DIY

How to Repair a Lawn with Dead Patches – By seed & laying new turf

Last updated on February 12th, 2022

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The complete guide to repairing your lawn

Dead patches become a nightmare to all homeowners at some point in time. The truth is, dead patches are hard to avoid because more often than not, it comes down to prevailing weather conditions and other underlying circumstances that you can’t control. For some lawn owners, dead patches appear every year in various areas of the lawn, whilst for others, it’s only an enormous dead spot where green grass used to flourish.

Check out my guide where I show you how I laid new turf in my own garden.

Fortunately, there are ways in which we can repair those eyesores on our lawns. But before we take a look at how to repair the lawn, let’s point out some of the causes of dead patches in lawns, some of which could be avoided in the first place:

What causes dead patches in lawns?

Urine from pets

Pets and wild animals urinating on your garden will usually leave a brown patch because of the high concentration of urine that consumes the grass. The high nitrogen level in urine will usually leave a ring of dark green grass around the dead spot. This is a very common problem for homeowners who have pet dogs and the only precaution is to keep dogs off the lawn, however, this is usually not always possible because many people let their dogs onto the lawn for exercise.

Fungal diseases

Fungal diseases like ‘snow mould’ also known as Fusarium can harm patches of the lawn. They create a white web-like covering on the lawn that eventually kills grass on the infested area. Lawn diseases are hard to avoid and for the most part because of temporary environmental conditions. These can sometimes be prevented by improving the overall condition of the lawn by scarifying and spiking the lawn.

Spilt chemicals or petrol

Spilt pesticides and herbicides will usually cause dead spots in the lawn. Yet, even the most appropriate weedkillers, when applied in high concentration, can kill the grass. If you accidentally spill chemicals on your lawn, water the area thoroughly to mitigate the risk. Avoid refilling petrol lawnmowers and other petrol tools on the lawn to ensure no petrol gets spilt on the lawn.

Fertiliser burn

Excessively applying fertiliser to your lawn can burn the grass and leave dead patches. To avoid accidental spills or uneven application of fertiliser, be sure to load your lawn spreader off the lawn and apply the fertiliser steadily with your spreader. This is a very common cause of brown patches because gardeners apply a feed and moss killer at the wrong rate of application.

Improper sprinkler coverage

Uneven sprinkling may cause some small parts of the lawn to brown out and become latent. Whenever you are watering your lawn, try to observe the sprinkler action for a while to ensure uniform coverage. View our review of the best lawn sprinklers here.


How to repair the dead patches on your lawn – Re-seeding vs Re-turfing

The best time to repair your lawn is in spring or autumn because grass recovers well in these two seasons. You can repair your lawn following these easy steps:

Re-seeding dead patches

This procedure is easy, inexpensive and takes about 20 minutes to finish. However, it takes several weeks if not longer for the repaired patch to fully match the rest of the lawn.

  1. Using a rake, clear out any dead grass or debris from the affected area. You want to have a clean surface for germinating new grass seed. For better results, widen the area under clearance to minimise the chances of other underlying issues from re-emerging and increase your yields.
  2. Add some topsoil to the area and mix it in well. Once done, even out the surface using your rake, spreading the soil evenly on the area and some of the surrounding parts.
  3. Sow grass seed evenly across the damaged area and rake them in lightly to a depth of about 1/2 inch. Don’t forget bird protection measures such as mounting reflective tapes that put off birds from eating your seeds.
  4. Water the patch frequently at least once a day, twice a day if the weather is very warm until the grass reaches about 3 inches in height. The area needs to be fairly moist to facilitate germination.
  5. Once the grass is more than 4 inches in height, start mowing the area with the rest of the lawn. It will take about 2 to 3 mowing cycles until the grass blends in perfectly with the rest of the lawn.

Replacing the dead patch with new turf

This method will repair the patch quickly, almost instantly, however, it still takes time for the turf to root and blend into the surrounding lawn.

  1. Using a half-moon edging tool, cut out the dead patch in your lawn. Lift it out using a spade. Make sure to widen the cut a bit into the healthy grass region.
  2. Fork over the soil in the base of the removed area.
  3. Dig out an identical-sized turf from a healthy section of your lawn where it won’t be noticed or alternatively, buy a new roll of turf from your local DIY stores such as B&Q or local garden centre/nursery.
  4. Place your new, healthy turf into the excavated area and apply some lawn top-dressing along the edges of the turf. Walk repeatedly on the new turf or use the back of a rake to compress it down into the ground, if you need to add more soil before putting in the new turf to ensure it is level with the rest of the lawn.
  5. Water in immediately using a watering can or fine hose. Continue watering through the course of the next few days until the turf starts to grow naturally. In warm weather, it may need watering daily because it will shrink if not watered leaving gaps.

These two methods have been tried and tested by gardeners and landscapers alike and they should, without a doubt, work for your lawn.

Follow these simple steps and your lawn will be looking nice and healthy in no time.

Welcome to my site, my name is John and I have been lucky enough to work in horticultural nurseries for over 15 years in the UK. As the founder and editor as well as researcher, I have a City & Guilds Horticultural Qualifications which I proudly display on our About us page. I now work full time on this website where I review the very best gardening products and tools and write reliable gardening guides. Behind this site is an actual real person who has worked and has experience with the types of products we review as well as years of knowledge on the topics we cover from actual experience. You can reach out to me at john@pyracantha.co.uk

5 Comments

  1. Patricia Smith

    Good, clear information – thanks. Have another problem:
    There are some very deep indentations on the lawn – this lawn was laid on a new building site, and think this is just the ground settling down. What is the quickest and most effective way of filling in these (quite large) indentations, please?

  2. John

    Hi Patricia, the only real way to fix this problem would be to buy some bags of topsoil and fill in the dips firming the soil down, then either replace with new turf or just reseed the patches. Ideally, you want to remove the turf from the dips first and maybe you can even put the turf back where it came from once you’ve filled the dips in. Hope this helps

  3. Patricia Smith

    Thank you so much for that information. Would I be correct in thinking this is best done in the autumn?

  4. John

    Yes this correct, while the ground is still warm before the cold weather comes.

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