How Long Does It Take for Burnt Grass to Grow Back

burnt grass in a lawn

There’s no way to tell exactly how long it will take for your burnt grass to grow back. It can return to its initial green and lush look in a few weeks, or it can take months. It’s a game of patience, and the timeline depends on the grass type, damage level, weather, soil conditions, and lawn care practices. 

Sometimes, much of the grass is dead and homeowners must reseed the lawn. But often enough, they enjoy watching healthy turf rising from the ashes. Of course, fire is not the only cause of grass burn. Read along to learn what else can scorch your lawn, how long it takes to grow back the grass, and what can stand in your way.

Is the grass dead?

If your burnt turf grass is dead, you won’t be able to recover it, and you’ll need to reseed. How do you know if it’s dead or merely damaged? Grassroots and stems need to be alive for the grass to recover, and here’s how to check if they are:

  • Grass root test: Grab a bunch of grass in your hand and pull. If the plant resists, the roots are alive and still gripping the soil. However, if you pull the plant without much effort, it no longer has healthy roots and is dead or dying.
  • Grass stem test: Kneel and closely examine the grass in the burnt area. If its stem (the part of the grass right above the soil, below any leaf blade) is whitish and sturdy, your plant can grow new leaves. If the stem is dry or soggy, your grass plant is dead.

Raking the damaged area also helps. Damaged blades and dead grass get caught in your rake, leaving behind grass that can still grow.

How long does it take for sunburnt grass to grow back?

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With sunburnt grass you can expect to see new leaves in a few days if properly watered. However, it will last weeks for scorched patches to cover in thick grass. 

Sun-scorched spots often appear during summer when high heat puts grass under tremendous stress. Yellow and brown grass patches are nothing new in hot and dry cities like Houston, Phoenix, or Denver, but they also happen in locations with milder summers.

What makes some lawns more exposed to sunburns than others? Here are a few risk factors to keep in mind:

  • Direct sunlight throughout the day. Continuous exposure to the sun’s heat increases water evaporation from the soil and grass blades. If not watered properly, grass soon dries out.
  • Sloped terrain. When grass is grown in a sloped yard, gravity tends to lead water away from the top before it properly absorbs, exposing the highest area to drought.
  • Southern or Western exposure. South-facing lawns deal with direct sun exposure throughout the day, from late morning to late afternoon. Southwest and west-facing lawns are also at risk; they receive full sunlight from noon to early evening, during the hottest part of the day.
  • Close mowing. Short turf grows short roots and is less resilient to drought stress and heat spells.
  • Heat-sensitive grasses. Cool-season grasses are more vulnerable to sunburn during summer heat than warm-season grasses. Plant the right turf for your climate to prevent a scorched lawn.
  • Compacted soil. Soil compaction prevents water from percolating the soil, and much is lost to evaporation, exposing grass plants to drought.
  • Improper watering. Lack of water makes turfgrass less resilient to heat spells.

How to treat sunburnt grass

A person watering the lawn
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  • Water the lawn correctly. Apply 1 to 1.5 inches of water per week. Irrigate deeply to moisten the soil 6 to 8 inches deep.
  • Provide fertilizer. Applying a small amount of slow-release fertilizer on burnt patches can help the grass regrow its foliage faster.
  • Aerate the soil. Core aeration loosens compacted soil and ensures water, air, and nutrients reach the root system.
  • Overseed. Not all grass plants will recover, and turf might remain thinned after being burnt. Schedule overseeding in fall or spring to keep your lawn dense and beautiful.
  • Keep weeds under control. Sunburnt areas are heaven for weeds; you’ll soon see them thriving where your grass should grow. Handpick weeds as soon as you see them to keep the area free for your turf. Avoid chemical weed control on stressed turf.
  • Reseed if necessary. If the grass is dead and large areas have been affected, it is better to reseed the turf to ensure healthy, thick grass.

What can delay grass recovery from sunburn?

