How to Repair Bare Patches in Your Lawn

Bare patches in your lawn are a common frustration and can be caused by all manner of reasons. We hear of these frustrations all the too often over the phone and in person when it comes to the causes of bare patches, and the repair of bare patches. We’re going to do our best to cover this within a single post!

Why Have I Got Bare Patches in my Lawn?

In the case of having a dog, you may know why there are patches occurring (we’ll get onto that!) but it may be a bit of a mystery to you too. A hands-on lawn survey from us would get to the source of this, but a few possible reasons are:

Common Autumn / Winter reasons:

· Excessive shade providing bare corners in the lawn
· Not clearing leaves frequently during the autumn and winter period, causing grass dieback
· Waterlogging through winter, giving a thinner grass coverage
· Disease pressure due to Fusarium or Snow Mold 

Other reasons:

· Poor mowing practices – such as not sticking to the one-third rule
· Excessive use from dogs and kids (sometimes adults!)
· Not moving lawn obstacles which are blocking light, if they be toys or plant pots 

Pest Damage:

· Chafer grubs or leatherjacket present, eating grass roots and weakening grass
· Ant mounds which are then being scalped by the mower 

Summer reasons: 

· Drought stress with poorer areas of lawn suffering
· Localised Dry Patch / Fairy Ring – a fugus where the soil is repelling water

This image shows an area of lawn in need of lawn repair due to bare areas of poor grass

Dogs and Preventing Bare Patches

The most common source of bare patches is due to our much-loved dogs! Prevention is better than cure so let’s look at this first. Dog urine is high in urea – a source of liquid fertiliser. This is highly concentrated and therefore burns the grass, much like the over-application of a DIY fertiliser product! This is why a darker green ring of over seen around the edge of the patch, as a less concentrated source of this urea is good for the grass and encourages growth. 

How can we improve this? 

1. Can your dog go elsewhere? The first wee of the day is normally the strongest one – can we reduce the damage to the lawn this way.

2. Have you spoken to your vet about ‘dog rocks’? These buffer the pH of their water and aid the grass. This may depend on how fussy your dog is and the opinion of your vet.  

3. Can we dilute it? A bucket of water after your dog has been will dilute and reduce the damage and therefore less fixing later if any dependent on the strength of the solution. 

4. Which grass types do best? ‘TuffGrass’ from Johnsons Lawn Seed is a ryegrass blend which has been selected in this mix for higher tolerance to dog urine and lots of play. By sowing this seed mix in this instance, we may be sowing a more sustainable lawn. Not all seed is the same and that is where having a lawn professional on hand really does help.

A Step-By-Step Guide to Repairing Bare Patches in Lawns

There is more to overseeding a lawn than throwing seed on a lawn and hoping for the best. For this job you are going to need: 

☀ A wire rake or lawn scarifer 
☀ A garden fork
☀ A suitable seed mix for your lawn and expectations
☀ A brush / broom
☀ Top soil / top dressing 
☀ A warm soil temperature 
☀ A hosepipe / source of irrigation

1. Firstly, give the lawn a cut. This will take off any excessive growth from dog wee patches, and will mean that new seedlings aren’t competing with established grass for nutrients and light quite as much in their early days. 

2. Scarify, or use a wire rake on the areas to be seeded. This will remove dead and weak grasses from the area. It will look worse before it looks better but it is all for the greater good. If you are able to disturb the surface of the soil that is great. 

This image shows an area of lawn being repaired with many holes made prior to overseeding

Overseeding bare patches is all in the preparation

This image is following lawn renovation, a large lawn that has bee neatly cleared up and ready to aerate. Our machine is ready for work in the foreground

Thousands of holes prior to overseeding is key. This rear lawn in Sutton Coldfield has already been scarified at this stage

3. Collect all debris, if that be raking it together, or using your mower to hoover it out. 

4. Use your fork to make plenty of 10-15mm deep holes in the bare areas. You cannot make too many holes at this stage. Much like planting any other seed, grass needs planting too for the best success.

5. Scatter seed by hand, or by spreader where required. A typical overseeding rate is 25g per metre squared, for bare areas this could be as high as 40-50g/m2. We are happy to supply small seed bags to our customers if at the same time as placing an order ourselves. 

6. Lightly brush this seed into the ‘seed-bed’ you have already created via rake and fork. Much of this seed will be into the soil, or resting on the surface.

7. To finish, lightly top dress over the seeded area with a finely screened material. We like to use an organic top-dressing which is screened to 4mm for this job. This will restore surface levels, smoothing the lawn and provide complete seed to soil contact by surrounding the seed on all sides. It will also have the added advantage of hiding seed from birds, and a high-quality product will be rich in micronutrients. 

8. Finally and vitally, keep repaired areas damp. The seed must absorb enough water to start the reactions needed for germination. Daily light watering, without flooding the repaired areas are required, even in cool conditions. If there is no rain on a given day, then be sure the soil is being kept moist.

How Long Does a Lawn Repair Take?

Germination can take anything from 5 to 25 days dependent on the soil temperature and moisture provided. The soil is often cooler than anticipated in April and early May due to occasional frosts and colder night time temperatures. Early-autumn is the perfect time on large jobs where failure is not an option!

This image is of a bowling green near Coventry. You can see the newly germinating seed doing well in the deep grooves following aggressive scarification. This is another way of creating a seedbed that the grass can thrive in. Over the space of a few weeks and a couple of cuts this renovation will be in an excellent place.

This image is of grass seed coming through following a successful lawn renovation and overseeding. This is special work to be gaining such consistent germination of new grass across a large area such as this

Are There Drawbacks to Small-Scale Repairs?

We can carry out ‘patch-repair’ work on lawns but this can sometimes give inconsistencies between the surrounding grasses and the healthier newly seeded grass. Dependent on the extent of the patches and other factors such as moss and thatch, we often solve these problems via our Lawn Repair and Renovation Service - treating the given lawn the same for this consistency and wider benefits. This is made up of scarification, aeration and overseeding. For all calls carried out in early autumn we guarantee a full grass coverage - we're that confident in our team, machinery and methods. 

Can We Help?

Small lawn repairs are a garden task that you may be onto yourself, or maybe it is something you have already tried with varying levels of success. There are so many causes and factors at play when it comes to why you're losing grass from your lawn and why it might be proving difficult to restore it. 

We pride ourselves on a range of lawn care services which will solve this, ranging from seasonal treatments to improve lawn density or maybe a lawn renovation is required in the first instance. As a proud independent lawn care service we relish tailoring solutions to the needs of lawns and our customers. Get in touch if you would like a quick chat about your needs over the phone and if we are able to help we can be viewing your lawn very soon. We are on 01827 826123, or visit our 'Contact Us' page by clicking the button below.