There’s nothing worse than having a nicely trimmed lawn with perfect edges that shows thinning grass in places and bare brown patches. Somehow these “bald” areas have appeared and now, give your lawn an eyesore type of look.

The main symptoms of a thinning and unkempt green area are spots with scarcely growing grass along edges, pavings or near garden features, such as the bench you like to rest on with a book or along the raised veggie bed, which needs weeding on a regular basis. Also, it’s not uncommon to have randomly located brown patches in the middle of your lawn for no apparent reason.

This post will look into the main causes behind the issue and the ways of how to fix your patchy lawn.

Table of contents:

The most common reasons for a patchy lawn

Before we get to the effective remedial solutions, let’s see what may have caused your patched-looking lawn. After all, without understanding what’s gone wrong, it’s unlikely that you’ll succeed in fixing the problem.

The main reasons for the unsightly lawn patches are:

  • Insect pests and disease – Be it chafer grubs, other larvae, such as leatherjackets, or worms that may eat the grass roots, insect pests can cause patches on your lawn. Ant nests can also displace grass in places. Furthermore, lawn diseases, such as Dry Patch can provoke discolouration of your turf, due to the soil becoming hydrophobic (unable to sufficiently absorb moisture) and thus, failing to support grass health.
  • Not enough sunlight – If you notice that your lawn is all over on the thin side, this is most likely caused by too much shade. Trees and structures may deprive the grass of enough sunlight, resulting in unhealthy looking turfed area.
  • Lack of nutrients – Poor soil conditions will, of course, affect grass development. Wrong lawn feeding practices that don’t provide the right balance between potassium, nitrogen and phosphorus content in the soil can be also the reason behind a patchy lawn.
  • Compaction – Some soil types compact more easily than others and need regular amendment and care. If the lawn doesn’t get aerated properly, as well, the grass roots will get hard-cased in compacted soil. They need air and unobstructed access to water to promote healthy grass growth.  
  • General lawn care neglect – The lawn may have been established in the most perfect conditions. But maintenance neglect (insufficient irrigation and incorrect mowing) can also cause patches and browning areas on your lawn.
  • Foot traffic – If areas on your turf are affected by constant foot traffic, this will result in unsightly patches. For instance, the grass under your washing line, next to the rainwater collection barrel or near your specially built barbeque may get trodden over on a regular basis, so its growth will get stunted.
  • Pets’ misbehaviour – Both cats and dogs may get into the habit of peeing on your lawn, causing burnt grass patches. Your pet’s urine contains concentrated nitrogen and various salts that can overfeed and damage the turf in spots. Your dog’s love for digging the lawn can also harm the root system of the grass.
  • Wildlife activity Moles and squirrels are usually the culprits behind the need for small grass repair jobs, sometimes. Moles’ tunnel systems and any overground digging done by squirrels will, of course, disturb the uniform texture and green look of your turf.

What about seasonal dieback?

Most people don’t go for annual types of grass that will naturally die in the winter. But even perennial sorts of turf will experience seasonal dieback in certain times of the year, usually in the cold months. Reduced sunlight exposure, frost or overly wet conditions in late autumn and winter will affect the grass health in one way or another.

Furthermore, mild, overcast and wet weather in winter can cause moss to displace the grass plant in small or large areas of your lawn, as well. And even though moss is green and your turfed plot still looks pleasing to the eye from a distance, attempts to get rid of the moss build-up will cause brown patches to appear that will need fixing at some point.

In the summer, dieback can happen, due to extreme heat when the grass becomes scorched and yellow. Or lawn areas near trees may start looking thin and patchy, due to the lack of enough light and moisture. The tree’s branches cast shade over the grass throughout the day, for instance, and their roots absorb all the water in the soil, causing distress to the grass nearby.

What’s more, some species of coarse grass happen to die out faster than fine grass in summer. Regular maintenance is key to prevent any invasive grass weed infestation.

Related: How to Flatten a Bumpy Lawn

When is the best time to repair your lawn?

Spring and autumn are the ideal times of the year to fix your lawn when temperature extremes are somewhat rare. The damp and cooler weather during these seasons will give the grass the best chance to recover. What you should also know when it comes to repairing bare spots on your lawn is that the smaller the patch the bigger the possibility for it to fill in on its own. You see, grass can spread vegetatively and small bare patches may well repair themselves gradually, especially if you water, feed and mow the lawn properly. Larger bald areas, however, will need some attention on your part.

Read on to find out what you can do, in order to resolve various grass growth issues with your turfed area.

How to fix minor lawn damage

As we’ve mentioned above, tiny bare spots on your turf may mend on their own. But if you don’t want to wait around to see if this happens at all and put up with the patchy look of your lawn, you can fix this minor lawn damage in two easy ways.

Repair minor lawn damage with seeds

Follow the steps below to repair the lawn with grass seeds:

  1. Germinate the seeds

    This is optional but it’s better to do it in a container with moist compost, covered with cling film, in temperature no higher than 15°C (60°F) . Wait until they show small white roots.