Prolonged heat weaves, mandatory water restrictions during drought, and compacted soil are three factors that can hinder your grass regrowth. A pre-existing fungal disease or pest infestation can further compromise grass healing.

How to prevent grass from getting sunburnt 

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It’s always better to prevent sunburnt grass than to treat it. You can’t apply sunscreen on your turf, but there are ways to protect it from scorching heat:

  • Ensure your lawn receives plenty of water during intense heat. Apply 1 to 2 inches of water weekly. Water deeply and less often to promote deep roots and store moisture deep into the soil, safe from heat. 
  • Irrigate early in the morning to ensure good absorption and prevent evaporation.
  • Consider planting drought-tolerant grass types such as bahiagrass, Bermuda, or buffalograss.
  • Aerate the soil and dethatch to ensure most of the applied water percolates deep into the ground to meet grassroots.
  • Leave grass clippings on the lawn as mulch to reduce water evaporation and feed organic nitrogen to your turf.
  • Pay extra attention to high areas in your lawn. They might need more water than the rest of your yard.
  • Plant trees that can offer light shade for your lawn during summer.

How long does it take for fire burnt grass to grow back?

A picture showing burnt grass
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Depending on how badly it is burned, fire scorched grass can start to green up in a few days to a few weeks. 

How can your grass catch on fire? Flying barbeque embers are a common cause, but cutting rebar in your yard and other DIY situations involving sparks also can light up the lawn.

Your lawn is more at risk for fire if:

  • You don’t water the turfgrass properly 
  • Leave dry thatch, leaves, twigs, and other flammable debris on your lawn
  • Live in a drought-prone or wildfire-prone area.

How to treat fire burnt grass

Fire typically damages the grass blades and less the stem and roots. It’s almost like scalping the lawn – your turf might grow even thicker and healthier if the heat outside doesn’t kill it. 

Here’s how to help a burnt lawn green up:

  • Water the lawn 1 to 2 inches per week to support new growth.
  • Remove burned thatch and grass to make space for fresh blades.
  • Aerate the soil to improve water absorption.
  • Apply organic fertilizer to ensure your grass has enough nutrients to recover.
  • Overseed where fire thinned the turfgrass.
  • Reseed if the intense heat damages a large area. 

What can delay grass recovery from fire burns?

Burnt turfgrass requires water and nutrients to regrow its foliage. Poor and dry soil can slow down recovery if you don’t intervene with organic fertilizer, aeration, and a proper watering schedule.

How to prevent fire on your lawn

  • Don’t light up the barbeque or fire pit during hot, windy days.
  • Install the barbeque or garden fire pit away from the lawn or surround it with a wide strip of fireproof materials, such as gravel, brick, sand, stone, etc. 
  • Make sure the grass is properly watered.
  • Remove dry thatch, leaves, and sticks from your lawn.
  • Move DIY projects away from the grass if sparks are expected. 

How long does it take for chemically burnt grass to grow back

Residential lawns also can suffer from chemical burns caused by fertilizers, salt, dog pee, and herbicides. Fertilizer burn, damage caused by snow-melting products, and dog pee are the most common.

Fertilizer burn

fertilizer burn on grass leaves
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Fertilizer burn symptoms appear soon after fertilizer is applied. You’ll often see grass blades dry from the tip and yellow, brown, or scorched stripes following the application pattern. If you act fast, turfgrass can recover in a few days to weeks.

How can fertilizer burn grass? Lawn fertilizers are high in salts that can desiccate grassroots if large amounts build up in the soil. Nitrogen burns are the most common, but the phosphorus and potassium salts in NPK fertilizers also contribute. 

Your lawn has a higher risk of fertilizer burn when you:

  • Apply too much fertilizer
  • Fertilize dormant grass
  • Don’t water the soil properly after fertilizing
  • Use fast-release nitrogen fertilizers
  • Overlap application strips when spreading granular fertilizer
  • Fertilizer on dry soil, during hot days

How to treat fertilizer-burned grass

  • Rake the damaged grass, and remove the thatch layer if it’s thicker than ½ inch.
  • Dilute the chemical buildup in the soil by applying about 1 inch of water daily for one to two weeks. Irrigate early in the morning to ensure good absorption and prevent fungal infections.
  • Overseed if the result is a thinned patch of lawn
  • Reseed if most of the affected area is dead grass and you’re dealing with a bare spot

What can slow down grass recovery?

