Experts say grass is likely dormant, not dead, so far

Area lawns are dried out due to lack of rainfall
Experts say grass is likely dormant, not dead, so far

With the lack of rainfall, many people’s yards have turned dry, brown and brittle, and it has some homeowners wondering whether their grass is dormant or dead.

Experts said most grass in the area should remain dormant at this point, because the grass should still be alive just below the surface.

Waunakee resident Joe Zitzelsberger was sprinkling his front lawn Tuesday. After rounds of watering, he said he now starting to think the lawn’s a lost cause.

“I was hoping for dormant,” Zitzelsberger said. “What I’m looking at now after putting quite a bit of water on it in the last several days, I think a lot of it is probably dead.”

“The grass can usually take 60 to 75 days before it will die,” said Tom Schwab, superintendent at OJ Noer Turfgrass Facility. “We’re not really going to know whether it’s dead or alive until we start getting rain or start irrigating it a lot to see if the grass bounces back.”

Experts said most grass in the area should remain dormant at this point, as long as vitality remains in the crown.

“The crown is right at the surface level or slightly below,” Schwab said. “And that’s everything. The tillers grow from the crown; the shoots grow from the crown.”

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Experts said it’s a challenge even for them to examine the crown’s vitality, especially in these conditions. They recommend watering a quarter inch a week.

But they said if this drought continues another two weeks or so, lawns in southern Wisconsin may have some major problems.

“If (rain) really isn’t coming back, I don’t know,” Zitzelberger said. “I keep looking at the forecast. I see the forecast maps with nothing.” 

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