5 Steps to Fix Dead Spots in Your Lawn

Here in the Mid-Atlantic region, we do our best to keep our lawns looking as lush as possible. We water the grass and sprinkle some fertilizer around every now and then, but sometimes, it still isn’t enough. No matter what they try to do, some homeowners are always left with a few “dead spots.” 

If you were starring in a comedy movie, all you’d need to do is grab a can of green spray paint and get to work. However, this is real life — and your grass is a living organism that needs some TLC, not a quick paint job. Here’s what you need to know about how to fix dead patches of grass in your yard — straight from Maryland and Virginia’s top lawn care and irrigation experts!

What Causes Dead Spots?

Before learning about how to fix dead grass spots, it’s important to fully comprehend what causes this annoying problem. Here are a few common culprits to consider:

Issues With Growth Conditions

Compacted soil, poor drainage, or soil that lacks essential nutrients can impede grass roots from absorbing the moisture and nutrients they need to thrive. A lack of shade can also play a role. Grass needs sunlight to grow, and excessive shade from trees, buildings, or other structures can inhibit growth, leading to bare patches.

Sometimes, the reason for your dead spots comes down to the growth cycle of your particular grass species. Occasionally, when grass dies, it doesn’t decay fast enough for new grass to regrow naturally, and you’ll end up with dead grass blocking the dirt below. 

Improper Lawn Care

Over-fertilizing or incorrect mowing practices can also harm your grass. Cutting your lawn too short can stress the grass and make it more susceptible to other problems. Insufficient watering, especially in hot and dry climates, can also lead to patches of dead grass.

Pest Infestations or Disease

Lawn pests such as grubs, chinch bugs, and other insects can damage the roots of the grass, leading to dead patches. Fungal diseases such as brown patch, dollar spot, and snow mold can also cause circular patches of dead grass. 

Physical Damage

Heavy foot traffic or pressure from vehicles can compact the soil and damage grass roots, leading to dead spots. Dog urine can also burn grass, resulting in yellow or brown patches. These spots often have a green ring around them, as the diluted edges of the urine act as a fertilizer.

Dead Grass vs. Dormant Grass

Seeing yellow or brownish-looking grass doesn’t always mean your lawn is dead. Before you start considering the best way to fix dead spots in lawn areas, do a little research into the type of grass in your yard to find out if it’s a dormant species.

Dormant Grass

Dormancy is a natural state for many grass species, especially in response to unfavorable growing conditions. This survival mechanism helps grass conserve water and nutrients. Here are some key characteristics and considerations for dormant grass:

  • Color and Texture: Dormant grass typically turns a brown or tan color, but it maintains its integrity, meaning it doesn’t disintegrate or come loose easily when you tug on it.
  • Seasonality: Dormancy is usually seasonal. For instance, cool-season grasses might go dormant during hot, dry summers, while warm-season grasses may become dormant during cold winters.
  • Recovery: Dormant grass can survive and return to its green, healthy state once favorable conditions (such as adequate rainfall or cooler temperatures) resume. Regular maintenance during dormant periods can help ensure it recovers well.

Dead Grass

Dead grass does not have the ability to revive itself. It occurs when grass plants have been damaged beyond repair and have died. Here are some signs that your grass is dead:

  • Color and Texture: Dead grass is often brown or yellow and will easily pull away from the soil with minimal effort, as the root system has also died.
  • No Signs of Life: Even under improved conditions, dead grass will not green up or grow. If areas remain lifeless throughout various seasons or under better care practices, it is likely dead.
  • Permanent Damage: Unlike dormant grass, dead grass requires reseeding or patching as it won’t regenerate on its own.

How to Fix Dead Spots in Lawn & Garden Areas

Fixing dead spots in lawn areas is actually much easier than you might think. It only takes about fifteen minutes on the first day and five minutes each subsequent day to repair any dead or dying patches in your yard. After about two weeks, you’ll have a much greener, healthier lawn. Here’s what to do:

Step 1: Gather Your Supplies

To begin the repair process, you’ll need the following items:

  • Garden Rake or Dethatcher: To remove dead grass and loosen the soil.
  • Topsoil or Compost: To enrich the soil and provide a good base for new grass.
  • Watering Can or Hose with Sprayer: For gentle watering that won’t wash away seeds.
  • Grass Seed: Choose a seed that matches the existing lawn type or is suitable for your climate and soil conditions. If you do not already have grass seed or don’t know your grass type, take a bit of healthy grass to your local garden store and have them identify it or provide a close equivalent.

Step 2: Remove Dead Grass & Loosen the Soil

Remove as much of the dead grass as possible. If the grass is dead enough, you may be able to simply remove it with a rake, but sometimes you may need to use a shovel. Next, use the rake to break up the compacted soil to about 2-3 inches deep. This helps the roots of new grass to sprout easily.

Step 3: Spread the Seed

Spread a thin layer of topsoil or compost over the area to enrich the soil and improve its structure and fertility. Then, evenly distribute the grass seed over the prepared soil. Follow the recommended seeding rate on the package, although remember that too much seed is far better than too little seed.

Step 4: Get Dirty

Cover the seed with about half an inch of dirt. You don’t want too much, just enough to fully cover the seeds until you can no longer see them. Then, water the area gently but thoroughly to moisten the soil and seeds. Avoid heavy watering that could cause the seeds to wash away.

Step 5: Let it Grow

We recommend watering newly planted grass seed up to five times per day — or more often in hotter climates. If the dirt is dry, it is time for more water. As time passes, keep a careful eye on your lawn’s progress. Once green growth sprouts and the new grass has become established, reduce your watering frequency to one to three times daily.

Hosing down your lawn all day, every day, can be tedious, so don’t hesitate to reach out to the experts at TLC Inc. We install high-quality landscape sprinkler systems that will keep your grass looking great.

The “Don’ts” of How to Repair Grass Discoloration

Don’t: Buy “Quick-Fix” Products

Don’t use “quick growth” or “growth stimulant” products on your grass. These can stress your lawn by pushing it to grow too quickly, making it susceptible to diseases and pests. We also don’t recommend using chemical patch repair kits. Even though these kits promise to quickly fix brown patches, using them can lead to an imbalance in soil nutrients. The replacement grass may also fail to integrate with your existing lawn, leading to other problems later on.

Don’t: Mow Too Soon

Mowing your lawn regularly helps keep it looking pristine, but don’t mow too early, or you might disrupt new grass growth. As a general rule, don’t begin mowing until the new grass reaches about 3 inches in height. Always make sure your mower blades are sharp to avoid damaging the tender new shoots.

Don’t: Over-Fertilize

After planting your grass seed, it may be helpful to apply a light layer of starter fertilizer. Fertilizer provides essential nutrients that will aid in the fast growth and establishment of the new grass. However, be careful not to overcompensate by adding too much. It can lead to fertilizer burn, which further discolors and damages the grass.

Keep Your Grass Looking Good All Year Round!

Keeping your grass green isn’t too difficult, even if you’ve struggled with brown spots in the past. If you follow these simple steps, identify your grass type, and avoid quick fixes, premature mowing, and over-fertilization, you will be well on your way to a healthy lawn!

At TLC Incorporated, we go above and beyond to keep your property pristine. From outdoor and holiday lighting to lawn sprinklers and water drainage systems, our experts will stop at nothing to make your home the envy of the neighborhood. Reach out to us today to get a free estimate for a sprinkler system — we’re looking forward to hearing from you!

This entry was posted on Tuesday, April 26th, 2011 at 2:57 pm. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.