How to Patch a Bare Spot in Your Lawn

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  • 2 hours
  • Beginner
  • 30
What You'll Need
Sod or grass seed
Spade or shovel
Rake
Straw
Compost

A thick, luxurious lawn is like the crown to your castle. It’s not always easy to maintain, but like anything else worth having, it requires work. Take these steps to repair those bald patches before they tarnish the look of your castle’s crown.

Step 1 - Determine the Cause

Sometimes this is easier said than done. Brown, dried up areas can be caused by any number of underlying issues: lawn grubs, fungi, pet urine, or foot traffic just to name a few. Identifying the cause is key since you don’t want to undermine the work you’re about to undertake. If excessive foot traffic is the cause, simply diverting to a clearly defined path through your garden should fix the problem, but if lawn grubs or grub worms are infesting your lawn, reseeding the bare spots won’t be the end of it. By the time those spots grow in, you may find additional bare spots as those grubs continue to dine on the roots.

Pet urine concentrated in one spot can burn the lawn much like excessive fertilizer. Some experts suggest watering the area to dilute the concentration of urine. Restrict pets from relieving themselves at that location, otherwise your work will be all for naught.

grub larvae in dirt

Step 2 - Decide on Plan of Action

Discovering the cause of your lawn woes will help you determine your plan of action. Your main choices are reseeding the affected spots or replacing with sod. Both have advantages and disadvantages. Reseeding is generally cheaper, but takes several weeks for the grass to grow in. Replacement with sod is an instant makeover, but can be more expensive. Both are easy to do, so the choice mainly depends on your budget and patience.

woman rolling out grass sod

Step 3 - Remove Dead Turf

This is best done when the ground isn’t too cold or wet. Too cold, seeds won’t germinate. Too wet, it's a big mess and rooting around in the muck can ruin the soil structure.

Either way, you’ll still need to remove the dead turf before you begin. You may be tempted to simply toss seeds directly onto the brown patch and water them in. In theory this lazy-person’s fix could work, but good seed-to-soil contact will really help get those seeds growing quickly. You’re better off putting in the effort to remove the affected turf rather than doing a crackpot job. Your lawn will thank you for it.

Get under the turf with either a sharpened spade or shovel. Use it to slice around the perimeter of the dead area, then slice underneath to remove the grass and thatch, and the top two inches of soil. If the soil is compacted, break it up with the shovel or use a manual aeration tool that creates holes in the soil.

Step 4 - Add Compost and Spread Seed

Backfill the hole with compost or loamy soil, mixing it thoroughly with the topsoil. Rake the area, taking care to remove large clumps. Once soil is level with the rest of the ground, spread seed evenly over the exposed area, raking them into the topsoil. Gently tamp down the area to remove air pockets and provide good seed-to-soil contact.

hand spreading grass seed on lawn

Or if using sod, cut it into slightly overlapping sections and lay them in the prepared space, overlapping the edges. Once in place, the new turf may lie higher than the rest of the lawn. Firmly step on the sod to level it out and create good contact with the soil underneath.

Step 5 - Protect and Maintain

Protect this newly seeded spot from birds and moisture loss by covering it with straw. You may need to water up to twice a day depending on how hot it is in your area to keep it moist while seeds are germinating. Germination can take up to ten days, but once growth has started, water daily. In a few weeks your lawn should be ready for fertilizing lightly before summer heats up. In the meantime, mow around the new grass for the next few weeks, as some seed manufacturers advise letting it grow at least seven weeks before giving it its first haircut.

If you patched it with sod, water immediately. You may need to water the area up to three times a day so it doesn’t dry out. It should take a few days for the new patch to bond with the rest of the lawn and actively begin growing.

Keeping a lush, beautiful lawn is a labor of love. If you’re not into that kind of labor, there are other lawn options that require less work. Or perhaps skip the lawn altogether and try xeriscaping for your next DIY project.