How to Fix Patchy Grass

Natural grass requires quite a bit of maintenance to keep it looking its best, and if you forget to keep up on it, it will surely remind you. Most likely, that reminder will come in the form of a patchy lawn where some spots look green and healthy, and other spots look brown and dead.

Before you can fix the problem and get your lawn in shape, you need to know what is causing the patches. So, let’s go over some common reasons for having a patchy lawn, and then get into what to do about it.

Common Causes of Patchy Grass

Before we talk about how to fix patchy grass, let’s first look at some of the most common reasons for a patchy lawn and how you can prevent them in the future.


If you drive or park on your lawn, you probably are well aware of how this affects its health. But that is not the only kind of traffic that causes patchy grass. Lawns are meant to be used, but using your lawn can easily damage it by leaving brown, bare, or patchy spots in heavy traffic areas. So, if you and your kids walk across your lawn in the same spot regularly or if your dogs have a favorite walking path, this may be the reason your lawn is patchy in these areas.

How to prevent it: Create a grass-free walkway made from paving stones, bricks, or concrete to provide your family and pets with a place to walk that is off of your grass.

Dog Urine

The urea in dog urine burns natural grass, so if you have dogs that use your lawn as a restroom, it is almost guaranteed that you are going to deal with brown, patchy spots in your grass.

How to prevent it: Use a garden hose to rinse down pet restroom areas right after use. You can also try to train your dogs to urinate in a specific area.

Toys or Tools Left Behind

If you or your family leaves toys, shovels, garden hoses, chairs, or anything else on the lawn, this can cause brown patches.

How to prevent it: Get everyone in the family on board with never leaving anything on the lawn.

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Beetle larvae, commonly called grubs, live in the soil and survive by eating the roots of your grass until they are ready to become beetles. Grubs are a common problem, and there are plenty of natural grass lawns with grubs that are doing fine. But if your grub population grows too large, you will start noticing dead, patchy spots in your lawn. To help determine if they are caused by grubs, gently tug on the grass in the area. Since grubs eat the roots, the patch of grass will lift off the soil easily if this is what caused the dead patch.

How to prevent it: Use a commercial grub treatment to treat your lawn.

Improper Mowing

There are two ways you can accidentally kill your grass with your lawnmower. One way is by cutting it too short. This can cause damage that can kill your grass. Since natural lawns often have small mounds and valleys, you may find that your lawn is patchy only where a mound is, because it has been cut too short in that spot. The second way you can kill your lawn with your mower is by mowing it with dull mower blades, which can damage your grass blades.

How to prevent it: Sharpen your mower blades at least twice each year.

Chemical Burns

You likely are not applying excessive chemicals directly to your lawn, but if you do accidentally spill chemical fertilizers or herbicides, this can burn your lawn in that spot. Your lawn may also experience chemical burns from runoff coming from a driveway or other area of your yard where chemicals are used.

How to prevent it: Do not use unnecessary chemicals around your lawn. Pay attention to runoff from other areas and change the grading to avoid runoff reaching your lawn.

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Thatch Buildup

Some thatch helps your lawn stay healthy by helping the soil retain moisture and reducing temperature changes in the soil. However, if it gets too thick, it can lead to disease, pest infestation, and keeping air and water from getting to the roots of your grass.

How to prevent it: When your thatch layer becomes too thick, use a manual or power dethatching rake to dethatch your lawn.


Lawn fungus can be caused by many things, including thatch buildup, heat and humidity, poor soil, or too much moisture. If you have circular patchy areas in your lawn that are not in areas used as a pet restroom, fungus may be the cause.

How to prevent it: Irrigate your lawn properly, dethatch regularly, and, if necessary, treat your lawn with a fungicide.

Improper Watering

Spots where your lawn is not receiving enough water can become brown and patchy. If you are cutting back on irrigation to save water, this could happen throughout your lawn. If your irrigation system is not set up properly and, therefore, not reaching all areas of your lawn, this can cause dead, patchy grass in the spots it does not reach.

How to prevent it: Turn on your irrigation system and see where sprinklers are and are not reaching. Adjust the heads as needed to achieve adequate coverage. Install an automatic irrigation system with the timer set for infrequent, deep waterings.

How to Fix Patchy Grass

Regardless of how your patchy lawn came to be, brown patches appearing in your grass gives you a good opportunity (and reminder) to take care of regular lawn maintenance tasks. So, before you reseed the area or patch your sod, take this opportunity to dethatch and aerate your lawn. Then, check your irrigation system, sharpen your mower blades, and work in some compost to improve soil health.

You may also need to treat your lawn for specific problems, such as grubs or fungus, before you reseed or resod.

If you are reseeding, spread the seed over patchy areas, and then gently tamp the area to make sure the seeds are in contact with the soil. Add a little fertilizer and water the area.

If you are patching the area with sod, start by removing any grass or weeds in the area. Then loosen the soil, level the area, and apply fertilizer. Once you have prepped the ground, lay the sod and water the patched area.

If you are tired of having a patchy lawn and would rather switch to a low-maintenance alternative that always looks lush and green, you may want to consider replacing your natural grass with artificial turf. With synthetic grass, you will never again have to worry about brown patches even if your pets regularly use it as a restroom or your kids play on it every day.