t be able to grow. There are so many factors we must look at.
Above, we have discussed temperature, which is a leading cause for grass to quit growing, but there are others as well. Lawns are a great item of fashion these days, everywhere you go people are watering their lawn or planting new grass to ensure that it looks beautiful, feels good, and grows well.
They want a place for their kids to play and a place to have backyard BBQs. The lawn is essential, and so is lawn care. Too little water, too much water, compact soil, too much covering, and your grass is on the verge of death and it will definitely quit growing.
For grass to grow healthy, it needs about 4 to 6 hours of sunlight every day. This doesn’t necessarily have to be direct sunlight, but just sunlight in general. For this reason, grass in more shady parts of your lawn won’t grow as well, and will often be thinner than the remainder of your grass.
To prevent this, you can thin out trees or cut off limbs that do the most damage. In the winter, when it may snow, or in the fall when leaves are matted down and covering the lawn, it will be much harder for the lawn to grow. In these circumstances, you can remove the debris or you can allow the lawn to go dormant for the winter.
There are not too many things you can change in order to prevent your grass from going dormant or to prevent it from not growing. The temperature of the air and the soil, and the weather will always be changing, but there are a few things we can do in order to give the grass the best chance, and help it to continue growing as long as possible.
One important thing to do is to provide sufficient water in drought conditions. Whilst your lawn will likely turn brown quite quickly when water is scarse, it will remain dormant for quite a while as long as it gets a little water.
In these times of drought, it will be important to at least lightly water a lawn every 6 weeks, even if it is dormant and brown, chances are it is just dormant and waiting for water. By watering it every 6 weeks, you are helping it to stay alive and not sink from dormant to dead. When it is dormant, you won’t want to give it too much water, as to much water and it will not be able to absorb it as quickly and it will green back up.
Once a law is green again, it requires more water. Keeping it brown, while it may not be appealing, will be best in times of drought. Another great tip is to refrain from using fertilizers, believe it or not, these take a lot of the water that the grass could be using to stay alive.
If you are not in this situation, it may be helpful to know some tips about helping your lawn grown. There are a variety of things you can stop doing, and things you can start doing in order to help it continues its growth.
- Don’t cut your lawn too short. If you cut your lawn shorter than needed it will shock the grass and cause it to stop growing as quickly. It will also stunt it just enough to allow weeds in, and then they could potentially outgrow your grass.
- Avoid compact soil, compact soil is tough dirt that doesn’t leave room for air or water drainage. It will also inhibit the growth of your roots, and therefore your grass as a whole. If needed, you can aerate a lawn to help it become less compact soil.
- Check the chemical balance of your soil. The soil pH should be between 6.0 and 7.0 because this is the slightly acidic environment that is ideal for grass. Source It will also stunt growth if there is a lack of phosphorus or nitrogen.
Help your grass grow by keeping an eye on it, while at the same time be able to detect when your grass will quit growing by connecting the type of grass you have to the temperatures in your area!