Taking Care of Burnt Lawn

No one is perfect. Accidents happen. Whether it was by your own hand or from a pro, lawns can get burned. However, there are many times when this isn’t the cause of your lawn turning brown. In order to figure out what is wrong, you have to become a bit of a lawn detective. Asking the right questions will lead you to the right diagnosis.

Is the buffet open?

There are a few types of insects that are common lawn pests. Tug on the grass. If it lifts up easily you may have grub damage. If it looks chewed off, or if you are even finding surface feeding insects, that could be the reason it turned brown.

Is there a fungus among us?

There are tell-tale signs of turf diseases damaging your lawn. These fungi can cause areas to discolor very quickly in spots both large and small. Learn what to look for.

Is your lawn thirsty?

People often forget how much it rains and how often. That thunderstorm or two this week may seem like a lot of rain to you, but sometimes people forget it rained less than 1″ in the past 30 days. That means a brown lawn, especially when it’s really hot outside. You may just need to water your lawn more regularly.

If you ruled out these reasons above, now it’s okay to start suspecting your lawn being burned. Like I said, accidents happen. Our lawn care technicians perform about 500-600 lawn care applications in a month. Even with those numbers, there may be a chance they may have an accident happen once or twice per year. Luckily, our technicians have a lot of integrity and owe up to mistakes when they make them by telling clients and then we fix the problem. It’s the least we can do and the honesty goes a long way.

Maybe you’re reading this and you have no idea what burned your lawn. Here’s how I played lawn care detective on an incident just like this recently.

Here we see an obvious lawn burn. Note the classic burned color. It’s not dull or tan. It’s bleached. The lines where it starts and stops are pretty defined. I ruled out the possibility of insect, drought, and disease problems in this area. The client was confused. We hadn’t been on her property to service her lawn for about 5 weeks. She knew the damage wasn’t from that long ago (lawn burn usually shows up pretty quickly). We just sprayed the trees about a week prior. She wondered if the materials on the trees somehow got onto her roof and washed down the spout onto the lawn. This wouldn’t be the case. All of the lawn areas under the trees got way more drip and drift than the roof did and they looked fine. Plus, damage to lawns from tree application materials is very unlikely. I could see how she got there, I was a bit fixated on the spout at the top of the burned area too at first. Here were my questions to her to find a cause of lawn burn:

  • Does your sump pump emit into that drain pipe? No (this may have picked up a contaminant).
  • Did you flush a water softener or heater here? No (all that salt or minerals would be a problem).
  • Do you spot-treat any weeds on your lawn yourself? No (I’ve seen people grab the Round-Up jug by accident).
  • Did anyone leave a tarp laying there on a hot day, even for a short time? No.
  • Did you fill your gas tank of your mower at that location? No.
  • Did you run a hose filled with sun-heated hot water there on a really hot day? No (too big of a spot for this but just checking).
  • Was there any type of construction done at your property lately? YES? Hmm...
    • When the contractors were working there, did they wash any equipment out there or dump buckets, or have equipment running there? I did see them washing stuff out there! Something must have burned that spot.

The point here isn’t to shift blame or trash the contractor. They probably didn’t even know this would be a problem. As of now, I’m not sure which material caused this burn, but this sounds like the most probable explanation. Many things burn lawns that people don’t realize. Things that can burn grass areas are:

  • Detergents and cleaning products (bleach, ammonia, de-greasers, etc.)
  • Automotive products (oil, gas, coolants, fluids, etc.)
  • Heat from exhaust (muffler or component heat)
  • Other foreign substances (anything that changes the pH of soil or has high salt content)

Unfortunately this area was pretty bad. I looked at the crowns of the grass plants and it wasn’t green anywhere so I doubt it will re-grow. These spots will need re-seeded. It’s hard to say how contaminated the soil is, so I recommended to remove 3″-6″ of soil and replace with good fill. This is the only way to be sure. I told them if they wanted to take the chance to just rough up the soil and see what happens when they seeded they could.

So, before you think you or someone else “burned” a spot in your lawn, be sure to do your detective work and ask the right questions so you can figure out The Case of the Burnt Lawn. If you still haven’t solved the mystery contact us.