Patchy grass is every gardener’s nightmare, and it can turn even the most fantastic garden designs into an eyesore. It can also be a sign of a serious underlying problem, and there are a variety of things that can cause it, some of which are more severe than others. This can be anything from the wrong kind of grass to full-scale lawn disease, and depending on what’s going on, you’ll have to use different methods to get rid of it completely.
Using the wrong solution will either have no effect or actually make the problem worse, and there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to patchy grass except replacing that part of the garden entirely. But how are you supposed to tell the difference, and what’s the easiest way to ensure that you can keep your grass healthy while it’s trying to recover from whatever’s been hampering its growth?
We at Best of Machinery have pulled together a lot of different tips and tricks into this simple, easy-to-use guide that can help protect your grass, no matter whether you’re a professional gardening expert or a homeowner who simply wants a nice, healthy garden space.
How to Identify the Problem
While patchy grass can often just look like a natural issue, there are a variety of causes that can be identified based on their unique symptoms. For example, if the patches regularly appear on bumps or raised spots, you may be skimming them with your mower blades and shaving away too much of the grass. However, if they seem to turn up at random every time you mow, you might be spilling oil or petrol onto the surface without realizing it.
Your surroundings can also make a difference – urine from female dogs can be surprisingly harmful to fresh grass, as can leftover rubble from construction work or rockery building. Once you think you know why it’s happening, you need to figure out if it’s easy to stop. Sometimes you’ll be able to fix the problem by making a tiny change to your garden layout, or even just mowing/washing/using it in a slightly different way.
However, if it’s something much more challenging to solve, it’ll take more time and effort to find a working solution. Regardless, you should still make sure you don’t underestimate how quickly it can spread or develop – a small section of patchy grass can become a wide, hard-to-repair area within only a few days in some situations, and most types of damage take far longer to heal than they take to spread.
One of the most common natural causes is the amount of shade the grass gets. In enclosed spaces, it can be difficult for sunlight to get into specific locations, even in a fully exposed outdoor area. If you have trees, large fences or other obstacles that can completely block light, you might find that certain areas are shaded from all angles, making it really hard for grass seeds to grow properly or spread in from outside sources.
This isn’t always easy to solve, depending on where you are – while you can trim hedges or take down certain walls that might be in the way, you can’t do much about it if other buildings are blocking the light. The best way to deal with it is to replace the grass in these areas with something else, whether it’s artificial grass or a paved area.
Diseases and plant-eating insects are also a major cause of patchy grass, and they can spread through a massive area if they’re left unchecked. There is a huge range of different lawn diseases, but most of them can be dealt with using generic fungicides and other fungus-killing compounds and chemicals. They’ll continue to spread if you don’t kill it off all at once, so be sure that you check your entire garden before assuming its dead.
Lawn insects and pests are much less predictable, and they can cause a range of different problems in your garden. However, if all they’re doing is creating patches of dead or discolored grass, it’s likely something like Armyworms, Chafer Grubs or Japanese Beetle Grubs.
Most of these can be killed off using regular pesticides and insect-killing chemicals, and the grass should be able to heal on its own once the pests are completely gone. If this still doesn’t seem to be working, you may have to try digging up the patchy areas and turn them over so the grass can regrow – sometimes there can be lasting effects that take an incredibly long time to fade away on their own.
Some types of soil will rely on fertilizer more than others, especially if they’re in less-than-ideal conditions. If you don’t spread it out well enough, the less-fertilized areas will look at lot less healthy and vibrant, even if they’re not actually dead or dying. This isn’t too difficult to solve as long as you can get more fertilizer, but you should always check to make sure it isn’t a different cause – it won’t do anything if something else is affecting the grass at the same time.
Not taking care of your garden can also be a significant cause of grass damage, and it isn’t always obvious whether or not you’re missing certain areas when it comes to mowing, watering and feeding the lawn. Making sure that you’re covering the entire area properly can be incredibly important, so try to water and mow in a structured way where possible – even something as simple as starting at one side and finishing at the other can be enough to ensure that you don’t miss out on any significant spots.
You can also be leaving debris or harmful compounds and materials on the grass while you’re trying to do other things, which can have adverse effects on the grass nearby. In some cases, this will be as simple as slight discoloration, but it’s entirely possible to accidentally feed it a chemical that can kill it, especially if you’ve been building, painting or tearing down a structure in your garden that’s made of non-natural materials.
This can be difficult to clean up, especially if it’s a power or liquid chemical that seeps into the soil, so taking preventative measures ahead of time is the only way to really stop it.
Soil quality and toughness can be surprisingly hard to deal with, and it can have a severe effect on not only your lawn but all of the plants growing on it. Unlike diseases or dry areas, it can take a lot of effort (and, sometimes, money) to fix the problem, and you might end up struggling to get the grass to heal fully. In a worst-case scenario, it might even lead to your entire garden needing to be replanted. However, there are some ways around it.
If it’s an entirely new garden, you should be able to use a top layer of softer and looser soil to provide a “buffer” for grass and small plants. This can often be enough to let them grow reasonably well and might help them deal with the harder soil underneath once they’ve established themselves and started to spread.
It’s a good idea to test your soil if you’re able to. There are various methods of doing this, with one of the easiest being pouring some vinegar onto it and seeing if it fizzes (meaning that it has a pH of 7-8, which is above the optimal range). Certain types of grass will work best at different pH levels, so you should always check with experts if you’re planning on putting down fresh seeds or turning a bare area into a completely new garden.
You can also try to aerate your lawn – this mostly involves leaving small holes that can let in water, air and other important nutrients to keep the soil wet and feed the roots of any plants or grass growing in it. This can take a while, but it’s often the easiest way to get more food and water to a garden that desperately needs it.
Helping your Lawn Recover
Once the problem is dealt with, you’ll need to make sure your lawn can recover and heal properly. It won’t always go back to how it was originally, so you’ll need to keep an eye on it and watch how it repairs. For example, if it still seems to be slightly barren, you might have to sow new seeds and see if it starts spreading properly again.
If it still isn’t working, then there may be something left over from the original cause of the problem, and you might need to take stronger measures to get rid of it for good. If you had to deal with insects, for instance, then you might still have a small group left, whereas spilled chemicals or compounds could still be lying in the soil and harming any grass that tries to grow over the area.
This can be incredibly hard to fix, and you might even have to try replacing that section of the soil to physically remove the problem if other methods don’t work.
Overall, if you notice any issues with how your grass is growing, you should focus on diagnosing the problem as soon as possible and trying to fix it in case it spreads anywhere. No matter what the cause actually is, leaving it for too long will only make things worse in the long run, and it’s entirely possible to end up with your whole garden getting overtaken by a disease or insect infestation if you don’t stop the problem when it’s still just a minor issue.