Landscape & Gardening

Patching Dead Spots in Your Lawn

Does most of your lawn look great but you have a few areas that the grass is brown or non-existent? There could be a number of causes for this and they need to be treated before you start to repair the area.

We hate to admit it but some of the damage to our lawns could be caused by us or our pets; insects can also play a big role in damage to a lawn, along with Mother Nature.

Here is a list of potential causes of your brown spots.

Human and Animal Damage

Unfortunately, it’s very easy for us (and our pets) to damage lawns. Some common causes of brown spots include:

  • Dull Mower: Dull mower blades tear your grass, causing damage and gradual death to the grass.
  • Scalping: If your mower blade is set too low or there are lumps in the lawn, it can cut the grass too short and cause damage.

  • Chemicals: Gasoline, fertilizer, herbicides, and pesticides can cause dead spots if spilled. If fertilizer is applied unevenly or incorrectly, it can burn the grass. Even insect repellents can burn your lawn when sprayed on the grass blades.
  • Animal Urine: Dogs are the most common culprit, but large birds and other animals can cause urine spots, too. Urine usually causes your lawn to turn yellow in spots, sometimes with a bright green ring around the edges where the diluted nitrogen in the urine acts as a fertilizer.

Take a sample of stems, roots, and soil for analysis.

Poor Growing Conditions

The conditions in your yard may be unfavorable for grass to grow:

  • Poor Soil: Soil quality can vary in your lawn, and poor soil can occur in patches, causing brown, bare areas or moss.
  • Buried Debris: I once puzzled over a brown patch for weeks before finding an old piece of buried lumber under the grass.

Compacted soil.

  • Erosion: Water tends to run off slopes, taking grass seeds and young shoots with it, and leaving bare ground or dried out areas behind.
  • Roots: Large trees or shrubs usually win the battle for water and nutrients. The area under trees is notoriously difficult for growing grass.
  • Drought: Lawns need one inch of water per week, either from rainfall or irrigation. Dry, compacted spots are more easily drought-damaged.
  • Dormancy: Cool-season lawns can go dormant during the heat of summer while warm-season lawns go dormant during the winter. If your lawn has a mix of grasses, you’ll have curious brown patches as some areas go dormant while others stay green.

Brown spots caused by dormant Bermuda grass mixed with green fescue.

Common Lawn Diseases and Pests

If you’ve eliminated all the above causes, it’s time to move on to some of the more serious diseases and pests that plague lawn grasses. Some of the most common culprits are:

  • Thatch: Thatch is a buildup of decaying grass blades that can build up so thick that it chokes out healthy grass.
  • Grubs: Grubs are a common problem in mid to late summer, and most easily identified when your sod easily pulls back from the ground like a carpet.
  • Chinch bugs: Chinch bugs are a common summer pest in warm-season lawns, especially in hot sunny patches beside driveways and sidewalks.

  • Other insects: Caterpillars and other pests can live part of their life cycle in lawns.
  • Fungal Diseases: Brown patch and other fungal diseases thrive in moist conditions, most often in midsummer (when nights and days are hot and humid) and spring (as snow melts). They may show up as circular or irregular brown spots, or you may notice a spotting or infected pattern on the blades or a generally dying/thinning out.

Once you understand the problem, here are some remedies for each situation from

Now that you have determined the issue with you lawn and fixed the cause, you need to patch the bad areas. On the next page are instructions on how to patch the dead spots in your lawn.



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