Lawn Repair - Fill in Bare Patches

healthy grass over dirt

Spring is in the air, but you may notice that your lawn is looking a little spotty. While it's not uncommon for the yard to look disheveled after thawing out from the winter cold, there could be some underlying reasons why the grass looks so bad. A few common problems you may see are moles, grubs, and snow mold. Fortunately, whether your bare spots are large or small, there are plenty of solutions for refreshing your lawn for the spring and summer.

Nip It at the Source

Understanding what’s caused this look, and addressing the problem, will help minimize your future repairs.

Moles can cause considerable damage over the winter, digging and tunneling to leave your lawn a mess. The best way to rid your grass of moles is by making or buying traps. Grubs, on the other hand, can be controlled with traditional insecticides or with Milky Spore bacteria, which is a natural product.

Snow mold is a fungus that can be recognized by straw colored, circular areas in your lawn. The edges of the circle, or sometimes the entire circle, may be pink or grey. This disease will most frequently take care of itself as the temperatures warm and the area dries, but to help prevent snow mold, in the fall avoid excess nitrogen, remove the leaves from the grass, continue to mow your lawn until it stops growing, and manage a thatch layer on top—keeping it close to half an inch.

Replace Large Patches

If you have large areas with dead grass, it's best to remove the entire patch. Once it’s removed, fill the area with a good grade topsoil. It also helps to mix some natural fertilizer into the dirt for a good measure of nutrients to promote new growth.

With the soil prepared, lightly sprinkle grass seed over the exposed area. Be careful to spread it thoroughly. Then, lightly rake the area so that only about five to 10 percent of the seeds are visible. Apply a light layer of straw or compost next to keep the soil damp and to help keep pesky birds away.

Lightly water the seeds every day, multiple times a day if it is warm, sunny, or windy. Keep them moist until you see the seeds germinate and begin to root into the soil and then reduce the frequency of watering. Allow your grass to grow and fill in before you mow, as mowing it too early or too short can damage the new grass and possibly uproot it altogether.

Use a Seed Pad for a Simple Fix

If you don't want to spend a lot of time fixing up the lawn, there are some great products that incorporate seeds and covering in one easy application. These products work very well because the shredded paper and pulp that is mixed with the seeds is very effective at keeping the ground moist and the birds at bay. The filling is usually colored blue or green so you can easily see if you have the entire area covered.

Make and Apply Leaf Mulch

This fix is friendly to both your wallet and the environment. When you rake the leaves in the fall, don't stuff them in a garbage bag and leave them for the trash man to take. Pick up a blower/mulcher at your local hardware store. With the leaves in a pile, suck them up with the mulcher and shred them into tiny pieces. Empty the collection bag into an extra garbage bin or find an area of the yard to dump the leaves. When you need to repair a patch of grass, remove the dead patch and then apply a layer of the shredded leaves. Top the leaves with loose soil and plant your seeds. This is a very efficient way to fertilize your seeds from the bottom up, and it works great.

Re-Seed Early

If you like to re-seed your entire yard every spring, the earlier you can do it the better. Rake your yard thoroughly to remove all the debris that accumulated over the winter, and dig in so that about ¼-inch of the top layer of dirt is loose. This helps to aerate the lawn and allow for proper drainage. Then spread approximately one to two pounds of seed per 1000 square feet in areas where there is already some grass. Vigilantly water the lawn until you see the new growth begin to sprout.

For a full and healthy looking lawn, overseed in the spring and then again in the fall. In many areas, fall seeding can actually be more effective because of the warm soil and cool, wet weather, as well as the fact that the grass doesn't have to compete with as many annual weeds. Be sure the seed gets good soil contact, and rake the area after seeding to help it settle to the soil.

If you don't want to wait for the grass to grow in the affected area, re-sodding the area is always an option. Home improvement superstores sell sod by the piece and it's pretty inexpensive. All of aforementioned preparations should still be done, except instead of seeding, simply cut the sod to fit the exposed area. You may need to grade some of the dirt down so the sod lies even with the rest of the surrounding grass.

If you choose to install sod, you must pay close attention to it in the first weeks. The sod will need to be watered frequently. Remember, it has had a severe root pruning; start by watering it three to four times a day in the beginning and slowly reduce the frequency of watering as you see the roots develop.

Whichever way you choose to repair your bare sections of yard, you will no doubt be pleased with the result. It can be very rewarding to sit on your deck or patio in summer with a nice cold glass of lemonade, looking out at a yard full of healthy green grass and knowing that it looks that way because of your hard work.