Hidden Causes of Lawn Damage

Damaged grass

A beautifully landscaped lawn is a visual compliment to your home's exterior. It also adds curb appeal and value to your home. So when it becomes mysteriously damaged, you need to know why. There are several things that can harm a lawn that can be remedied if taken care of early on.

A lawn through a magnifying glass.

Nutrient Deficiency

Like all plants, grass needs nutrients and minerals. Most importantly, grass thrives on nitrogen, a key ingredient in fertilizers. Without nitrogen, a lawn will go from green to yellow. Apply fertilizer with care, as too much at the wrong time of year may be harmful.

For plant-feeding minerals, iron is at the top of the list. Lack of iron doesn't necessarily affect growth but does result in discoloration. Something to keep in mind is that concrete absorbs iron. This means grass bordering concrete walkways and driveways, or resting against concrete flower pots is might be struggling in iron-depleted soil.


If patches of your lawn are going brown and you don't have an obvious explanation, try digging a few inches down to see if you have grubs. These little critters are the larvae of beetles, and they like to eat grass roots. Luckily, you have a range of options for dealing with these pesky invaders, from chemical pesticides to certain kinds of beneficial worms. Be patient. Fully removing grubs can take several years, especially if you prefer an organic approach.

A grub digs through dirt in a lawn.


Take care when applying any kind of chemical solution to your lawn. Too much of a useful thing, such as an herbicide or insecticide, can burn the grass blades. Be sure to follow instructions closely so you don't apply too much of the chemical or use it too often. If you're following the guidelines and still getting bad results, consider either limiting your use further or changing to a different lawn-care product.

Misused Fertilizer

As noted above, fertilizer provides nutrients necessary for a healthy lawn, but requires careful application. Too little won't provide enough support for grass growth or help it develop resistance to disease. Too much, though, can badly damage your grass.

Over or Under-Watering

Your lawn needs enough water to keep it green, but too much will saturate the soil, damaging root growth and microbial activity. If your grass develops rings of brown around islands of green, you might be watering too often.

Soil Compaction

This occurs when the soil becomes too dense to allow water and nutrients to interact and create a moist environment. This condition can be remedied by aerating the soil, adding nutrients (organic matter) and reseeding the area.

Dull Mower Blade

If the blade on your mower is dull it will cut your grass unevenly, which can lead to discoloration. Replace or sharpen the blade to fix this problem.

Dog Puddles

When a dog urinates on the grass, it will result in the area becoming discolored/dead. If possible, use a garden hose to flush the affected area immediately to dilute the urine and reduce the negative effects.

Foot traffic

If a portion of your lawn is used as a walking path, the repeated pressure can compact the soil. Aerate the area and reseed, if necessary, and consider adding a walkway or blocking off the route to avoid damaging the ground further.

Mowing Too Low

Mowing is a key part of lawn care, but cutting too close to the base of the grass can be bad for your yard. Adjust the blade so it cuts the grass at a proper height (generally between two and four inches).


Common landscaping materials like lawn mower fluids, fertilizers, or pesticides can damage your grass if they come into contact with it in large enough quantities. When a liquid spill occurs, use an absorbent item to soak it up, then dispose of the material safely. For dry spills, rake up the material and store it for later use.

Keep Your Lawn Healthy

Once you've fixed any immediate problems, make sure you remain vigilant to prevent further issues from cropping up. Keep an eye on your lawn for changes and quickly make any necessary adjustments to maintain a green and healthy yard.