Lawn Care

What Is Winter Dormancy?

13 December 2021

If you’re wondering why your green turf turns brown in the winter, you aren’t alone. Google shows 395 million hits on this question. Desiring a lush green lawn year-round is perfectly reasonable, but let’s touch on the benefits of dormancy and why it is healthy for your warm season lawn, such as Bermuda and Zoysia. 

What Is Dormancy?

In short, dormancy is a stress response for warm-season grasses such as Bermuda and Zoysia. I often compare winter dormancy to how bears hibernate. In fall, ever-shortening days and lower temperatures signal to warm season turf grasses that it is time to slow growth and store energy and nutrients in their roots.

Warm-season turf grasses thrive in temperatures between 80 and 95 degrees, making them ideal for the hot and humid summers in Raleigh, NC. You will notice that these turf grasses begin to lose vigor as days shorten and temperatures decrease. This regression is generally capped by the first few hard frosts, beginning in mid-November. Freezing temperatures and crystalline frost damage the leaves, turning them tan and introducing full dormancy turning your warm season lawn a golden-brown color that won’t be broken until warmer temps and longer days return in the spring.

Winter dormancy is actually a very interesting survival mechanism that warm season turf grasses use, and that statement isn’t made lightly. Rather than continuing to push themselves to grow in conditions that aren’t ideal, the grasses passively take advantage of their ability to store energy and nutrients for use on better days. Other species find themselves vulnerable to repeated damages, disease, and even demise in high-stress conditions. Warm-season turfs effectively hibernate and wait for spring.

Can I Grow a Cool-Season Lawn?

Raleigh is in the “transition zone.” That means, in some cases where conditions are ideal, cool-season species can be grown, Such as Tall Fescue. We have a lawn care program for those turf-grasses as well. Situations that would favor cool-season turfs over warm-season turfs are quite uncommon in our area, however. Generally, a severe lack of sunlight is the only condition that would tip the scales in favor of a grass like Tall Fescue. If you desire to have a dense, vigorous, relatively weed-free turf, results are most readily achieved by selecting a species of Bermuda or Zoysia most appropriate for your yard’s conditions.

Should I Overseed with a Cool-Season Turf in the Winter?

Overseeding with a cool season Ryegrass is a fairly common practice for specific-use cases. We often see it on sports fields that host late fall or spring sports. If you’re a golfer, you may play a club where they overseed portions of their course and practice facilities such as the Driving Range Tee or Tee’s of Par 3 holes. The choice to do this is generally based on aesthetics or use cases not required in home lawns. Winter dormancy in our warm-season lawns enable us at Dorsey Lawn & Landscape to utilize products that encourage optimal health for your lawn. Overseeding your yard compromises that potential in a variety of ways.

Embracing Dormancy and your Golden-Brown Warm – Season Turf!

This is only my opinion, but a uniform, clean, dormant, golden-brown lawn is a beautiful site to behold, it shows proper turf management practices are being utilized, nothing will highlight an improperly managed warm season lawn like dormancy, improperly maintained warm season lawns will be peppered with unsightly green weeds in the winter that will stick out like a sore thumb and an unsightly eye sore that severely decreases the aesthetics of your entire property. Don’t worry a dormant warm-season lawn is just taking a long nap, and green grass will be here before you know it.  

How can we help? Learn more about our Lawn Care Programs by clicking the link in the paragraph below!

At Dorsey Lawn & Landscape Our Bermuda and Zoysia lawn care programs are specifically designed to utilize the transitional months and dormant months to prepare your lawn for a healthy green-up in the summer. Call your Professional Raleigh Lawn Care Company Give us a call or visit us online to discuss how our comprehensive lawn care programs can improve the health of your lawn and the aesthetics of your entire property. We would love for you to team up with Dorsey Lawn & Landscape.

Top Raleigh Lawn Care Services
Top Raleigh Lawn Care Services