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How to Fix Brown Spots in Your Grass

Posted on May 1, 2020 by Lawn Doctor

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Your lush green grass has been overtaken by dead brown patches and you need to know how to fix dead grass. These unsightly patches of dead spots in your lawn threaten to ruin the beautiful outdoor aesthetic of all your hot summer barbecues and events and spread disease to your grass.

What Causes Brown Patches in Grass?

From improper lawn care and heavy foot traffic to the stress of seasonal dehydration, there are many different factors that can contribute to brown spots and patches in the grass. Understanding how to recognize the underlying causes and taking the appropriate treatment measures can help bring your lawn back to its natural state.


Brown patch fungus is a fungal disease that affects grass. The disease is caused by Rhizoctonia fungus, and it’s most common during the summer seasons when high humidity levels allow the fungus to thrive. The fungus causes a yellowish-brown discoloration on the grass, and it’s treated with fungicide applications and grass removal.

Grub Infestation

When grubs feed on grass, they can reach all the way down to the roots. When the roots die, brown patches develop on the grass. Damaged grass must be removed after a grub infestation, but new growth can be treated with preventative pesticides.

Excessive Foot Traffic

Heavy foot traffic is another common cause of grass discoloration. Walking and running over fresh grass puts heavy pressure on the underlying soil and hinders water flow and air circulation, leading to brown patches. Removing dead grass and debris (dethatching) may help to strengthen the grass.

Animal Urine

While a common belief is that the color of animal urine is what causes stains on the lawn, the discoloration is actually due to high levels of nitrogen in the urine. Animal urine, particularly from dogs, actually kills the grass, and treatment consists of removing the dead patches and laying down new grass seed or sod.


Extended periods of drought when lawns go without water can cause the grass to turn brown. This usually occurs during the summer months, and hot temperatures can increase grass dehydration. After the drought seasons subside, brown grass can often be rejuvenated by re-seeding or re-sodding the entire lawn.

Improper Lawn Care

Cutting grass too short can weaken its roots, while dull mower blades can rip the grass and cause dead edges. Both of these issues can increase the risk of fungus growth and brown patches in the yard. Over-fertilizing can also cause grass to turn yellow or brown. Ensuring your lawn is properly maintained can help prevent future problems.

Before you start repairing the brown patches on your lawn, study the growth patterns of these areas to see what might be contributing to the dead grass conditions. Understanding the underlying factors will help you avoid recurring brown patches in your yard.

While repairing brown patches is not particularly difficult, you should be aware of best practices and recommendations for the optimal grass regrowth. We are going to equip you with the tools and knowledge for how to fix a brown patch in your lawn through two main methods: reseeding bare spots and patching with sod.

How to Plant Grass Seed in Bare Spots 

Perhaps you are already familiar with how to seed your lawn. However, reseeding dead spots in a lawn calls for added attention to detail. We have outlined the steps on how to plant grass seed in bare spots for your next lawn repair.   

Remove Debris

Before you start seeding the brown patch,  remove any leaves or debris from the area to avoid damage. This removes any obstacles in distributing the seeds evenly among the dead grass. If the brown patch in your lawn was caused by urine or chemical spills, thoroughly rinse the area several times before reseeding to dilute any harmful chemicals.

Break up the Soil

Refresh the soil of the brown patch by taking a rake or a garden cultivator to till the ground in your summer yard. This will help ensure that the soil is loose and ready to take in the new seed.

Add Compost

Using compost is a great way to add nutrients back into the soil. Add a 2 to 3-inch layer of compost or loamy soil and use the rake again to mix it with the existing soil.

Even out the Surface

Use the top of the rake to make a flat and even surface to start sprinkling the grass seed.

Sprinkle the Seed

Evenly distribute a thin layer of grass seed over your brown patch.

Protect the Seeds

If you choose to sprinkle the seed on top without pre-mixing it in the soil, place a thin layer of straw over the area to prevent birds from eating the seeds. Once the grass starts to bud, remove the straw.

Keep the Area Lightly Watered

As the grass begins to grow and cover the brown patch, keep the area lightly watered. Water the area once or twice daily to keep the area moist. Be sure not to overwater the brown patches.

Lightly Fertilize

Apply fertilizer to the area when the seed starts to germinate and establish. This will encourage the grass to grow and fill in the brown patch quickly.

Wait to Mow

Seeing your brown patch area start to flourish with little grass blades will be exciting. However, this area is still in a vulnerable state. Refrain from mowing newly seeded areas until the grass blades are at least ⅓ higher than the normal grass. This will help maintain your lawn and fix your brown patches.

Monitor the Area

Continue to monitor the area to ensure that dead grass does not return. If brown patches return, you may have an underlying problem such as a lack of grub control or other insect infestations. Consider seeking help from a lawn service specialist.

How to Patch Bare Spots with Sod 

For a quicker fix than reseeding, try using sod. Sod is a fairly inexpensive way to repair bare spots of dead grass.

Remove Debris

Similar to reseeding, remove any leaves, dead grass, weeds, or debris from the brown patch area before getting started.

Till the Soil

Using a garden hoe or rake, till the soil a few inches deep to break up the solid pieces of dirt.

Measure the Area of the Brown Patch

Use a tape measure to evaluate the width and length of your brown patch. Then, purchase a piece of sod from your local gardening store that will fully cover the area.

Select the Right Turfgrass

Be sure to select the correct turfgrass sod for your lawn, identify the grass you have growing, and try to match this when buying pieces of sod.

Cut the Sod

Using a sharp shovel or garden tool, cut a piece of sod that is slightly larger than the area you are covering.

Lightly Fertilize

Applying a small amount of fertilizer to the soil before laying sod will encourage the roots to establish and anchor down the sod piece.

Firmly Place the Sod Piece

Place the sod on top of the brown patch matching the shape as best you can. Compress the sod down into the lawn by tamping it down with a rake and then immediately walking on it.

Water the Sod Immediately

The sod will need more water than regular seed grass. Keep the area moist by watering two to three times a day if needed. Monitor the edges of the new sod – they will dry out first.

Hold Off on Weed Control

Hold off applying any weed control to the new area until you have mowed at least three times. This will prevent any turf injury and allow the turf to establish.

Assume Regular Lawn Treatment

When the turf is bonded and actively growing, you can assume regular lawn treatment schedules. This will usually be around 14 days after the sod has been placed. However, be careful not to cut this new grass too short when you start mowing.

There you have it! Now you know how to fix a brown patch in your lawn. Brown patches don’t have to get in the way of your luscious, green backyard dreams. Follow these easy steps for how to solve this problem and repair dead grass on your own.

If you find that the brown patches or dead grass are a recurring issue, call us today for a free lawn consultation. Find out how we can help you better care for your lawn.

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