Why Do Brown Spots Keep Appearing on My Lawn?

[fa icon="calendar"] Sun, 11/29/2015 - 13:44 / by Lynn Tootle

brown spots lawn

Brown spots on your lawn can be a frustrating experience. Even when you think you’ve done everything to ensure a lush, green lawn, suddenly a brown spot appears.

Below are a few possible reasons why you may be seeing brown spots on your lawn, as well as a few remedies to keep your lawn looking bright and green.

Human and Animal Damage

Unfortunately it’s very easy for both humans and pets to cause damage to the lawn. Some common causes include:

  • Animal urine. Dogs are the most likely culprits, but large birds, cats, and other animals can cause urine stains as well. You can figure out if your brown spots are caused by animals by checking to see if the spots are yellow with bright green around the edge, indicating diluted nitrogen found in the urine, which acts as a fertilizer.
    Remedy:  Making sure that your pet is well-hydrated can make their urine less toxic, and you can also train animals to do their business in a different area of the yard.
  • Dull mower blades. Dull blades tear your grass and cause damage as they pull the blades away from the root system.
    Remedy:  Sharpen your blades in the fall and spring, and check after mowing to make sure the mower is cutting the grass evenly.

  • Chemicals. Gasoline, fertilizer, herbicides, and pesticides can cause dead spots if spilled.
    Remedy:  Pour chemicals, fuels and sprays on your driveway or on a patio stone, not your lawn, and always carefully follow the directions.

Poor Growing Conditions

In some cases, the conditions in your yard may be unfavorable for grass to grow. Some issues can include:

  • Poor soil. Soil quality can vary between different areas in your lawn, and patches of poor soil can cause brown patches.
    Remedy:  Take a screwdriver and push it into the soil. If it goes in easily, your soil is likely compacted and needs to be aerated.
  • Erosion. Water tends to run off in slopes, often taking grass seeds and young shoots with it.
    Remedy:  Aerate your lawn to increase water absorption. If you’re dealing with a steep slope, consider building terraces or planting groundcover.
  • Roots. Large trees or shrubs nearby can be a drain on resources for grass, causing the surrounding area to look patchy.
    Remedy:  Consider mulching or naturalizing areas under trees and shrubs.
  • Drought. A healthy lawn requires an inch of water a week, which can come from rainfall or irrigation. A dry spot can become compounded by drought damage.
    Remedy:  Make sure your lawn is watered evenly.
  • Dormancy. Cool-season lawns can go dormant during the summer, while warm-season lawns can go dormant during the winter.
    Remedy:  Learn the types of grass you have planted on your lawn. If it’s a mix of two different varieties, water accordingly

Lawn Diseases and Pests

If none of the suggestions above have worked, it might be time to move on to more serious measures against pests and disease.

  • Thatch. Thatch is a buildup of decaying grass which chokes out healthy grass.
    Remedy:  Remove the thatch by raking if it’s more than ½” thick.
  • Grubs. Grubs are common late-season problem, and can be identified when your sod pulls back from the ground like a carpet.
    Remedy:  Check for fat, white, curved worms beneath your sod and buy grub control products from your local garden center.
  • Fungal diseases. Fungal diseases can become common during the midsummer months, when the temperature is hot and humid.
    Remedy:  Aerate and make sure your grass gets as much sunlight as possible. If it persists, take a sample of the affected grass to your local garden center for help.

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Lynn Tootle

Written by Lynn Tootle

K. Lynn Tootle is the General Manager of GroMasters Inc., a division of TideWater Landscape Management Inc. Lynn is a certified arborist and turf grass professional, a past president of the Coastal Landscape and Turf Professional Association and a graduate of the Urban Ag Leadership program. He graduated from Clemson University in 1999 with a BS in Wildlife Biology and a minor in Forest Resources.

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