  • A high amount of fertilizer applied on the lawn will take longer to dilute.
  • Clay and compacted soil with poor drainage prevent flushing out the chemicals.
  • High temperatures further stress the grass and reduce soil moisture.

How to prevent fertilizer burn

  • Test the soil to see what nutrients are lacking before applying fertilizer.
  • Apply the right yearly amount of fertilizer for your grass type.
  • Don’t spread more than 1 lbs. of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet of established lawn.
  • Use a broadcast spreader to ensure uniform distribution.
  • Follow the application rates mentioned on the fertilizer label.
  • Water the lawn after application.
  • Fertilize during the growing season.
  • Avoid fertilizer applications during hot weather or when grass blades are wet.
  • Choose a slow-release nitrogen fertilizer.

Salt burnt grass

If you intervene promptly, the grass exposed to salt spills recovers in a few weeks. De-icers and other road treatments that melt snow are the most common cause. These products are high in salt and burn your grass when they land on it. 

Whether you use them yourself or the guys keeping the streets clean around the neighborhood, the result is the same: dry grass blades with an orange hue appear around your lawn. 

Your lawn has a higher risk of salt burn if:

  • You live in a state with long, snowy winters.
  • Your lawn is slightly lower than the street level, and melted snow tends to puddle where the turf meets the road.
  • The soil pH is already alkaline (salt increases alkalinity).
  • You tend to use snow-melting products often on your driveway and walkways.

How to treat salt burnt grass

  • Soak the contaminated area a few times to flush out the salt then let it dry.
  • Rake the dead grass and the damaged blades to expose the soil.
  • Apply gypsum pellets to displace salt residues.
  • Spread a ¼ inches layer of compost rich in organic matter to create a high-quality seed bed and support new growth.
  • Broadcast grass seeds to fill the damaged patches with thick, green grass.

What can delay grass recovery from salt burn?

  • Drought and heat limit your ability to water the soil and flush out the excess salt properly.
  • Clay soil is dense and slows down your efforts to dilute and flush out the soil on your lawn.

How to prevent salt burn 

  • To reduce salt spilling, create a border of bricks or stones along the driveway and walkways.
  • Look for snow-melting products with potassium chloride (less aggressive) instead of sodium chloride.
  • Use snow-melting products as rarely as possible.
  • Consider replacing more sensitive grass species, like Kentucky bluegrass, with grass varieties that cope better when exposed to road treatments, such as perennial ryegrass and tall fescue.
  • Plant a shrub border along the road to protect the lawn from splashes.

Dog pee burnt grass

A dog peeing on grass near wooden fence
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If you catch the damage in time and promptly treat the burnt area, turfgrass can recover in a few days from dog pee burn. However, if the dog urinates repeatedly in the same spot, the grass is likely dead, and you need to remove it, treat the soil, and reseed it.

Why is dog pee bad for grass? Dog urine is high in urea, a form of nitrogen that burns plants if it builds up in the soil. Signs of dog pee accumulating in your turf include brown patches with dead grass surrounded by deep green. The green margin is where only some nitrogen from the dog urine leeches and feeds the grass. 

The lawn is more at risk for dog pee burn if:

  • You don’t check it often enough to detect signs of urea burn.
  • It’s a dry spell with little moisture in the soil to dilute the urine.
  • You’re not watering the turf properly.
  • The dog is location-loyal and keeps using the same spot over and over.
  • The lawn was recently fertilized with nitrogen.

How to treat grass burnt by dog urine

  • Water the lawn thoroughly to dilute the urea in the soil.
  • Apply soil treatment meant to neutralize excess salts and nitrogen in the soil.
  • Reseed dead patches.

