rolling aerator

How to Revive a Hard Dry Lawn

The process can be as simple as just adding water but the benefits of the following watering program have proven to speed and improve the recovery whilst saving time and water.

Just to clarify, we are not talking here about repairing burnt, dry, dormant or brown lawns that have been damaged or killed by the dry weather. This is just about seeing if we can bring the lawn back to a green healthy state as quickly and completely as possible. You should consider current river and reservoir levels, the environment and any water restrictions before watering. Rarely is this necessary but it may be applicable to your area this year.

Watering to revive the lawn may not work completely in which case some or all of the lawn is dead. Extended dry weather on heavily used or older lawns sometimes means recovery may not be 100% successful. Undertaking this revival method sooner rather than later is always wise as the longer the lawn remains dry and brown the less chance it has of coming back from dormancy.

The process can be as simple as just adding water. If you lawn is fairly new or has been well maintained with light use you may only need to run the sprinkler for an hour a day in any one spot two or three times over a week. If that works without run-off or you've been lucky and had enough rain, and the lawn recovers uniformly then well done for maintaining a great lawn.

CPR for a Dry Lawn

If your lawn is more than 10 years old, has had a lot of use, is in a dry part of the country or you have had previous problems with run-off, dryness, dry patches or compaction then follow this program. Also, if you are just watering or it's rained and there was run-off or pooling in any more than a few places then this program is also for you. It is far better to pre-empt problems whilst they are not a big issue and whilst the weather is in your favour than end up with dead areas and no time to repair before the onset of winter. The benefits of the program are:

  • More problem areas will come good as well as easy to revive ones
  • It works faster than by just watering
  • You’ll use less water
  • It’ll stay greener longer

If you are relying on rain rather than watering adjust the schedule accordingly.

Water Slowly

We are all aware of the potential for flooding after extended dry periods: the soil can't absorb heavy rain which runs off rapidly, overflowing rivers and ending up flooding residences and businesses. To avoid run-off when reviving the lawn we need to take it slowly so as not to cause run-off and waste water.

Wetting Agent Day 1

Adding a wetting agent massively helps water penetrate hard to wet soils and increases the amount of water that the soil can hold. One application followed by a second one after a few weeks will work wonders and is very easy to do with a watering can, sprayer or spreader depending on the wetting agent used.

If more than 50% of the lawn is dry treat all areas. If you just have distinct patches then to economise you could just treat those but extend the application to cover an area slightly larger than the patch itself.

Aerating Day 2

If you have some kind of aerator or spiker then on day 2 run over the lawn with it to just prick the surface, don’t force it. Even tiny holes just a few millimeters deep will help rain or water penetrate your lawn. This will help speed the process up and though very beneficial is not essential.

A Cunning Plan

Nothing to do with Blackadder but a customer cleverly attached diving weights to his rolling aerator as in the top image. This meant he could pull it rather than push and still manage sufficient aeration as required for a hard lawn. Having tried it ourselves we can confirm it is easy to set-up, works a treat and is super-fast to cover a lawn even the size of a tennis court. Any heavy weight up to a couple of kilos that can be safely and securely attached should do. 

Watering Day 2 or Wait for Rain

Start to water by sprinkler in any one area for just 15 minutes. This should be done after aerating. If water starts running off before 15 minutes is up, then move the sprinkler after less time to another area and then come back to it as you rotate your watering around the lawn.

Watering Day 4 or Wait for Rain

Repeat day 2 watering and try to increase the watering time a little to around 30 minutes in any one spot.

Watering Day 6 or Wait for Rain

If you’ve managed some aeration and added the wetting agent, you should now be able to water for an hour in any one spot. It is also important at this stage to switch to watering in the morning. 

Week 2

You should now start to see some green shoots as recovery begins. You will need to continue to water weekly if there is no rain to stop the lawn reverting to its dormant state. The good news is that you won't need as much water due to the actions of the wetting agent. See How to Water the Lawn


By week 3 now you’ll be seeing a green recovery so assist the lawn by providing much needed nutrients. If this fits in with your feeding program apply a granular feed, or if you’re between summer and autumn feeds apply a liquid feed. This will give the grass the energy to grow new leaves to replace the dead brown ones that are still present.


Make sure to scarify the lawn if needed and there is sufficient time left before winter for seed to germinate. If this is not required a good raking to remove dead brown grass leaves followed by the autumn feed is all that should be required. Oh, and aerate some more by all means. You just can’t over do it.