  2. Prepare the sowing area

    Break gently the soil with a hand fork and mix in some compost.

  3. Sprinkle the seeds

    Spread the seed mixture generously and mix well with the soil. Don’t worry if some of the seeds remain exposed.

  4. Tap the sown patch

    Tap carefully the freshly sown patch with the back of the fork.

  5. Water the area

    If you are confident that no rain has been predicted any time soon.

  6. Protect the seeds with mesh

    To avoid birds nicking your seeds or a cat disturbing them, place a mesh over the patch.

In a couple of weeks or so, you’ll probably fail to discern where the bald patch was.

Repair minor lawn damage using turf

Next, we’ll share with you how to patch a lawn with turf. It’s an easy process in a few simple steps:

  1. Make sure to cut out the damaged lawn area into a regular shape, ideally a square. Lift it with a spade or a flat tool.
  2. Till the soil with a fork to relieve any compaction.
  3. Place a piece of turf, cut out into identical shape/size from an inconspicuous area of your lawn or use a new piece.
  4. Once fitted over the patch, add some topdressing sandy mixture by brushing it gently over the edges of the patch.
  5. Press down the new turf with a tool to ensure that its edges merge nicely with the rest of the lawn.
  6. Water the area carefully in a light manner, best, with a fine rose spray can.

As you can see, fixing small lawn issues is rather straightforward but what should you do if your grassed plot suffers from more serious problems, related to scarce grass growth?

How to fix a patchy, weedy lawn

Repairing a lawn that is covered in bare patches of various sizes will require a bit more work and an attention-to-detail approach. Gather the following tools and proceed as explained below:

Tools you need:

  • Lawn mower
  • Dethatcher (Scarifier)
  • Leaf rake
  • Wheelbarrow
  • Aerator
  • Shovel
  • Spreader

Some of the above tools come in various operational designs. Depending on the size of your lawn, you can use either manual tools or power equipment that you can buy, rent or borrow. Also, as we’ve mentioned earlier in the post, overseed your turfed area to fix patchiness in the spring or autumn, depending on the type of grass you have.

Here are the steps on how to fix a patchy lawn:

  1. First, mow the lawn so that grass blades are no longer than 1½ inches.
  2. Dethatch your grassed plot with a scarifier to remove thatch build-up, moss, dead grass and leaves. For small-sized lawns, you can use a manual scarifier.
  3. Rake all the debris, produced after the dethatching process and collect them in your wheelbarrow.
  4. Then, aerate the turf with a power/manual core aerator or hand aerator, depending on the size of the area.
  5. Clear up the soil plugs, again, with a rake.
  6. Distribute evenly a layer of compost, mixed with sand, over the lawn that is about ½ an inch thick with a shovel. Then, rake it lightly into the core holes.
  7. Feed the lawn by applying fertiliser with a spreader. Walk-behind broadcast spreaders are suitable for small and medium sized lawns.
  8. Then, overseed the area with a mixture of blended seeds. It’s a good idea to shake the bag of seeds prior to sowing. Also, to achieve an even and more controlled distribution of the seed material (approx. 7 pounds of material per 1000 sq.ft), use a shoulder bag or hand-crank broadcast spreader.
  9. Work gently the seed into the lawn by using the backside of a leaf rake.
  10. Make sure to water lightly the lawn a couple of times a day to encourage germination and rooting. As you don’t want to overwet the seeds, check daily the weather forecast for possible rainfalls.

Get an expert to fix your thinning or patchy lawn

Well, not everyone has the time, tools or confidence to repair a patchy grassed area in their front or back garden. This is where Fantastic Services can help by providing you with expert lawn care assistance when you need to. We work with professional and experienced gardeners and lawn maintenance specialists, who know their trade and have the right equipment to provide the service. Furthermore, to save valuable time and effort, you can have all the materials needed for fixing your patchy lawn delivered, upon request.

Need a helping hand in the garden? See how Fantastic services can make your lawn stand out.

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Takeaways

As you can see, having a patchy lawn is not the end of the world, right? There are various remedial solutions, depending on the extent of the problem. In addition, you can take note of our final thoughts below that feature some cause-related lawn repair tips on how to eliminate bare spots on your turf:

  • To remedy burnt grass and bare patches, caused by pet’s urine, flush generously the damaged areas with plenty of water. If needed, consider applying pH balancing additives and of course, keep your pet off the lawn.
  • Thinning grass, caused by too much shade, can be repaired by enhancing light exposure. Prune nearby trees and shrubs and avoid placing large umbrellas or marquees over the lawn in the summer.
  • Insect pest problems and fungal diseases need to be addressed by employing a targeted approach. Just overseeding or turfing the bare patches on your lawn won’t resolve the issue.
  • The same goes if you’re troubled by wildlife activity on your property. You can always seek professional advice on how to get rid of moles in your garden, for instance, to put a stop on the critters damaging your lawn.

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Header image source: Shutterstock / By Michael Moloney

  • Last update: June 10, 2019

Posted in All About the Lawn, Garden Advice

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