Yes. Grass should start to regrow in about 1-2 weeks after a fertilizer burn. Grass usually grow back after fertilizer burn if the degree of damage doesn’t cause a lot of discoloration and scorched leaves on the plant. However, in some cases, it may be difficult to revive the lawn or the damage may not be completely repaired for several months.
Fertilizer burn is when the area around your grass turns brown because you have either overapplied or misused a lawn fertilizer.
For example, if you apply too much fertilizer in one spot, the grass in that location will turn brown. If it’s just an isolated event, then there’s no need to be concerned about how long it takes for the effect to wear off because it won’t last forever.
The best course of action is to allow time and nature to take their course. In many cases, the grass will green up again on its own without any help from you.
This can take anywhere from one day up to four weeks depending on how much fertilizer was applied and how bad the burn was.
If you continue feeding your lawn at this point it could cause more stress on an already weak plant that’s just trying to recover from a burn.
However, if this happens over and over again (for example during several consecutive years), chances are good that something else is causing it other than applying too much fertilizer (in which case application amounts would not be consistent).
Perhaps your grass is receiving too much sunlight in that location… or perhaps your irrigation system isn’t keeping that section of grass as well hydrated as the rest of your lawn.
If you did put down too much fertilizer or if you have a young child running around barefoot in the yard, you may want to consider feeding your lawn with a high nitrogen fertilizer. This will help replace some of the nutrients that were lost when it burned and keep your grass green and growing well until the burn is completely repaired.
On the other hand, if you suspect that the browning effect is due to over-applying fertilizer (which can happen when using a commercial spreader), then be sure to read my article on How To Fix Lawn Fertilizer Problems.
Assuming you’ve already made any corrections for this year and it’s now early summer, here are some timeframes for waiting before reseeding an area where grass has turned completely brown:
- If fertilization occurred only one month prior, wait at least two months before reseeding
- If fertilization occurred three months prior, wait at least four months before reseeding
- If fertilization occurred six months prior, wait at least eight months before reseeding
- Do not apply more than the recommended amount of fertilizer per application
- Apply granular fertilizers at night when temperatures are cooler
- Avoid applying fertilizers with high nitrogen content to newly seeded areas of your lawn for six weeks after seeding
You might have heard that nitrogen creates a slow burn because it adds fuel to heat created by other, faster-acting components in your fertilizer. This means that if you have just put down some quick-release nitrogen fertilizer or a sulfur product, it’s timing to water the lawn.
However, if you have a longer-acting type of fertilizer, watering can actually reduce its effectiveness. If your job requires that you work with fertilizers often then invest in a propane torch kit for safer application
However, these are general guidelines… and your results may vary depending on the grass species involved (e.g., most people would not bother with re-seeding Kentucky bluegrass or Bermuda grass).
Nevertheless, any time you’re in doubt about whether it’s ok to re-seed an area that has experienced fertilizer burn, just remember that the lawn will be just fine without this section of grass for another few weeks or even months.
Grass Fertilizer Burn: A Case Study
At first glance, it seems like an easy enough problem to solve – just stop using the fertilizer and restart your lawn care regimen without it. Unfortunately, more factors come into play when it comes to determining if you can reestablish a grass lawn after fertilizer burn.
Fertilizer burn is not always as easy to fix as simply stopping the use of chemical fertilizers. In fact, applying too much fertilizer is very common and most homeowners don’t even know it’s causing issues with their lawns until they see signs of damage such as yellowing and brown patches in their yard.
The problem with this type of damage is that the roots aren’t just dying back up top, but instead dying from the root system all the way down into your soil. This makes how you ultimately deal with your lawn even more important than normal.
What Causes Grass Fertilizer Burn?
Fertilizer burn is not uncommon, especially if you put too much fertilizer on your lawn. If you aren’t careful to spread it evenly and follow the directions of the bag exactly, then you run the risk of burning your grass.
It occurs when there’s so much nitrogen in one place that it literally poisons the soil out from underneath.
The grass is very sensitive to fertilizer changes and requires only a small amount of it per year for proper growth.
Typical rates are no more than 2 lbs per 1000 square feet for most home landscapes – any more than this will cause damage to your landscape.
