Does your lawn look more like January than September? Want to keep it looking its green best as long as you can instead of browning out for the winter?
Don’t worry. You can spruce your brown lawn up and boost your curb appeal without intensive work or breaking the bank.
Lawn paint can have your lawn looking a verdant green in just a couple hours.
“It’s a great do-it-yourself project, you can get into it relatively easy,” says Grady Miller, professor and extension specialist with North Carolina State University. “Next thing you know you’re Picasso.”
Spray painting your lawn green, as golf courses and athletic fields have done for decades, will keep your green lawn looking its best.
Grass Paint: What It Is, What It Isn’t
Yep. Many people use products to paint or dye their lawns to give dormant grass a uniform and healthy-looking green color. The products go by several names, including “turf paint” and “turf colorant.” The practice started on Southern golf courses, where keeping putting greens a consistent green has value, and spread from there to residential neighborhoods.
Nope, it’s not just “keeping-ahead-of-the-Joneses” lawn vanity: Painting your grass may help it weather cold winter months.
Also what it’s not: regular paint. The paint is special, not regular spray paint on the shelf at your local hardware store.
It’s also not that viscous spray used by contractors when trying to establish a new lawn. That’s hydroseed — a mix of seed, fiber mulch and fertilizer sprayed to help a lawn get established.
“If someone says, ‘Hey, I’d like a green lawn,’ it’s relatively easy to do,” Miller says.
Just like overseeding, lawn paint can keep your lawn full of green grass all winter.
It’s also a more-affordable option than overseeding, and can do more than just turn your yard green.
Landscapers Do It
Miller, an author of the North Carolina State guide, says he’s seen more professional landscape and lawn care companies using colorant to hide blemishes and stress from drought.
“It’s an aesthetic type of product,” he says. “By and large these are going to be used for a more-attractive” lawn.
Miller says it may not be as popular to homeowners because of product availability and because homeowners likely just aren’t aware it’s an option.
Lawn paint is also used on drought-stricken grasses or during periods of water restrictions to present a more even appearance. It conceals brown spots or dead grass and increases surface temperature, which may aid plant growth during the cold weather to come.
Grass paint has its drawbacks, though, the guide points out. It doesn’t provide a wearable surface, meaning if the paint wears off in a spot the green stays gone.
Uneven appearances are also a risk if the applicator isn’t careful when spraying.
So before you give your brown grass a new coat of summer green, consider the paint (buy it? make it?) the preparations, the precautions and the techniques.
The Paint: Choose the Right Stuff
The first step is choosing your paint.
Miller listed product selection first when asked about top concerns for a homeowner looking to paint their lawn.
He says homeowners will likely have to go to a commercial supplier or turn to the internet for their lawn paint.
A quick search of Amazon and company websites turns up plenty of lawn paint options for the ambitious homeowner.
Products such as LawnStar, EnviroColor and Lawnlift grass paint offer options in both concentrated form and ready-to-spray bottles.
On average, a 32-ounce bottle will run you about $30. That’s enough to cover 500-1,000 square feet, according to LawnStar.
Buying in bulk can save you some money. A 1-gallon jug from manufacturer Endurant sells on Amazon for $75. That’s enough to cover 10,000 square feet of lawn, Endurant says, for a paint that will last about three months.
Lawnlift, which also makes mulch paints to spruce up the look of last year’s fading mulch, also says its products last up to three months, depending on how often you mow.
Many times, though, product labels aren’t very clear as far as rates and application, Miller says. So you may have to experiment on what works well for your situation.
Making Your Own Lawn Paint
If those prices seem a little steep for covering a few dead spots in your lawn, you can make your own grass paint at home.
For the DIY green-grass-paint, you’ll need Epsom salt, liquid fertilizer and green food coloring. For a small- to medium-sized lawn, mix 1 pound fertilizer with 4 pounds Epsom salt and one-quarter cup green food coloring.
Epsom salt adds magnesium and iron to the lawn, though. This may not be the best idea if you’ve got healthy soil nutrient balance.
If that’s the case, simply replace the Epsom salt with water. It’s the food coloring that serves as the grass dye.
So you’ve got the paint. What now?
First, some precautions. Lawn paint is paint and it will color whatever it touches.
“Most of these are permanent,” Miller warns, especially on porous surfaces like concrete. “If you paint your sidewalk green, it’s going to stay green.”
Miller says he’s seen golf courses turn their tee markers green, and urged caution around places such as driveways or the walls of your house.
Be cautious of where you’re painting, he says. A cardboard screen or other splash guard can protect those surfaces.
Lawnlift’s guide says not to paint in windy conditions and to mask off any areas you don’t want to turn green.
It also offers some other precautions:
- Wear protective eyewear, gloves and a breathing mask.
- Keep a bucket of soap handy with a wire brush to remove any accidental overspray quickly.
- Wear old shoes you don’t mind getting stained.
As with any other paint application, the color of the surface you’re painting has a lot of say about how the final color turns out.
For best results, don’t wait until your grass is entirely straw-brown. The natural green color of active turf will greatly enhance any paint or colorant you add. Miller says the greener the grass already is, the better it will take the color. It’s the same as with a bare wall or fence, he says.
Moist turf will also make a difference.
If your grass is extremely dry, the blades will absorb the paint, so you will need more paint per square foot.
Make sure your lawn isn’t too wet, though. Puddling will dilute the application, give you an off-color and extend drying time.
Next is your sprayer. A normal, handheld pump sprayer used for pesticides, fertilizer or other liquids will work fine.
Make sure you follow the manufacturer’s instructions and product information to get the correct concentrate-to-water ratio.
Lawnlift says to set the sprayer to its finest setting to get the best coverage and give the whole sprayer a shake periodically. This will avoid the pigment settling and the nozzle clogging.
The Techniques: 5 Tips for Grass-Painting
- Paint a test spot. In an out-of-the-way corner of your lawn, try the paint out to make sure you get the right color. You may need a couple passes for a darker green, or to dilute the mixture to lighten it up. It’s like painting a wall, Miller says. If you don’t feel like you’ve got good coverage, go over it again.
- Spray consistently. Spray about 6 to 8 inches from the surface in a sweeping, overlapping motion. In areas bordering driveways or other surfaces you don’t want to paint, you can pour some of the mixture into a small spray bottle for greater accuracy.
- Avoid striping. Spray in a random, orbital pattern. This will keep the paint from striping and give the lawn a more even, natural look.
- Clean up immediately. Once you’re finished, immediately clean your sprayer until the water comes out clear. Also clean up any stained concrete or other surfaces before the paint can fully dry.
- Let it dry completely. Check the manufacturer’s recommended drying time. You’ll be able to get back out in your yard in as little as 30 minutes, or you may have to wait as much as 24 hours. The smell should also dissipate automatically, no need to take precautions as you would when painting indoors.
Sources: Lawnlift and Envirocolor
Miller offers some more advice, saying that the products can fade over time and some fade less-attractively than others.
To get the green color, companies mix blue and yellow pigments, he says. It seems like the yellows fade quicker, leaving the blue behind.
And Miller says that once it gets too blue — think Smurf blue —it’s too late to turn it back green. The trick is to reapply the colorant before the paint fades too much.
Maybe that all sounds like a daunting task for a first-timer. Don’t worry, lawn care services and professional landscapers can also handle this one for you.
The pros may be able to use larger applicators, such as walki-behind or pull-behind boom sprayers. And as the North Carolina State guide says, even if using the smaller hand sprayer, a well-practiced hand can yield excellent results.
But one thing’s for sure: After a successful coat of paint, you’ll have the greenest lawn on the block in no time.