Brown Patches in Lawn? (Causes + How to Fix)

The sight of patches with the dead, dying, or dormant grass is very unpleasing, especially if your neighbor next door has a lush green carpet on their lawn. This clearly points that there is a serious problem with your lawn.

The good news is that there are many ways of fixing a patchy lawn. But before you even figure out how to fix the ugly looking patches on your lawn, you must first identify the cause of the patches.

What Causes Brown Patches in Lawn?

Below are the main reasons why your grass is dying in patches:

1. Insects and pests

Lawn insects and pests like Japanese beetles are some of the causes of dead or dying grass on the lawn. This is because they feed on the succulent flesh of the grass straw while some like the grubs feed on the roots of the grass.

This makes the grass to dry off because when the roots are cut off, and the grass plant will have no source of nourishment. This problem is solved by spraying insecticide on the lawn to kill the insects and pests.

2. Dehydration

Lack of watering the grass often causes dehydration of the grass straws and the grass dies. During the dry and humid summer season, the weather is quite hot, because of the reduction in the levels of rainfall. So through evaporation, the grass straws lose their water and as a result, their succulent lush green flesh dries out.

Uneven application of too much fertilizer on some spots can also cause the grass to dry off. This happens when the chemicals in the fertilizer suck water from and around the grass, causing it to start dying.

3. Too much shade

Too much shade, especially from the bushy trees, blocks sunlight from reaching the grass. And because the sunlight is the source of the main nourishment, the grass in those spots starts to dry off.

At the same time when the lawn has not been mowed for a long time, the taller grass blocks shorter ones from getting enough sunlight for their enhanced normal growth.

Too much shade on some spots on the lawn does not only block sunlight; it also prevents the grass from those specific spots from gaining nutrients such as water and fertilizer.

4. Floods

During torrential rainfall in seasons, groundwater may be collected and settle in some spots that are lower than the rest of the ground on the lawn. Too much water works the same as a complete lack of any.

Too much standing water in yard blocks air from reaching the roots of the grass hence causing the grass to dry off. At the same time, too much water can also cause the death of grass in some spots due to decay and rotting.

This is why you should slope your lawn away from your house to prevent surface runoff from settling on your lawns or gardens.

5. Compacted soil

When some lawns go for years without the grass being changed or aerated, the soil can become so compacted. As a result of this soil compaction, the grassroots are not able to spread deep and far enough.

As a result, the grass straw lacks a strong foundation and since it cannot acquire the essential nutrients from the soil, the grass on that spot starts thinning and finally it dries off. Soil compaction is rectified by frequent land tilling and aeration.

6. Traffic on the lawn

Let’s face it; the appearance of a lush green lawn is very exciting and tempting to play on. At times the urge to sit on or play with your kids and pets on the lawn becomes so immense and you have to give in.

Unfortunately, when playing on your lawn, you tend to break so many grass blades and this is the reason for some thinning patches on the lawn.

The worst-case scenario is when the pets leave some poop or urine on the grass. The mess itself has some chemical composition that is not friendly to the growth of the grass. It also blocks sunlight from reaching the grass on that particular spot, thus causing it to start drying off.

7. Too little nutrients

Lack of fertilizer application on lawn grass deprives it of essential nutrients that support its normal growth. NPK Fertilizers contain a mix of all the essential nutrients that the grass needs; phosphorus, potassium, and nitrogen.

On the other hand, too much fertilizer only does more harm than good. It excessively raises the PH of the soil, and this makes it unbearable for the grass and it may even start drying off.

8. Dog urine spots

Dog urine contain strong traces of nitrogen and other salts that will potentially shift the soil pH thus causing grass to die in patches. Dog urine spots can be minimized by watering of the affected areas to dilute the concentration of the salts.

How to Fix Brown Patches in your Lawn

The process of fixing a patchy lawn begins by first killing the dying grass and then removing the dead grass from the turf. If the grass is just dormant, spray a kill chemical on the patches and ensure to do it so close to prevent the kill from reaching the healthy grass. Then use a sod cutter or steel rake to remove the dead grass.

After you have removed the turf, aerate the soil using a rake. Apply some organic or compost fertilizer and mix it with some bits of topsoil. This provides the grass with enhanced root development.

After you have planted the seeds, cover them with mulch and sprinkle water on it. Mulch helps provide warmth for the speedy seed germination rate. Your lawn should restore its lush green beauty with thick grass within 2-3 weeks.

Although I have shown you how to fix patches in your lawn, you should aim at preventing bald spots and patches in your lawn through the following:

1. Fertilize the grass

Applying fertilizer after years with the same grass on your lawn can help restore nourishment in the soil. Most fertilizers are organic and contain nutrients such as phosphorus, potassium, and nitrogen, all of which are important for the proper growth of the grass.

Alternatively, you can also apply compost fertilizer, which you can make in your backyard. Remember not to overdo the application of fertilizer since this will only cause more growth of weeds, requiring you to weed the grass more often.

2. Mow the grass 

Allowing the grass to grow too long deprives the shorter grass of essential nutrients. This is because longer blades bock sunlight from reaching the shorter ones and this leaves them weak and deprived of water and nutrients.

As a result, the lawn gets some bald patches with thinning or without grass at all. Remember not to mow your new grass before it attains the height of 4 inches. Never mow ¾ inch of your grass at once; doing so only exposes the freshly cut blades to weather elements, and this could result in thinning.

3. Water it often

Watering helps in proper growth of lawn grass in so many ways. It helps reduce soil compactness, thereby enhancing root development.

Start with little amounts of water after planting the new grass seeds to prevent drowning them. Then increase the amount of water as the grass grows taller and stronger.

If you live in a rather dry and humid climatic zone, then you will need to water the grass thrice per week. If you are so busy, consider using smart and programmable sprinkler so that it can automatically turn on at specific set times.

Automatic sprinkler will also help reduce the chances of flooding because you can also set it to run for a specified amount of time.

4. Aerate the soil

Failing to aerate your soil makes it compact and hard such that the roots can no longer spread far and deep enough for proper growth. Aerating it using a steel rake helps mix the foundation and topsoil, hence providing the grass with proper root development.

5. Reduce the shade

You cannot have the luxury of shade and grass at the same place. The bushy trees block the grass from accessing sunlight and this makes it weak and consequently, it starts thinning.

So if you want the aesthetic appeal of the grass, you have to reduce the shade by trimming the trees. To avoid harming the rest of the healthy grass, consider hiring professional trimming services.

6. Control Pests and weeds

Moss and weeds such as dandelion compete with grass for the little nutrients and water available in the soil. And because these have a more widespread root system, the grass is deprived of essential nutrients and start dying as a result.

You should, therefore, remove the weeds more often to reduce this unhealthy competition.

Grub is the most notorious pest that eats the grassroots from below, resulting in the death of the grass. To prevent grass bald spots on your lawn caused by pests and weed infestation, spray it with pesticides.

What is the best time to repair a patchy lawn?

The best time to repair your patchy lawn is the spring season. The season has relatively balanced heat and humidity to allow the proper growth of the new grass. Repairing during winter will only make the patches even bigger due to snowfall.

Summer, on the other hand, is too hot and windy and this will dehydrate the new grass, causing its death. On the flip side, although the spring season is the most recommended time for patchy lawn repair, brace yourself for frequent weeding.

This is because the perfect growing conditions available during the season also support the growth of weeds together with the grass.


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