Typically these chemicals are slow-release meaning they can last up to 3-4 months once applied to your lawn.
It’s also important to note that when it comes to grass, more isn’t better – in fact, when you use too much fertilizer you end up burning your yard instead of helping it grow.
Will My Lawn Recover?
Unfortunately, the effects of fertilizer burn are long-term and irreversible. The best thing for your lawn is to let it completely recover before applying fertilizer again. After this occurs, you can spread the amount recommended on the package evenly over time after heavy rainfall or watering your lawn.
Aerating your soil will help alleviate issues with compaction as well, which often cause problems with rapid growth in grasses later on down the road.
Unfortunately, if damage has already occurred to your roots, you’re looking at a lot more work than if this was preventable. If the grass has already died back then it must be reseeded or that particular area may need to be resodded depending on the extent of damage that has occurred.
In cases where fertilizer burn is severe enough, complete removal of the dead lawn and filling in with new soil will likely be needed as well.
“I recently planted some new grass in my backyard and used a fertilizer that I purchased at home depot. As soon as I started applying the fertilizer, which has “weed and feeds” labels on it, I immediately noticed that all of the grass began dying and turning brown within 48 hours.”
So don’t sweat it if you discover brown spots in your yard caused by the over-application of lawn fertilizer. Just keep in mind how hot it is getting so you can water deeply a few times a week.
Grass expert Jeff Gillman, author of “The Truth About Garden Remedies” (Storey Publishing, 2010) has some good news for homeowners who were caught by the hot spell and fear they may have damaged their lawns with too much fertilizer.
The burn won’t kill existing grass plants, but it will prevent them from vigorous regrowth until fall when cooler temperatures prevail. You’ll just need to give your lawn additional water so it can heal itself.
Fertilizer doesn’t really contain salt, which is what causes plants to wilt when applied in excess. A more likely culprit in your case would be the nitrogen component in fertilizer that stimulates lush new growth that can’t sustain itself without ample water.
“A fertilizer burn looks a lot like drought damage, because the same thing that will cause the plant to wilt from too much water – namely, lack of roots – occurs when there is too much nitrogen,” says Gillman. “If you look closely at the leaves, they might be turning yellow too.”
Gillman advises homeowners who suspect they have suffered fertilizer burn to give their lawns an extra-generous soaking this weekend and next week and then resume normal watering habits.
He also suggests mowing your grass higher during the summer months so it shades itself from direct sunlight and can better withstand heat stress without suffering permanent damage.
If you’re still unsure whether you’ve caused irreparable harm to your lawn or not, consider Gillman’s advice in his book: “The best thing to do is wait and see. It will take the grass about three weeks to tell you what’s up.”
How do you fix fertilizer-damaged grass?
There are various methods of removing the fungus and damaged grass. If it’s early in the season and your lawn didn’t go into winter with that much damage, then some quick fixes will get you back on track for a successful summer.
1. The first thing you need to do is identify where the damaged portion of the lawn is located so that you can take corrective action by either cutting out these areas or using chemicals to kill them off, which would include organic herbicides such as corn gluten meal.
2. You have two options here: either cut out or chemically treat any problem areas until there is no sign of damaged grass left in your lawn. Once this has been done, prepare your soil by making sure it has proper aeration through core cultivation. Lawns require around 3/4″ of air space between the grass blades and the soil beneath them.
3. Use a layer of topsoil to cover these areas, then again aerate the soil with core cultivation, which helps with water drainage by reducing puddles that can lead to more damage to your lawn. Topdress the area with compost or fertilizer after it has been properly prepared with aeration.
4. Apply nitrogen-rich organic materials such as cottonseed meal or soybean meal over these problem areas of your lawn every three months through winter so that there will be continuous feeding all summer long without having any dead spots in your lawn come summertime, which takes some time if you don’t have too much damage but is well worth it in the end.
If you do not water properly after a burn, or if rain does not fall for several days after a burn occurred, you could end up with brown spots in your lawn that never grow back.
If this happens, try raking out these spots and reseeding them.
You can also drill holes into these spots and add grass seed directly to them (not recommended). What I like to do is usually add topsoil over them and lay sod on top of this area once it has regrown enough to transplant sod.