The Q&A Archives: "New" lawn dying quickly

Question: I bought a house with an established lawn on May 1. I haven't been able to water the lawn as much as I should, and because of this, it has started to die back. It is a mix of hybrid bermuda and tall fescue. The previous owner stated the pallets of sod were laid out in areas and it is obvious that one of these two grasses is weaker because I am getting large areas of brown/straw grasses, turning deep brown, while others are thriving. Some areas seem to have gone dormant(haven't grown in a month), while others are already 4 inches high. I haven't mowed the lawn in 3 weeks because of fear of cutting too short. I've read on this site bermuda chould be cut to .5 or 1 inch, while fescue is 2.5-3.. therefore I have a dilema with my mix lawn. Also in Huntsville, AL we've had excessive heat and drought, so I was afraid to cut the grass and burn the blades. I have TruGreen ChemLawn come every 5 weeks to fertilize and de-weed. My very shady backyard has nearly completely turned brown and died back. I've tried to water once a week for an 2 hours at a time. The soil in Huntsville is clay, climate is unusually hot, humid, dry(no rain) and HOT. I am absolutely terrified of completely destroying my lawn. When I first bought the house, the lawn was immaculate, lush, and rich green. Now it is thin, with huge swaths of brown (VERY small patches of green now growing in the brown patches). THe lawn, ESPECIALLY the backyard, seems to be dying before my eyes on a daily basis, over the past two months.

Also, a question on grasses for 80-90% shaded areas (my backyard), what is your suggestion?


Answer: William,

That is not really a good mix of turf species. I suspect the one dying is the fescue which is a cool season grass needing water to survive the heat. Bermuda is tougher and can brown back and then return from the ground with the return of rains. But bermuda can't take shade, which fescue can take quite well. I suspect you go ahead and mow at about 2.5 to 3 inches and continue to do so weekly to maintain a better, denser lawn.

Let me also refer you to the following web publications that are very helpful in all aspects of maintaining a good lawn in Alabama:

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