Why Does My Grass Turn Brown in the Fall?

Why Does My Grass Turn Brown in the FallMany people love the natural beauty of the color-changing leaves in the fall, especially in such a tree-rich area as metro Atlanta. But one part of the landscape that isn’t at its best this season is grass. As the temperature cools, our grass loses its beautiful green color and takes on a brown, straw-like hue. Why does this happen, and is there anything you can do in terms of lawn care to stave it off?

As many Atlantans who have lived up north in the past have discovered, different geographical areas tend to use different types of grass, because each type of grass thrives in a specific climate. Homeowners in the northern US (and other areas with harsh winters) use cool season grasses, which can withstand their low temperatures. In Atlanta and other southern states, however, our climate is best suited to warm season grasses, which are more resilient to the drought and heat that we are more likely to struggle with. While cool season grasses stay green throughout the winter, it is our warm season grasses which turn golden brown during the cooling months.

So what actually causes these types of grass to turn brown? While some homeowners worry that their grass is dying when they see the color begin to change, the good news is that it’s only going dormant. This is done as a defense mechanism, because these grasses do not thrive in cold temperatures as well as cool season grasses do. And while it doesn’t generally get cold enough in Georgia to kill the grass, the temperature does drop enough to send them into dormancy.

It’s understandable that homeowners aren’t thrilled with the color change in the fall and may then wonder if there is anything that can be done about it. Dormancy is necessary for the grass to survive, so there isn’t a way to prevent the grass from going dormant. However, in some cases, you may have the option of overseeding your grass with a cool season grass like ryegrass and enjoy some green in your lawn throughout the winter. Keep in mind that this is not necessarily a viable option for everyone and is dependent on the soil type, shading, maintenance requirements, and more, so it’s important to speak with a lawn care professional about your options before taking action.

Whether you choose to accept your lawn’s dormancy or give overseeding a try, being proactive about your lawn care now can help your grass return to its full, beautiful color and thickness in the spring. To discuss what you can do to keep your lawn healthy throughout all four seasons, schedule a lawn care consultation with our professionals at Turf Shield.

How Do I Choose a Type of Grass?

best type of grassAt Turf Shield, we’ve created our blog as a place homeowners can look to for lawn care tips and quick advice from our professionals. But arguably the most important step toward building and maintaining a lawn you and your family can enjoy is selecting the right type of grass to begin with. Few people realize just how many varieties of grass are available to choose from and how much these brands vary. That’s why we’re here – to break down the choices and help you choose the best type of grass for your yard based on factors like geography, shading, budget, maintenance levels, and more.

What types of grass will thrive in Atlanta?

The best way to begin choosing a grass is by looking closely at where you’re located, because this effects the temperature, soil, and seasonal changes, all of which will impact your checklist of what to look for in your grass. The most important distinction is whether your region is ideal for “cool season” or “warm season” grasses. Interestingly, Atlanta lies at the junction of these two areas. For the most part, warm season grasses are best for residents of metro Atlanta, although the farther north you are, the most likely you are to need a cool season grass instead. Here’s a closer look at the five most commonly successful grasses in the Atlanta area:

Bermuda Grass:

  • Grows well on a wide variety of soils
  • Goes dormant as soon as the temperature drops in the fall (giving it a brown color), but survives cold temperatures well and returns to green in the spring
  • Resistant to heavy foot traffic
  • Needs plenty of sun and little or no shade to grow well
  • Grows aggressively, which means that it can take to your lawn quickly, but it can be difficult to keep from invading flower beds, gardens, and landscaping areas
  • Low-maintenance lawn care

Centipede Grass:

  • Grows slowly but aggressively, so it can choke out weeds but takes several months to take to your lawn
  • Can be easily kept from invading flower beds, gardens, and landscaped areas
  • Can grow successfully in soil with poor fertility
  • Low-maintenance and more resistant to many pests
  • Fairly tolerant of cold, but can be killed by extended temperatures of 5 degrees or lower
  • Can tolerate a small amount of shade
  • May be damaged by temperature swings in the spring

St. Augustine Grass:

  • Survives drought conditions well
  • Moderately resistant to heavy foot traffic, though not as durable as some other varieties
  • Can tolerate a small to moderate amount of shade
  • Ideal for moist, semi-fertile soils
  • Grows aggressively, so it can provide some weed control, but can also be controlled around borders
  • Poor cold tolerance – can be damaged when temperatures fall below 20 degrees

Zoysia Grass:

  • Highly tolerant of drought conditions, though it does become dormant in extreme drought
  • Grows slowly
  • Tolerates very little shade
  • Can endure a moderate amount of foot traffic
  • Highly aggressive, which means that it can choke out many weeds, but that it can also spread into flower beds and other unwanted areas

Tall Fescue

  • Grows very quickly during the spring and fall
  • Cool season grass, which means it’s most successful the farther north you are
  • Tolerates shade and high foot traffic well
  • Not as drought-resistant as most warm season grasses
  • Can go dormant in hot weather, returning to green when the weather cools
  • Must be reseeded every fall, because it does not spread by the root system in the way warm season grasses do

While we’ve laid out a helpful summary, choosing your lawn is a complex decision, and a grass that has thrived for your neighbor may be unsuccessful for you. To find out what type of grass best fits your needs and how to best take care of it, schedule a consultation with one of our experienced lawn care professionals who can evaluate the many features of your yard and recommend the ideal grass for you and your family.