I’d say that 1 in 5 gardens that I first start to maintain have bald patches in their lawns and given the right circumstances it’s something I’ve learned to fix relatively quickly as part of our garden maintenance service. I often hear from my customers that they’ve had the grass patches for years and after a couple of attempts have given up, but in most cases there is always a fix but you will first need to find the root of the problem!
In this article I’ll be discussing the causes of bald patches in your grass, the tools and materials needed to fix your grass patches as well as how to fix and prevent bare patches from happening again in your lawn.
What causes dead spots in your lawn and how to prevent them from happening again
The reason that we need to look at the possible causes of the grass patches in your garden is because if we just dive in and fix them then you will be fighting a never ending cycle of the bald patches coming back time and time again. Here are a list of possible causes that you’re getting bald patches in your garden and how to fix them individually, depending on the cause of the problem.
Wear and tear of your lawn can cause dead spots
Where are your dead patches in your lawn? If it’s in high traffic areas then then this will likely be the cause of grass being unable to seed and grow. High traffic areas are most likely going to be at the first point of contact such as just outside your door, side gate or even shed entrance if it’s in constant use. If this seems to be the case then it’s unlikely that your going to be able to permanently fix the bald patch on your lawn unless ofcourse your going to reduce the amount of time you spend in your garden!
The best way to overcome this is to replace your high traffic area of lawn with something low maintenance and decorative. For example, why not opt for a new patio? Or if your on a tight budget then simply lay some nice decorative stones. I have ‘how to’ guides for both – Just follow the links!
Urine from pets or wild animals will cause random bald patches in your garden
In most cases when we take on a new garden maintenance contract where there are random bald patches in the lawn the customer will have a dog or 2. Almost immediately I know that the most likely cause of their grass patches is going to be from the urine of their pets. There is actually more to it than this though!
If your grass is under fertilised then small amounts of urine, such as that of a small dog or cat can actually have an opposite effect on your lawn and you may notice darker green, faster growing patches of grass. If however your grass is well fertilised then the urine will scorch the grass, causing dead patches. These patches are most noticable when an animal has recently urinated on your grass as you will see the grass dieing and won’t immediately turn to a bald patch, although there is a possibility of the grass reviving itself. Bald patches in your lawn caused by urination of an animal will likely be dotted randomly around your garden and if you don’t have pets then don’t rule it out altogether as your neighbours may have cats and other wildlife such as foxes may wonder into your garden. I’ve written an article on ‘how to keep foxes out of your garden‘ if you believe this to be your problem.
Ants, grubs or other pests are another cause of bald patches in your lawn
I recently completed a turfing job for a local pub where they told me that they actually had new turf recently layed a couple of months back but they already had dead patches everywhere, so instead of getting the other company back to replace the turf we were called in to help.
As soon as we started digging up the old grass there were grubs absolutely everywhere! In case you’re wondering, grubs are the immature stage of several species of beetles and live underground. One of their food sources? The roots to your grass! You may notice the grass to your lawn thinning out, or small dead patches appear, which will gradually grow in size. A grub here and there isn’t much to worry about but a large infestation will certainly kill your lawn.
On this particular job I’ve no idea if the previous company just layed the new turf directly on top of the grub infested earth or if they came afterwards but we removed as many as we could see before filling the area with some lawn safe grub killer and finally layed the new turf on top. The pub has never had a problem since!
One way to find out if you have a grub infestation is by pulling grass from the affected areas and if the grass pulls away easily then this will be due to having no more roots! Depending on how many bald patches you have in your grass will determine whether it’s best to replace your whole lawn or whether it will be worth treating your lawn with the grub killer before repairing the dead patches in your grass.
Believe it or not, ants are, in most cases, beneficial to our lawns as they aerate the soil and kill other pests posing a threat to their colony. However, as with anything in life, too much of anything comes with consequences and this is just the case when you have a large colony of ants making a home in your lawn. I’m not talking about lots of small ant nests, but instead one large ant colony in one place.
Their activities actually cause damage to your grass roots causing dead patches in your garden and if that’s not enough, it may be the start of a bigger problem. Ant hills! The best way to see if you have an ant infestation in your garden is by lightly digging the bald patch of grass that already exists and seeing what’s beneath. This simple but effective method will work for most lawn pests and since this will be part of the repair process anyway, it really doesn’t matter! Just don’t go digging in random places of your lawn as ant colonies will only affect the nested area.
I will be writing an article soon on how to get rid of ants in your garden but for now, I would recommend using a lawn safe ant/pest killer product as there isn’t going to be any way of getting a colony of ants to move on unfortunately!
Dead patches in your grass could be caused by nothing but too much shade or too much sun
It might be stating the obvious but is your grass getting enough light? Do you have tall garden fences? Or maybe large trees or anything else stopping the sun from getting into your garden? If your dead patches of lawn tend to be over a larger area instead of small individual patches and along the perimeter of your garden instead of in the centre then this is most likely going to be the cause of your dead patches. Another tell tale sign if your not 100% sure about it being shade related is to feel how hard the ground is compared to other areas of your lawn – Too much shade will leave your grass damper for longer and actually encourage moss to grow as well as lawn diseases.
If your getting too much sun, this isn’t a bad thing, providing that your watering your lawn enough. I’ve written a full guide on when to water your lawn in the Summer to help make sure you get it right. One trick is to mark a screw driver at a depth of 6 inches and push it into the ground, it should be able to penetrate the full 6 inches without too much force. If not then your lawn isn’t getting enough water.
