How to repair dead spots on your lawn

It can be frustrating. You are following all the best tips and strategies to maintain the best-looking lawn that you can and then you start to develop dead spots on your lawn. Ugly brown spots of grass that is dead or dying.

The reality is, because your lawn is a living organic thing, it can be very easy to damage. There are several causes of dead or brown spots in lawns from dog urine to chemicals to simple human error, such as incorrect mowing to name a few examples. Repairing dead spots on your lawn comes in two broad parts.

Part #1 Diagnosing the cause of the dead spots or patching

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If you find dead spots on your lawn, diagnosing the root cause is important, in order to apply the correct treatment; and of course, to prevent it happening again.

Here is a list of some of the most common causes of dead and bald spots in your garden.

  1. Chemicals. Gas, fertilizer and pesticides spills can cause brown and dead spots if spilled. Avoid this by mixing such products off the lawn.
  2. Fertilizer burn. This can also happen if the fertilizer is applied incorrectly, i.e. too thickly in areas, causing the grass to become burned. For a guide on how much fertilizer to apply to your lawn click HERE.
  3. Animal urine. Yes, you have guessed it correctly, your pet’s urine is rich in nitrogen, one of the primary ingredients in fertilizer. So, when “Spot” decides to pee in his favourite spot, he is in effect fertilizing that specific patch of grass, often causing your lawn to turn yellow and brown in spots. This is because high doses of nitrogen are being applied to a small patch of grass.
  4. Fungal diseases. Diseases such as snow mould can be very hard on your lawn. Brown patch and other fungal diseases thrive in moist conditions, most often in midsummer (when nights and days are hot and humid). Fungal diseases can be more common than people realise and are often caused by people watering their lawns too late in the evening, leaving a layer of water and mist to sit on the lawn overnight.
  5. Salt burn. In colder areas where people are applying salt to snow in winter, this can cause burning.
  6. Mowing. Having a blade that is blunt or set too low can kill the grass, eventually causing areas to turn brown.
  7. Soil issues. If the pH balance of your soil is incorrect or your lawn is compacted, you will need to address this by correcting the soils pH balance and by aerating your lawn.
  8. Not watering your lawn enough. Your lawn needs at least 1 ½ inches of water each week throughout the year. If you are just turning on the sprinklers every other day (especially in hot weather) this could lead to the soil drying out. Dry, compacted spots are more easily drought damaged, especially if your soil drains poorly. If you irrigate, make sure your entire lawn is watered evenly and that your sprinklers are still applying the water where they are supposed to.
  9. Tree roots –  Certain trees roots are very water hungry and this can lead to the grass in that area getting less water than is required for optimum growth, these areas will need special attention to ensure that both your tress and grass adequately watered.

The National Academy of Sciences reports that children are more susceptible than adults to pesticides and other environmental toxins. This is because. pound for pound, children take in more pesticides relative to their body weight, their detoxification system is not fully developed and their developing organ systems are more vulnerable.  

Pesticides, along with other environmental factors, cause and trigger asthma. Common herbicides, 2,4-D, mecoprop, dicamba, and glyphosate are respiratory irritants that can cause irritation to skin and mucous membranes, chest burning, coughing, nausea and vomiting.

The evidence is slowly mounting—but not yet conclusive. It’s not always easy to determine whether a particular substance is causing harm or just happens to be present when some other agent is to blame. Public health experts can’t always draw a firm conclusion from studies whose methodologies are lacking in scientific rigor. Take the link between chronic exposure to 2,4-D and cancer: “The evidence isn’t clear enough to draw conclusions with confidence, but it is better to take precautions to prevent possible cancers than to wait for more evidence,” says Jennifer Sass, an NRDC senior scientist.  Source

“The reality is, even if there is just a concern about any of the ingredients in some of these products, is it worth taking the risk, I don’t think it is”.

Part #2 Fixing the brown and dead patches on your lawn.

Ok, now you know some of the common cases of patching, the next question is what can you do to repair the brown spots or patching? Well the reality is, they will not fill on their own, you will need to follow the following steps.

Here’s the process:

  1. Rake out the dead areas to remove any dead, matted turf, thatching and other debris. Later you will want to re-seed these areas and the seeds will germinate best where they come into contact directly with the spoil.
  2. Aerate the soil in the affected areas.
  3. Loosen the soil. At least scratch the surface, or better yet, dig and loosen the top 2 or 3 inches. If the soil is particularly poor, work in a little compost or similar organic matter. Don’t just toss seed on top of hard ground.
  4. Spread grass seed over the affected areas. Scatter grass seed over the loosened soil. Make sure you apply the right type of grass to match your lawn and the climate in your area.
  5. Lightly rake in the seed and then lightly pat the seeds into the soil, so you get a good soil/seed contact.
  6. Fertilise. Get new growth off to a good start by scattering a small amount of lawn fertiliser specially formulated for new grass. Ideally, we would recommend that you use an organic fertiliser, because they release the nutrients over a longer period. Well, simply put, they use natural ingredients, rather than chemical ingredients. 

For example, Organic fertiliser is usually made from plant or animal waste or powdered minerals. Examples include manure and compost, as well as bone and cottonseed meal and in the case of GuanoBoost 100% Organic Fertiliser we use 100% natural, Guano Bird extract one of the most potent natural fertilizers known.

Mulch and water. No matter how much you patch, it is really important to keep the repaid areas adequately watered. Dry seeds simply will not germinate effectively. In hot, dry weather, you’ll probably need to dampen the surface once or twice a day. Once the grass grows to about 2 inches tall, reduce watering to once every few days.

In 6-8 weeks after repairing the affected areas we recommend applying fertilizer to the entire lawn, especially during the growing season. This will provide a steady supply of nutrients to encourage the kind of grass growth that will crowd out weeds and withstand the stresses of heat, drought, and normal wear-and-tear.

Mowing. The new grass seedlings need time to grow, so wait until they have reached 3 ½”-4” tall before starting to mow. After that you can resume your normal mowing routine but remember leaving the lawn slightly higher will help keep weeds at bay.

That that is it, if you follow the points outlined in parts #1 and #2 above, not only will you be able to eliminate and fix brown and dead patches from your lawn, you should have identified the root cause, which will help you from preventing it happening again in the future. You might just have to find a new spot for “Spot” to pee on!


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