Drive around any neighbourhood in Vancouver and you’ll likely spot a wide variation in lawn colour ranging from straw yellow and lime to dark bottle green. Even within the same yard, you might notice that the colour of your lawn isn’t consistent.

The shade of green varies depending on the species of grass as well as factors such as the nutrients your lawn is getting, the soil’s pH level (this lets you know whether your lawn’s soil is too alkaline or too acidy), or how “stressed” your lawn is due to wear. Disease and drought can also play into the mix.

Fertilizer provides lawns that are nutrient-poor with the ingredients they need to stay a dark, rich green. The darker the green, the more chlorophyll each leaf reflects.

The colour of your lawn can be an early sign that it’s in poor health. A home pH test is a quick and inexpensive DIY approach that can determine what changes you need to make. If your lawn’s acidity is too high, you apply lime. If the alkaline level is too high, you give your lawn a boost of iron.

With less sunlight energy, your grass produces less chlorophyll and loses its colour.

Both the shade and intensity can be a sign of lawn

Colours, and what they mean

  • Green – The chlorophyll in leaves reflects green colours. The darker the green, the greater the amount of chlorophyll. Nitrogen, iron and magnesium are important in producing the green colour of leaves.
  • Yellow – Carotenoids are pigments that reflect yellow colours in leaves. These are present in the leaves all of the time, but you only see them when the turf is deficient of chlorophyll. Deficiencies in chlorophyll occur from lack of sufficient nitrogen, iron, or magnesium, and also from diseases.
  • Red – Anthocyanins are natural pigments in leaves, and reflect red and blue colours. These too are present in leaves most of the time, but are only seen when either the chlorophyll content is low or they are produced in great quantities. When red is observed in turf, it can mean the grass is stressed, or it can be a harmless feature that differentiates that species of grass from others. For example, when leaves turn red in the cool spring and autumn it means that the plant cannot grow and produce chlorophyll very effectively. Usually, warmer temperatures will cure this situation. On the other hand, the red seen at the base of ryegrass leaves is a natural characteristic of that grass. Stress from disease can also result in higher levels of pigments.
  • Orange – Pigments that reflect orange light are generally not produced by the grass plant, but by fungi.
  • Rust diseases that attack grass leaves produce spores that are orange or red-orange in colour. You can rub them off the leaf, whip them into the air with the lawnmower, or cover your wellies with them by walking through the turf. Rusts are pathogens that can kill the leaves of your turf, but, in general, they do not kill your entire turf plant.
  • Tan – When turf turns tan or straw coloured, it is dead. Individual blades of grass will die, and under certain conditions the entire turf may die in patches.
  • In general, the death of individual leaves can result from the natural ageing process, but this is generally a gradual process and not noticeable by a casual observer.
  • Disease, drought, excessive heat or insensitive athletic use also can result in leaf death.

Seeding Your Lawn

Chances are that part of your lawn