Garden Advice

How to Fix Patchy Grass

There’s nothing worse than having a nicely trimmed lawn with perfect edges that shows thinning grass in places and bare brown patches. These “bald” areas have somehow appeared and now, they 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 regular weeding. Also, it’s not uncommon to have randomly located brown patches in the middle of your lawn for no apparent reason.

Table of contents:

So, if you are:

  • Having bare patches in your lawn;
  • Wondering what the cause might be;
  • Looking for the right way to repair your patchy lawn.

Then you’re in the right place because this post explains it all. Shall we begin?

What causes brown spots in the lawn?

Before we get to the effective solutions, let’s see what could be the reason for your patched-looking lawn. After all, without understanding what’s gone wrong, it’s unlikely to succeed in fixing the problem.

The main reasons for the dead grass patches are:

  • Pests – chafer grubs, leatherjackets and worms are only a couple of the insects and larvaes that can cause patches on your lawn by eating the grassroots.
  • Lawn diseasesvarious 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.
  • Lack of nutrients – Poor soil conditions can 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 grassroots will get hard-cased in compacted soil. They need air and unobstructed access to water to promote healthy grass growth.  
  • 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. There are some tested ways to stop cats from fouling in your garden. Your dog’s love for digging the lawn can also harm the root system of the grass.
  • Wildlife activityMoles 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.
  • Winter 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.
  • Summer dieback – During the hot months, dieback can happen, due to extreme heat when the grass becomes scorched and yellow. 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, and their roots absorb all the water in the soil, causing distress to the grass nearby.
  • Moss – Mild, overcast and wet weather in winter can cause moss to displace the grass plant in small or large areas of your lawn. Even though moss is green and your turf still looks pleasing to the eye from a distance, attempts to get rid of the moss build-up will cause brown patches to appear which will need fixing at some point.
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.

When is the best time to fix your patchy lawn?

Spring and autumn are the perfect seasons for fixing your patchy lawn. That’s the time when you should sow your grass seeds if you’re starting a new lawn, so it makes perfect sense. The damp and cooler weather 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.

For more helpful seasonal gardening tips, check out our gardening calendar!

How to get rid of small brown spots in the lawn

As we’ve mentioned above, tiny bare spots on your turf may mend on their own. However, if you don’t want to wait to see if this will even happen and you don’t want to put up with the patchy look of your lawn, don’t worry! You can fix this minor lawn damage in two easy ways.

Repair small patches with grass seeds

Time needed: 4 hours.

Here is how to reseed a patchy lawn:

  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. 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.

Repair small patches 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. Shape the patches
    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
    Use a fork to relieve any compaction.
  3. Place a piece of turf
    Cut it out into identical shape/size from an inconspicuous area of your lawn or use a new piece.
  4. Topdress
    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
    Use a tool to ensure that its edges merge nicely with the rest of the lawn.
  6. Moisturise
    Water the area carefully in a light manner, best, with a fine rose spray can.
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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 restore a patchy, weedy lawn

Repairing a lawn that is covered in bare patches of various sizes will require a couple of hours of work and attention-to-detail approach. Gather the following tools and revive your lawn, using the method below:

Tools you need:

  • Lawn mower
  • Dethatcher (Scarifier)
  • Leaf rake
  • Wheelbarrow
  • Aerator
  • Shovel
  • Spreader
Some of these 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.

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

  1. 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. Aerate the turf with a power /manual 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. Overseed the area with a mixture of blended seeds. It’s a good idea to shake the bag of seeds before 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. Gently work the seed into the soil 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.


  • Often, the brown patches on your lawn are caused by pests, wildlife or pets. Also, two of the main reasons for dried grass are lack of enough water and/or sunlight.
  • Sometimes, the problem that cause “bald” spots in the lawn may be seasonal dieback.
  • Spring and autumn are the most pleasant seasons for renovating your lawn.
  • The best method for repairing minor lawn damage is either reseeding or using turf.
  • If the damage is severe, then you should undertake a different approach.


Did you find our article on fixing a patchy lawn helpful? Why not share your thoughts with us in the comments below?

Image source: Shutterstock / By Michael Moloney

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