Lawn diseases are a common cause of bald patches in your lawn
It might sound scary but lawn or fungal diseases in most cases just require proper maintenance to eliminate and are often just a cause of a temporary change to the environment in your garden. They come in many forms but are generally caused by fungus taking the vital nutrients from your grass and spreading, hence the name fungal disease.
Since all lawns have fungal spores which are ready to germinate should the right conditions be met, a good lawn maintenance regime will be a good idea to keep these fungal spores at bay. Possible causes for fungus diseases include;
- Damp conditions or too much watering
- Not cutting the grass regularly and letting it get too long
- Cutting the grass too short, 2.5 inches is a good height
- High humidity
- Too much fertiliser could give the fungus spores the energy needed to thrive
If your worried that you may have a type of lawn disease then some common signs to look out for include;
- White, yellow or brown patches of grass as opposed to bald patches entirely
- A wet, slimy looking lawn
- Orange, red, grey or black spots on your grass blades
- White webbing over your lawn is a popular sign of fungus disease
In order to claim your lawn back then in most cases you just need to spend extra care maintaining your garden although the use of fungicide would also be a good idea alongside the maintenance. If you regularly fertilise your lawn then make sure your doing the proper mixture and that your not over doing it, use the screwdriver trick to see if your lawn is too damp (over 6 inches is too much) and make sure to regularly cut your grass. The chances are, just by reading the above, you will already have a good idea of what’s caused your fungus disease on your lawn.
Spilled chemicals are an easy cause of dead grass patches
Apart from the obvious spills such as petrol, oil, diesel, bleach or any other household chemicals where you would instantly remember doing it when a dead patch is formed on your grass – There are some not so obvious chemicals that can damage your lawn.
One of these causes could be a spill or over spray from weed killer which attacks anything in its tracks. If you regularly use weed killer chemicals then try to remember when and where you last used it. Did you spray a weed in the middle of your lawn that has now been replaced with a dead patch of grass? In some cases even lawn safe weed killer might be too concentrated for your grass. Or maybe you didn’t apply the right mixture? One way would be to water it down more next time or use proper measurements when diluting the weed killer chemicals.
A surprising chemical with good intentions that could cause dead patches on your lawn is fertilizer. Too much fertiliser will actually burn your grass blades so make sure you spray evenly across your lawn, avoiding one area in particular.
How to repair bald patches in your lawn
We are finally here! Now that (hopefully) you have a better idea of what’s caused the bald patches in your lawn and have found a way to repair and prevent it from happening again in the future, it’s time to fix those horrible dead patches. Luckily it’s a relatively easy process!
The first thing you are going to want to do is remove any existing dead or discoloured grass and use a fork to turn the ground over where your dead patches of grass were. You won’t want to lay seed directly onto a hard dry ground as you will have a very slim chance of the grass seed rooting, as well as the fact that as soon as it rains or you give your new grass seed a water you will see it float away!
There are alot of websites out there advising to then lay your lawn seed onto the newly turned over ground, which isn’t incorrect, but I would personally advise mixing the seed in a bucket of top soil beforehand and then scattering it on the ground. I also turn over the ground once more with a garden fork just to ensure that there is lots of seed within the dead patch and add more if necessary.
Once finished, be sure to water your newly seeded grass patches every day with a very light spray. Anything other than a light sptinkle will likely wash your hard work away and you will have to start again! As your grass begins to grow you can add more grass seed to help fill it out although this should come naturally with lots of water and some patience. Once your new grass has germinated it’s also a good idea to avoid using the lawn mower where those new patches of grass are and left to help fill out – you can always give it a light trim if need be.
If you are particular about your grass then you can can try and choose a grass seed that matches your current lawn, for example you can choose between a luxury fine bladed grass seed or a thicker hard wearing lawn seed. General purpose lawn seed tends to be the most popular seed that we use as it’s hard wearing and matches most well established gardens.
Another way to repair bald patches in your garden is by using readily cut turf with most nurseries selling it from around £4 per squared meter (usually a 1.5×0.5m roll). Not only does this give you a quick fix instead of the sowing of grass seed, but it’s really not difficult to do!
The first thing you are going to want to do us square off your existing dead patches in your lawn. By this, I mean use a spade to increase the size of each patch and trying to get to a squared shape as opposed to a round patch as this will be easier to cut your new turf into. All you need to do is mark the area by stabbing your spade into the ground and then skimming the old turf. Even just an inch deep will suffice, although it would be good practice to go deep enough to remove any old grass roots incase of diseases.
Once you have a neat piece of lawn cut out of your garden, simply lay your new lawn directly on top and use a turfing knife or plasterboard knife to find the edge, and cut along the perimeter of your newly dug out area. Once done, you should have a perfectly fitted piece of turf.
Now remove the turf and add the necessary amount of top soil before laying the turf back down. If you have a scaffolding board or anything else similar near by then use this to tamper it down and have it sit flush against the rest of your lawn. Just like laying lawn seed, don’t forget to water it daily!
For more advice on laying turf, why not visit my article showing you how to lay new turf yourself!
This was a long article which went on a fair bit longer than expected so I’ve probably missed something! If you see anything I’ve missed or have some advice on how to repair bald patches in your lawn then please do comment below!
Please see below a list of products that I think will help you on your journey to fixing your dead patches in your grass. The links below will take you straight to Amazon where you can receive your items from as early as the next day!