What delays grass recovery from dog pee burn

  • Your dog returns to the treated spot to urinate.
  • Watering limitations that prevent you from keeping the lawn properly moist.
  • Dry, hot weather that evaporates water from the soil, slowing down your efforts to dilute the urea from your lawn.

How to prevent dog pee burns

  • Train your dog to pee in a spot covered with gravel or mulch instead of grass.
  • Consider planting a grass variety that is more resilient to dog urine.
  • Flush the area with water immediately after the dog urinates to dilute the urea and prevent buildup.
  • Raise the lawn mower blades to promote grass with deeper roots, more resilient to chemical stress.
  • Put dog rocks in your dog’s water to naturally reduce nitrates in its urine.

How to control weeds in burnt lawns

Weeds are more resilient to heat and drought than turfgrass. They’ll soon try to cover areas where the grass is damaged, dormant, or dead, so keep an eye on the lawn while treating it. If weeds smother grass sprouts, recovery will take longer, and new growth will be thin and weak.

What is the best weed control for burnt grass? Spreading herbicides on a stressed lawn is a bad idea because weed killers can damage new grass seeds, seedlings, and any surviving turfgrass. The best weed control method currently is manually removing the weeds. Moisten the soil and use a trowel to remove the entire root system.

How to overseed burnt grass

In most cases, lawn owners must overseed burnt areas since turfgrass rarely recovers 100%. Here is how to proceed if that is you:

  • Wait for the right time to overseed. For cool-season grasses (bluegrass, ryegrass, fescues), that is late summer to early fall, with a second seeding window in early spring. Overseed warm-season grasses (Bermuda, Zoysia, St. Augustine) in late spring to early summer.
  • Mow the lawn and remove grass clippings and dead grass.
  • Dethatch to uncover the soil and provide good seed-to-soil contact for the new seeds.
  • Core aerate to loosen the soil and improve water and nutrient absorption.
  • Spread a layer of topsoil up to 2 inches thick.
  • Spread starter fertilizer to ensure the needed nutrients for healthy growth.
  • Broadcast the grass seeds following the recommended overseeding rate on the seed bag.
  • Water the seeds multiple times daily with ⅛ to ¼ inches of water until seed germination. Slowly reduce the watering frequency and increase the amount of water per session to promote deep roots and healthy grass.

FAQ about burnt grass recovery

How long does it take for dormant grass to come back?

Properly watered and fed, turfgrass typically exits dormancy and starts to green up in 10 to 14 days. Your dormant lawn only requires a few consecutive days of rainfall or watering to trigger regrowth. Set your sprinkler to apply ½ to 1 inch daily in one or two sessions, and you’ll soon see new grass blades growing.

How to fix burnt grass fast?

There’s no way to fix burnt grass in hours or a couple of days. If you need a green lawn to organize an event, consider using grass paint to color the yellow and brown patches.

How long does it take for grass to recover after drought?

Depending on how long it stayed without water, your lawn needs two to six weeks to recover after a prolonged drought. To help it green up fast to a healthy grass:

  • Water the lawn properly – 1 to 1.5 inches per square foot per week
  • Apply a slow-release fertilizer
  • Keep weeds under control
  • Avoid walking on the grass until it’s completely recovered
  • Mow the grass high to promote deep roots and allow the grass a richer energy reserve for recovery.

Give your lawn the best chance: call the pros!

If you haven’t dealt with a burnt lawn before or the damage is extensive, it’s better to call a lawn care professional. With LawnStarter, your area’s best lawn care companies are just a click away and can take care of everything. Check the reviews, get a free quote, choose your favorite pro and give your burnt grass the best chance to recover into a stunning green lawn!

Main Image Credit: zeevveez | Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Sinziana Spiridon

Sinziana Spiridon is an outdoorsy blog writer with a green thumb and a passion for organic gardening. When not writing about weeds, pests, soil, and growing plants, she's tending to her veggie garden and the lovely turf strip in her front yard.