How to Patch Bare Spots In Your Lawn

If you’re here because you’ve got bare spots in your yard, then let us help. Because nothing brings down a beautiful lawn like dead patches of grass.

THE MAIN CAUSES OF BARE SPOTS IN YOUR YARD

Those patchy, ugly bare spots  in your lawn are often caused by fungi, pests, compacted soil, an excess of shade or even mowing and watering habits (hey, it happens!). So, step one is to figure out the reason you’ve got those patches in the first place.

  • Dull mower blades: These will tear at your grass, causing damage and gradual death. So, sharpen those blades! After you mow, scope out the grass you cut to ensure your mower cut the yard cleanly.
  • Cutting grass too short: Make sure your blades aren’t cutting the grass too short. It’s recommended you don’t cut more than ⅓ of grass bladed at a time.
  • Dog urine: While patches in your yard can be caused by large birds, deer or other wildlife, dogs are the most common culprits. Start by ensuring your pooch is drinking enough water to dilute the nitrogen in their urine and make sure your lawn is getting watered too. If this persists, you may want to consult your vet. Nitrogen in dog urine comes from protein metabolism, so Fido might be better off eating a lower-protein diet.  
  • Poor Soil: The quality of your soil is the key to everything, so make sure it’s not compacted or lacking nutrients by getting your soil lab tested. (Every  Sunday subscription comes with a complementary lab test.)
  • Roots: Are trees or rose bushes competing for water and nutrients in your yard? Their roots will win, if so. Consider mulching under those areas since it can be quite difficult to grow grass near tree roots or under shrubs.
  • Erosion: Not all yards are perfectly flat. Those with slopes may get dead patches more easily since water will run down the hillier areas, taking grass seeds and young shoots with it. Address this with aeration, to increase water absorption. If your yard has a steep slope, consider building terraces or planting groundcover.
  • Thatch: If you’ve got excessive thatch, you’ll get decaying grass. Quickest way to fix this is to dethatch your yard.
  • Drought: Dry, compacted spots in your yard may be drought-damaged. The best thing you can do is to make sure water, from watering or rainfall, can reach the root system that’s past the topsoil. Aerate your entire lawn if the timing is right, and spot-aerate those dry, sunny spots.
  • Chemicals: If fertilizer is applied unevenly or incorrectly, it can “burn” the grass, so be sure to follow the directions for application to the letter.
  • Dormancy: While seasonal dormancy is normal (cold-season lawns in the summer heat, warm-season lawns in the winter), make sure your lawn is getting the nutrients it needs all year round to stay healthy and strong.
  • Debris: It’s not a bad idea to double-check beneath the dried sod in dead patches that something isn’t buried there. Just to rule it out! Dead lumber, metal, old toys … these can all affect grass health.
  • Insects: Grubs, chinch bugs and other pests can cause problems. You’ll want to take a microscopic look at those dry patches, checking under the sod for fat white worms, small bugs with white wings folded across their backs and other creepy crawlies that may be munching on grass blades. You can treat for grubs and other insects once you know what kind you’re dealing with.
  • Fungal Disease: Fungi often appears as circular or irregular brown spots in yards, so scope out the patches in your yard with a discerning eye. Be sure your lawn is getting the sunlight it needs, as most fungal diseases thrive in shade and moist conditions. You may need to call in an expert to help diagnose and treat lawn fungal disease.

So, got a turf that needs to be treated? If you’ve eliminated fungi, bugs, grubs, pests and other causes like thatch, you may just need some seeds.

4 STEPS TO PATCHING YOUR LAWN LIKE A PRO

  1. Rake the patchy area well, and pick up any leaves and debris in the turf. Be sure to break up any clumpy soil. (No rake? You can use a handheld garden tool too.)
  2. Scatter the seeds over the affected area of your lawn, then spread about ½-inch of compost, peat moss or topsoil over them.
  3. Gently rake over the scattered seeds to encourage good seed-to-soil contact.

Water the seeds in the early morning and evening until they germinate, opting for your hose’s gentler setting. Be sure not to drench the area.

BONUS TIPS: If you know you have non-draining soil, like Southern Red Clay, try adding compost when you dig into your patchy area. If you know you have a St. Augustine lawn, skip seeding and instead sod or plug your bare spots.