Why Your Grass Keeps Dying (And What to Do About It)

Alison Kasch
Written by Alison Kasch
Updated March 22, 2022
Boys in capes running in the backyard
Photo: MoMo Productions / DigitalVision / Getty Images


  • Poor watering and soil conditions are the main culprits of dead grass.

  • Planting the right type of grass can set you up for success.

  • Brown grass might be dormant rather than dead.

Get quotes from up to 3 pros!
Enter a zip below and get matched to top-rated pros near you.

It’s frustrating to watch your yard decline after you’ve dedicated so much time and hard-earned cash to nurture it. Don’t feel defeated when those blades turn brown. You’re not a bad grass parent—there’s just a lot working against you. Here’s why grass tends to die and what you can do about it.

5 Reasons Why Your Grass Keep Dying

There’s no perfectly linear method to lawn care. Rather, many variables call for a customized approach. Consider these trouble spots when planning out the care for your lawn.

1. Overwatering/Underwatering

One of the top culprits of dead grass is improper watering. Too little water will dry out and kill your lawn, while too much will suffocate its roots.

Knowing how often to water your lawn is crucial for success, especially when planting new seeds. Generally, you want to aim for 1 to 1 1/2 inches of water per week, spread out over two or three watering sessions. Newly planted lawns should get watered twice per day with enough water to moisten the top 2 inches of soil. 

2. Unfavorable Soil Conditions

Certain soils are naturally better suited for growing grass, while others will be hard-pressed to sprout a single seed. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t work with what you’ve got. Consider getting an analysis from a local soil testing service to determine your soil composition. This will help you determine how to fertilize it and which types of grass will grow well in it.

3. Poor Lawn Aeration

Compacted soil creates very poor conditions for grass. Whether you have a high-traffic lawn or soil that’s naturally prone to compacting, lawn aeration is key for growing healthy, green grass. Let your grass breathe by aerating it at least once per year or more if needed.

4. Lawn Disease

Different types of lawn fungi cause diseases that might send your grass to an early grave. Lawn disease typically happens under less-than-ideal growing conditions, such as compacted soils and poor drainage. Keeping your lawn properly fertilized and aerated will prevent pesky spores from ruining all of your hard work.

5. Over-Mowing

A man mowing the grass with a lawn mower
Photo: Isabel Pavia / Moment / Getty Images

Over-mowing is a common lawn care mistake that can quickly send healthy grass into decline. It might save time to go extra short, but this can actually expose the roots of your grass, stressing it out and leaving it susceptible to disease. To avoid any issues, the right height for lawn mowing is no more than one-third of the grass height at a time.

Warm-Season vs. Cool-Season Grass

Planting grass that naturally thrives in your climate can set you up for lawn care success. When you’re choosing your seed, consider whether warm-season or cool-season grasses will work best. Warm-season varieties work for hotter climates with mild winters, while cool-season grasses are hardier and best suited for colder climates. 

Spotting Dead Grass vs. Dormant Grass

If your lawn goes brown, it might not always be the end. Droughts and cold weather send certain grass varieties into hibernation, which can look like death at first. Before you start from scratch, try pulling up a small handful to test if it’s still alive. If the grass comes out easily, then it's dead. However, if it resists pulling, then you may be able to save it with some watering, aeration, and fertilization.

Noticing Brown Grass on an Otherwise Healthy Yard

Any of the causes mentioned above might lead to brown spots on a healthy lawn rather than overall death. It’s also possible that your pet’s outdoor business might be doing a number on your grass. If you suspect the latter, try to designate a spot for your furry friend to go so it won’t lead to all-over damage. In any case, you can plant new grass seeds wherever there are bare or brown areas.

Preventing New Grass From Another Decline

Don’t let brown grass muddy your lawn care aspirations. Trial and error is a natural part of the grass-growing process, and it can take a few tries before you find what works. Talk to a local lawn care expert to get on the fast track to a healthy, green lawn.

Need professional help with your project?
Get quotes from top-rated pros.