How to Tell if Sod is Dead in 5 Ways

Differentiating between dead sod and dormant sod is difficult.

Doing a tug test is one of the easiest ways to tell whether sod is dead. You can also water the sod for a few days and see whether it turns green or not. Sod may appear brown and thin, but that doesn’t mean it is dead.

If you want to know how to tell if sod is or just dormant, here are a few ways to find out.

How to Tell if Sod is Dead

1. Watering the Sod

Most times, grass can dry out and die due to a lack of water. If you notice your sod browning, use this test to tell whether it’s dead or just dormant. During hot weather, sod may turn brown to indicate it’s dying or becoming dormant.

Water the sod consistently for two weeks and see how the grass reacts. It is just dormant if the grass greens up and appears to come back to life after a few days. However, after a few weeks of watering the sod, it still retains its brown color and appears lifeless, then the sod is dead.

2. Look for browning patterns

Is your lawn completely brown, or are there only a few brown patches? If your whole lawn turns to one brown shade, the sod is dormant. But if the sod is only turning brown in some patches, then this could be a sign that your sod is dying.

Dormant grass does not appear in patchy or inconsistent areas unless caused by a piece of the lawn not receiving as much water or sun as other parts. If your lawn has these patches or spots despite all regions getting the same nutrients, the browning is most likely due to dead sod.

What Causes Sod to Die?

You should also look into the cause of the brown patches, as they could easily result from pests and diseases. Consult a lawn care professional for advice if you spot brown patches in your sod.

3. Doing the Tug Test

If you don’t know what a tug test is or have never done one before, here’s how to go about it. A tug test refers to pulling out sod from the ground. Take a bunch of grass and gently pull it apart.

Dead sod is easy to remove. However, dormant sod is more difficult to remove and feels more like taking out healthy grass.

Living plants, such as sod, use their roots to anchor themselves in the earth. When the plant dies, its roots also die, losing their hold on the ground.

The next time you suspect your sod might be dead, try to pull it out gently and see what happens. This is the most effective method of determining dead sod.

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4. Hiring a professional

It’s tough to tell the difference between dead and dormant grass with the naked eye. It is even harder to figure out what to do about it.

If you suspect your sod is dying, it’s best to hire a lawn care firm that can assist you in determining what’s wrong with your grass and how to cure it effectively.

5. Temperature change

The weather conditions and temperature can also significantly influence the appearance of your lawn.

Cool-season grasses tend to go dormant during lengthy periods of hot summer weather, while warm-season grasses go dormant in the winter. This doesn’t mean the grass is dead. It will turn green again when the proper temperature returns.

Plant a combination of warm and cool-season grasses if you want your grass to stay green all year, regardless of the temperature.

Also read: Best grass for flooding areas

What Causes Sod to Die?

If you recently planted sod on your lawn, but you haven’t spotted any signs of life from it in a few weeks, then the sod might be dead.

When sod is still new, it requires more water than an established lawn. Water enables it to develop new roots and take to the soil in your lawn. When the sod has grown, you can gradually cut back on how often you water it.

Cold-season sods can live through the winter, but they may die in the summer because of drought stress. During summer, these types of sods would need a lot of water.

Also read: How to replace old lawn with new turf

Adjust your watering routine depending on the season. You might need to water twice daily to counter the effect of the heat. You can use your sprinkler system to water your yard when there is a drought or high temperatures.

This will help the cold season sod survive the hot summer days.

Other causes may be using the wrong fertilizer or an attack by pests. Using nitrogen-rich fertilizer may kill your lawn by burning the grass. 

A professional lawn care farm can help you figure out what is wrong with your sod and provide actionable steps to reviving your lawn.

Also read: What is a good dandelion killer safe for lawns?

Will watering dead grass bring it back?

If you’ve confirmed that your sod is dead, then watering it won’t make any difference. You can either plant new seeds or new sod.

Whether you plant new seeds or sod, you should follow these steps to seed or ensure healthy growth.

To regrow your lawn, mow it shorter than usual so the seeds may reach the ground more quickly. Before spreading the seeds, you also need to apply soil amendments to provide a healthy environment for them to thrive in.

Make sure to prepare the soil well before planting new sod. This is the most strenuous part of laying new sod, but it ensures your new growth kicks off well.

Water the sod. Young sod needs a lot of water at the beginning to establish the root system. When the roots are fully attached, you can reduce how much water you give it.

Prevention is better than cure. Once you find out part of your sod is dead or dying, you should take proper steps to prevent the entire lawn from dying as well.

You might identify the cause of death yourself, but seeking professional help is usually the best thing to do.

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