A lush, green lawn creates an inviting atmosphere around your home, but in drought-prone areas, maintaining that idyllic green turf naturally is next to impossible. Lawn painting arose as a way to enjoy the best of both worlds: an evenly green lawn without the high water bills. Better yet, it’s a simple, affordable process you can do yourself.
How Lawn Painting Restores Your Lawn’s Looks
Lawn paint, also called grass paint or turf colorant, is a spray-on product used to cover brown spots or enhance the color of a faded lawn. Most often made from kaolin clay or plant-based pigments, it’s generally considered safe for people and the environment. The color looks natural, so no one can tell the lawn has been painted.
Lawn painting has been around for decades, but it’s usually been reserved for businesses that depend on the appearance of their grass, such as golf courses and hotel resorts. With ongoing droughts and water restrictions in many parts of the country, though, lawn painting is becoming increasingly popular among homeowners.
Some use the paint to cover brown spots in their drought-stricken lawns, while others use it to hide areas where their pets often urinate. Still, others paint their lawns to keep them green while they’re dormant in winter. It’s also helpful for improving curb appeal when you’re trying to sell a house, although you’ll want to let your potential buyers know you used paint.
Beautiful and Safe, but Not a Cure-All
Because lawn paint is made from non-toxic, biodegradable ingredients, it’s harmless to people, pets, and wildlife. While it’s not known to cause any serious damage to plants, soil or watersheds, there’s some debate about its effects.
The concern is that lawn painting is typically done on grass that’s dormant or dehydrated, but not dead. This is partly because healthy, dormant grass absorbs the paint best, but also because there’s little reason to paint a dead lawn. If the grass is dead, paint will keep it looking presentable for a while, but the grass will eventually break down to the point that you’ll need to remove it and reseed your lawn.
Applied to brown, but living grass, lawn paint is a stop-gap solution. It tides you over until your dormant or dry lawn turns green again on its own once the rain returns. The problem is that living grass needs water and lawn paint somewhat inhibits grass blades’ ability to take in water. Theoretically, that can weaken your lawn. If you suspect your lawn isn’t in great health or you’re not sure if it’s even alive, consult a landscaper before you paint.
Lawn painting isn’t an alternative to watering, either. Instead, it lets you cut back to the minimum recommended 1 1/2 inches of water per week or less if local water restrictions require. You’ll get some yellowing and brown spots, which you can then cover with lawn paint.
Lawn paints vary in quality and not all give the same results. Some might last for months, while others fade faster. Some rub off on your clothes and your pets’ paws while others stay put. Certain brands can also give the grass a stiff, crunchy feel, which makes it less pleasant to walk and sit on.
Lawn Painting Options: Hire a Pro or DIY
If you live in a drought-prone area, chances are your local landscapers are experienced with lawn painting. Prices vary by region, but generally run between 15 to 20 cents per square foot.
If you’d prefer to save some money, though, the job is simple enough to do yourself. You’ll need a garden sprayer, and you can pick up a bottle of concentrated lawn paint for around $25 to $30 that will cover up to 500 square feet of lawn. From there, just follow the product instructions. Most use the same basic application process:
Prepare your lawn – Wait for a sunny, dry, windless day when no rain is in the forecast for the next day or two. Mow your lawn and let it dry. Use tarps, painter’s drop cloths or similar material to cover plants and landscaping features bordering the lawn to protect them from the lawn paint. That includes shrubs, groundcover plants, fences, and sidewalks. This step is important because lawn paint can discolor other plants and won’t easily wash off your sidewalks and other hardscaping.
Prepare the paint – With most products, you can mix the paint with water right in your garden sprayer. Start with the paint-to-water ratio the product instructions recommend. Set your sprayer to a fine mist. Test the paint on an inconspicuous part of your grass to make sure it’s the color you want. If it isn’t, add more paint or water as needed.
Spray on the green – When you’re happy with the paint color, spray the grass in steady, back-and-forth movements to get even coverage. You might need more than one coat. Let the paint dry before you water any nearby plants or let anyone walk on the lawn.
Maintaining Your Painted Lawn
How long your grass holds its new color depends on several factors. A lawn painting job can fade after a month or stay looking fresh for half a year, but most last for two or three months.
The biggest factor is the condition of your lawn. If it’s completely dead, the paint will last longer because the grass isn’t growing, and you’re not mowing or watering it. If the grass is dormant, the paint will appear to fade when the grass starts to grow again, much like dyed hair starts to show roots as it grows. That’s usually not a problem because the new grass is a healthy, natural green. Frequent rain and mowing, and heavy foot traffic can also wear away your lawn paint.
If the brown spots in your lawn are getting you down, lawn painting is an easy, low-cost way to restore your lawn to a rich, even, and healthy color. While you’ll still need to water regularly to keep your grass alive, you can cut back somewhat and still have a lawn that makes you proud.