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What are These Brown Spots on My Lawn and How Do I Fix Them?


Do you have a case of brown spots in your lawn? Maybe bare spots that need patching, or weeds that have overrun your lawn?

Before rushing to fix your lawn, identify if the grass is dead or dormant. If there are green shoots throughout the brown patches, then the grass should start to repair itself as the root structure begins to grow again. If there are no sprouts, and the brown stays brown, then the spot is either dead or diseased and requires some fixing. There are a variety of reasons your lawn may have areas of brown dead grass.

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Draught Stress

Summer months can be hard on lawns, especially heatwaves, but don’t feel bad, because despite your efforts, brown spots and burn out will happen. With high temperatures, grass will stop growing and go dormant to save itself, resulting in brown grass. Sometimes we forget how often it rains, and how little rain actually falls. It may have rained twice in the last week, but if we have had less than 1 inch in the past 30 days, it is not sufficient enough to keep our lawns green and lush. In this case, to eliminate the brown grass patches, you may need to water your lawn more regularly. If you feel you spend too much time watering, consider installing an irrigation system.

Chemical Burns

Another typical reason for burnt spots on your lawn is a result of dog urine. While you may not be a dog owner, neighbors and passer-byers allow their dogs to urinate on your front lawn and boulevard, leaving brown spots surrounded by a ring of dark green grass. What happens is too much nitrogen and acid burns the area where it is concentrated, and actually fertilizes the edges where the nitrogen is diluted.

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The easiest solution for urine burns, is to water down the spot immediately after the time of urination. In addition, there are dietary supplements your veterinarian can recommend to reduce the pH of the dogs’ urine, if you are the dog owner. Otherwise, the only solution is to re-seed the area where the grass has died off. Make sure to check our other blogs for how to choose the right seed!

Similarly to dog urine, other chemicals burn grass, but without leaving the dark green ring around them. Accidents such as fertilizer over-application/spills, or gasoline spilled from your lawn mower can result in brown patches. Again, re-seed your lawn to fix the damage.

Insect Damage

While there are many types of bugs that live in and around your lawn, majority of them are harmless and quite beneficial to your lawn.  Grubs and chinch bugs are the most common types of insects to damage your lawn in this area. Damage from grubs will appear in late summer, and throughout fall.

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To prevent insect damage, maintain your lawn to the best of your abilities. Aerate the thatch layer when it gets too thick – bugs like to live in thick grass. Mow your lawn to a height of 2” to 2.5” – mowing too short can result in small root systems which are not able to tolerate insect feeding. Protect you lawn by using an insect-resistant grass seed such as perennial ryegrass and fescue– these seeds carry endophytes that help repel insects from your lawn.

If you have already identified insect damage, insecticide treatments may be necessary. You can use biological pest control (living organisms to fight another living organism), botanical pesticide (plant based material), or a chemical pesticide. Never use a chemical as a preventive measure, as it does not work.

Your best strategy is to contact a knowledgeable lawn care professional who can provide assistance in diagnosing and treating pests.