assessing your dormant lawn in winter

Winter Lawn Assessment

Winter is the perfect time of year to step back and examine your warm season lawn. By assessing your lawn in the winter, you can pinpoint problem areas as well as plan and prioritize future projects. Getting your lawn into tip-top condition before spring arrives will give it a boost toward looking its best heading into the growing season.  

Assessing Your Lawn

Carefully inspect your lawn and be mindful of any issues that need addressing, such as: 

  • Dead or damaged areas of grass 
  • Large bare spots where no grass is growing 
  • Winter weeds 
  • Evidence of insects or disease 
  • Areas that collect excess rainwater, possibly from gutters or roof tops 
  • Areas where soil stays consistently moist 
  • Unlevel or bumpy areas  
  • Grass height 

Dead Grass vs Dormant Grass

In winter, warmseason lawns will be dormant. Healthy dormant lawns will be a consistent golden-brown color. While dormant grass and dead grass often look similar, there is an easy test to help determine the difference. Simply find a section of brown grass and give it a quick tug. If it pulls out easily with no resistance, the grass is dead. If there is resistance or you have to work to pull the blades out of the ground, the grass is just dormant. While the grass itself turns brown, the roots below the surface of the soil are alive. 

Determining Causes of Lawn Problems

If you want to find the best solution to your lawn’s problems, it’s important to understand what’s causing them. Lawn problems can have a number of different causes, from poor drainage to too much traffic. By understanding the cause of the problem, you can choose the best solution to fix it. 

soil sample bag

Soil Test

A healthy lawn begins with healthy soil. By testing your soil, you can determine which nutrients it is lacking and what amendments need to be made. As long as your lawn’s soil isn’t frozen, collecting soil samples for a soil test during  the winter can help prepare you for anything your soil may need once temperatures begin to warm up. 

We recommend testing your soil every two to three years to ensure the health of your lawn. If you’ve never had your soil tested or it’s been a while, now is the time to get it tested.

How to Identify Unhealthy Soil

Not sure how to identify unhealthy soil? Here are a few red flags to look out for: 

  • Cracked, dry soil  
  • Hard soil, difficulty digging holes 
  • Thin or patchy areas in the lawn 
  • Standing water on soil surface
  • Bare patches

Bare Spots

Unsightly bare spots in your lawn can be more than just an eyesore – they can indicate bigger problems that, if left unaddressed, will only grow. First, take a close look at the bare patch or patches to determine the underlying cause. Once you know what’s causing the problem, you can take steps to address it and get your lawn back to looking its best. 

There are many reasons why your lawn might have bare spots, such as heavy foot traffic, pets, drought, disease, or even chemical burn from pesticides. It’s important to figure out what is causing the problem, so you can take steps to prevent it from happening again in the future. 

person installing sod in winter

Once the problems are addressed you can lay dormant sod now to prohibit erosion and soil compaction. Choosing high quality sod is important during any season, but can make or break a winter installation. Quality can be difficult to determine when sod is dormant and brown. For the best results, select a premium variety from a trusted sod supplier and confirm that the sod is freshly cut.

Spring Green Up Guarantee

NG Turf guarantees warm season sod delivered while dormant in the fall or winter to green up the following spring, assuming proper installation and winter care. 

Enjoy the peace of protection with the NG Turf One Year Warranty. For 12 months after the date of purchase, NG Turf will provide replacement grass and a personal visit from one of our turfgrass professionals – at no cost. *Terms Apply.

Winter Weeds

Winter weeds will be highly visible in dormant, warm-season grass. If you notice winter weeds while assessing your lawn, the first and most effective line of defense is hand weeding, especially for isolated patches. Be sure to pull up the full plant, including the roots. Wait until after a rain, when the ground is damp for easier pulling. 

Treating larger areas of weeds in sparsely growing grass may require chemical treatment. 

Selective herbicides, formulated for control of specific weeds, are useful in lawns but may not be suitable for use in flower beds. Read all labels carefully. Make sure that the herbicide is tailored to the type of weeds you need to eradicate and won’t harm the surrounding grass or ornamentals. 

Pooling Water

Poor drainage in your yard can cause a number of problems, including puddling, erosion, uneven surfaces, and even flooding. Not only can this diminish the appearance of your yard, but it can also limit your family’s outdoor enjoyment. Carefully assess your outdoor space and take notice of any signs of poor drainage such as:

  • Water pooling around your home’s foundation 
  • Lumps and bumps from tree roots, utility work, or damage from animals 
  • Pooling water on sidewalks or driveways 
  • Areas in your yard where mold or fugus commonly grow 
  • Areas in your yard that may have become compacted overtime 

Correcting drainage issues may include installing gutters and downspouts to redirect rainwater, creating drainage ditches, installing French drains, or regrading your lawn. 

Uneven Areas

You may notice uneven, bumpy spots in your yard for a number of reasons, such as burrowing/digging animals, people, animals, or equipment creating depressions in lawns too soft from rain or snow, settling, or tree roots. Again, the first step in the process is determining the cause of the uneven terrain before any corrections can occur.  

uneven areas of lawn

Uneven lawns often cause the grass to get mowed too short in certain areas, which then further damages the grass. If you notice shallow, isolated uneven areas in your lawn, filling the disturbed soil back in and topping it with good topsoil may be all that is needed. Larger spots might need to be patched with sod. If an entire lawn is uneven, you may need to consider regrading your lawn.  

Grass Height

While inspecting your lawn consider the current height of your grass. Long grass in winter provides meals for insects and can put your lawn at risk of disease. 

Most grass varieties should be kept at a height of about 2 inches in the winter months. If your dormant lawn is higher than 2 inches mowing prior to spring green up is advised. While we do not always recommend removing lawn clippings, removing excessive clippings before spring is important so as to not overshadow new grass growth in spring.  

A dry winter day is a good time to mow a dormant, warm-season lawn. This also gives you the opportunity to remove any fallen leaves and pine needles, and inspect your yard for winter weeds and uneven spots. 



There’s no better time than the winter months to do a little self-examination of your warm season lawn and make sure it is getting everything it needs to thrive next season. If you have any questions about caring for your lawn in the winter, assessing your lawn, selecting the right grass variety for your lawn, or installing dormant sod, contact our Certified Turfgrass Professionals at 770.832.8608 or


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