Dead, bare patches of lawn surely cause headaches to any lawn owner. Even well-tended gardens or lawns can sometimes face this problem. But, how do you fix it? And can you count on the grass to cover all the bare spots for you?
Grass can spread to cover up bare spots if you use the right species. For instance, grass such as Kentucky bluegrass or fine fescue possess branch-like stolons and stem-like rhizomes that allow them to grow in multiple directions rapidly. Thus, they eventually fill in the dead spaces in your lawn.
However, not all varieties of grass possess the same spreading capacity. So, you must know what sort of grass you have beforehand.
In this article, we will go over the exact causes of bare spots appearing in your green backyard. We will also explain how to fix this issue on your own.
What Causes Bare Spots in Your Lawn?
First, you need to know how the dead spots developed in your garden or lawn. Sometimes, the cause is negligence, while other times, it is beyond your control. You might think you have taken all the necessary steps for a lush, green lawn only to see bare spots shortly afterward.
But there is always a reason as bare spots do not occur naturally, and knowing the root cause of this problem is the first step in trying to solve it. So, let’s look at some of the common causes for bare spots in people’s lawns.
Those who regularly maintain their lawn are no strangers to bugs and worms. Although some of them are beneficial, other species are destructive for your grass and plants. Those that are genuinely helpful for your greenery can help pollinate the plants and make the soil more hospitable.
However, your lawn or garden can deal with a certain level of infestation as insects are a natural part of this ecosystem. But, if the infestation gets too overwhelming or if the insects are particularly aggressive, you will notice bare spots appearing at an alarming rate.
Grubs or larvae of various insects, armyworms, cutworms, chinch bugs, and more are the most common culprit for bare spots. Ant colonies may also cause problems in your lawn by disturbing the soil too much that it can handle.
Typically, these grubs or worms reside underneath the soil and feed on the grassroots, as well as the roots of other plants. This prevents the grass from ingesting any nutrients, causing it to slowly wither away.
Because the root is heavily damaged, the grass has no grip on the soil. So, an easy detection method for grub infestation would be to simply pull on the grass in and around the bare spot. If you see the grass is coming off very easily, you can be pretty certain that an infestation has occurred.
Of course, you need to do some further exploration before taking any drastic step. Pay close attention to the grass you pulled out and see if there is any visible bite mark. Sometimes, you will notice the bugs crawling out of the dead spots. You can also dig up the top layer to get a clearer picture.
This is a different kind of infestation, although it can be just as serious. Weeds such as the “common milkweed” may benefit your lawn by attracting butterflies. However, they also spread rapidly and will eventually hamper the natural growth of your plants if not kept under control.
With technology becoming more accessible, the use of herbicides, pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, etc. is also rising. Consequently, it increases the risks of destroying plants by over-using chemicals.
An over-fertilized lawn is a common sight in residential areas. People focus too much on the good side of these fertilizers but forget the proper measurements. The excess fertilizer ruins the chemical balance of the soil and makes it inhospitable.
The same phenomenon happens with herbicides that contain glyphosate and various insecticides. Herbicides are equally capable of killing both grass and weeds. Thus, if you are not careful, you may end up spraying the chemical onto the intact portion of your lawn. This will result in patches of dead grass that will ruin your dream of a perfect lawn.
These are chemicals frequently used by lawn owners and gardeners to take care of the greenery. But, different kinds of chemicals can end up damaging your lawn. For example, gasoline can spill onto the lawn if you accidentally overfill your vehicle, and that barbeque you hosted last Sunday may have burned parts of your lawn.
This issue has affected many lawns and gardens, and the results can be extensive if the proper steps are not taken. The fungal infections your lawn is most likely to encounter are brown patches, red thread, and snow mold, to name a few.
This is a particular concern for households that host pets, such as dogs and cats. These animals often urinate on your pristine lawn and leave a sizable bare spot because their urine is high in urea, uric acid, chemicals that burn the grass. Wild animals can also come into your yard and ruin the lawn when you are not watching.
Heavy Foot Traffic
You might have come across some people who get really upset whenever you walk directly on their lawn and not on the walkway, and they do have an explanation for that.
Stomping on the lawn does not only damage the grass but can also cause the soil to compact. Compact soil is not ideal for growing healthy grass nor is easy to maintain. Thus, you have to be especially wary of kids as they can unintentionally damage very vulnerable areas.
Does Grass Spread on Its Own?
Grass can spread or reproduce through three distinct methods: seeds, rhizomes, and stolon. You typically prepare your lawn by planting the seeds, but afterward, this method becomes less significant. If you regularly cut the grass, you are probably cutting it before the seeds begin to develop.
Meanwhile, rhizomes and stolon can produce separate, independent plants a distance away from the mother plant. The difference is that rhizomes reside underground whereas stolon stays above it. It is through these two methods that grass can spread on its own and even cover bare areas.
However, not all species of grass have the same capacity to produce through runners. Kentucky Bluegrass and fine fescue are grasses that spread through rhizomes. Meanwhile, species such as the Bermuda Grass, Zoysia Grass, St. Augustine Grass, and more all spread through a stolon.
So, if the grass on your lawn falls into any of these varieties, the bare spots will start to heal over time. However, people with bunch-type grasses, such as tall or hard fescue, will not be so fortunate.
How To Fix Bald Spots in Your Lawn?
Once you have properly identified the cause of the bare spots, you can focus on treating them. Remember that each lawn is different to some extent. So, the proper response will depend on the status of your lawn and the nature of the problem. However, these methods will get the job done most of the time.
To eradicate insect or weed infestations, you need to apply the appropriate insecticide or herbicide. Make sure you only spray the chemical on the affected area, and not on healthy grass. Read the label for proper measurements.
If you accidentally spilled any chemicals onto your lawn, you need to give it some time to heal. Water that area thoroughly and remove any chemicals that may remain. If you apply too much fertilizer, scrape the excess and water it.
You can create a gravel pathway or place fences to direct the traffic away from the bare spots. If the damages are too extensive or you cannot figure out the source of the problem, it is better to call a professional. Otherwise, you might do more harm to your lawn than good by employing the wrong treatment.
Repairing the Lawn
Now, you need to fill those dead patches with new grass. Late spring is the ideal time for seeding warm-season grass, while fall is better for cool-season varieties.
To proceed, use a rake or shovel to loosen the soil in and around the affected area. If there is a heavy layer of thatch or dead grass on top, you will have to dig a bit deeper until the true layer of soil is exposed.
Then, plant the seeds according to the rate instructed on the label. You can even use a layer of topsoil and plant the seeds into it. Kentucky bluegrass, Bermuda grass, and fine fescue, to name a few, are all fine choices for covering bare spots.
Finally, add the right amount of fertilizer and a layer of compost or good-quality mulch. Water it regularly and evenly in all parts.
Hopefully, you can restore your lawn to its previous glory by following these steps. This experience will make you more mindful of these issues in the future, so you can prevent them before they further develop.