This guide will instruct you on How to plant grass seed in Bare spots and help you patch those ugly brown spots on any part of your lawn.
Whether you have patches of lawn disease or have discovered pet urine is creating lawn damage, this article will help you determine what’s causing the patchy grass, how to fix dead spots – or how to fix grass from dog pee, repairing them quickly.
Bare patches on lawns can occur for various reasons, but either way, most people agree that bare patches look bad and detract from the overall appearance of your lawn. With that, let’s get to how to fix dead patches of grass!
How to Fix Bare Spots on Your Lawn
Below, you’ll find our step-by-step guide for grass patch repair – with the help you need to reseed your bare patches – and quickly get your lawn looking its best again.
Step 1: Determine “Why” You Have Bare Patches
The first step in fixing brown lawn spots your lawn is to determine why you’re having problems in the first place. Carefully dig a spade or two of it up to determine if you have an infestation of insects or grubs.
If your lawn is free of pests, the next step is to look at the amount of water and sunlight your lawn is receiving.
If water pools near the bare spots during rainstorms, you most likely have “low spots” in your lawn. Or, perhaps a nearby tree prevents the lawn from getting enough sunlight. Either way, you’ll need to address these problems before reseeding.
Shade from a tree is often the most challenging problem; some homeowners think they may have to cut down a tree to repair a bare spot. If this proves to be your problem, you may experiment with a full-shade grass seed for bare spots instead.
Dog Urine Spots on Lawn: If you wonder how to fix yellow spots in the grass or know that your favorite four-legged friend is causing the bare patches on your lawn, check out this handy article for ways to prevent dog urine spots on your property.
Once you determine your pet’s urine is causing the problem, and before you fix grass from dog urine, it would be wise to consider your dog’s diet, and perhaps the reduction of too much protein. (Be sure to consult your Veterinarian for their recommendation).
What causes dog urine to make brown or yellow spots in lawns?
“Turf grasses actually prefer a slightly acidic pH, but can tolerate a wide range – 5.5 to 7.5 or higher and still do well. Dog urine has a pH between 6.0 and 8.0, depending on the dog’s diet and health. it is NOT the pH of the urine that kills the grass.
The real culprit is the high nitrogen concentration in the urine that causes the brown spot. Urine consists mainly of water and urea, a form of nitrogen, which results from the metabolism of protein. Since dogs are carnivores, they consume relatively high amounts of protein, which translates to high urea (nitrogen) content in the urine”.
Besides the consideration of your dog’s diet, the three best suggestions for eliminating yellow spots in your lawn are:
- Be sure your pet always has access to and is drinking plenty of water
- Train your dog to urinate in mulch or gravel areas near your lawn.
- If you don’t have mulch or gravel, you can follow your dog with a watering can to dilute the urine, although this method isn’t very practical!
Step 2: Plant New Grass Seed at the Best Time
You must patch the bare spots of your lawn at the right time. If you have cool-season grass, plant it in cooler temperatures (55-65 degrees Fahrenheit Is ideal), And if you have warm-season grass (like Bermuda), it will require warmer temperatures (70-80 degrees)
Generally, the best temperature for growing grass seed (in most locations) – is 60-75 degrees Fahrenheit, with soil temperature ranging between 50-65 degrees. While this is the ideal temperature range, grass will grow in slightly colder or warmer temperatures, but the germination process will take longer, and the growth success of all the grass seeds you plant, may be less.
Most of you will probably want to plant in the fall. However, spring can be just as timely. The cooler weather makes it easier for seeds to retain moisture. It’s common sense that as we dehydrate more quickly in the summer months – so will your grass seed.
Another plus for off-season grass seed planting is that the vast majority of weeds that grass competes with die during these cooler months.
If you care to follow the “technical route” to grow grass from seed – check out this article from my son’s alma mater – Michigan State University’s Agricultural Department – on “Establishing a New Lawn from Seed.”
Step 3: Prepare the Damaged Lawn
You can start repairing the damage once you’ve corrected the underlying problem. The first step in this process is to use a rake to remove the old dead grass and any leaf debris, leaving only bare soil where the new grass seed will be sown.
Next, you’ll want to break up the soil a bit. A small hand cultivator is usually the right tool for this job. It will loosen the surface soil reasonably well without dislodging so much that you’ll have erosion problems during your next thunderstorm.
Step 4: Add Organic Material To the Soil
Although grass is well-known for growing in all conditions, it tends to germinate best in fertile soil. For this reason, adding some extra organic material before you spread the grass seed is a good idea.
Some compost or a bag of garden soil from a home improvement store will usually do the trick, and you don’t need to spread more than an inch or two on the bare spot to achieve the desired results.
Dog Patch repairs: Note, If you are fixing bare patches because of dog urination, you should buy a small bag of Lime for your lawn, again sold at Home improvement stores which should be lightly spread into the spot to neutralize the soil acidity, before you spread and bury the grass seed.
The video below addresses this issue and demonstrates the use of grass seed to repair bare spots in your lawn.
Once you’ve spread your organic material, use a cultivator or a garden rake to incorporate it into the soil. While you don’t want to bury the new material, it should be thoroughly mixed into the top few inches of your lawn’s dirt.
This step may not be necessary if you’re using a grass seed embedded in a growing medium, as the medium will usually supply all of the nutrients your new grass will need while it’s getting started.
Step 5: Apply New Grass Seed
Now that the bare spot is ready, it’s time to lay down your new seed. Knowing how to plant grass seed in bare spots is getting the proper seed density. Like planting a garden, a good rule of thumb regarding seeding density is to get about 15 seeds in every square inch of bare ground.
To approximate this, mark out a square inch and spread 15 seeds within it, then use that as a visual guide for how thickly to spread the seed on the rest of the patch.
Don’t worry too much about being precise, but try to achieve an even and reasonably dense spread throughout.
Not sure what grass seed to use in Your Region?
Video from “This Old House” – How To Choose Grass Seed:
Step 6: Rake Grass Seed Into the Soil
Now that you’ve seeded the surface of the bare patch, you need to cover the new seeds with a bit of soil to prevent them from washing away before they can germinate and take root. There are two ways of accomplishing this.
The first is using a garden rake gently rake the seeds into the soil. Ideally, you should aim to work them into a depth of about half an inch, as this will give them just enough cover to protect them from the rain.
The second option is to use a bit of additional topsoil to cover the seeds, aiming for a depth of about half an inch. This is usually the easier of the two methods, especially for more significant bare spots.
Step 7: How Much to Water Grass Seed
Like all other plants, grass needs ample water to grow and thrive. The first time you water your grass seed, you must carefully dampen the soil well without creating puddles.
This initial watering will help start germination and keep the bare soil from drying out and blowing away like dust.
Water grass once daily – Initially soaking (not puddling) the newly planted grass seed to keep it moist as it germinates.
For warm weather grass seed planting, We recommend using a garden hose with a spray nozzle set at a broad spray setting and watering grass seed once in the morning between 8-10 am and once in the evening between 3-5 pm, avoiding the evening watering for colder weather planting.
Here are some other tips for watering your lawn:
- Water deeply, but less often. This will help the roots grow deeper and make your lawn more drought-tolerant.
- Water the entire lawn evenly. This will help prevent dry spots.
- Avoid watering during the heat of the day.
Step 8: Keep a Close Eye on Grass as it Grows
After planting your grass, you’ll need to keep a close eye on it as grass grows in the bare spots. Grass seed germination can take 5 to 30 days, depending on the weather.
So the most essential part of taking care of new grass during its first few weeks of growth is watering it daily.
Another step you may have to take in caring for your new grass is protecting it from intense sunlight on sweltering days. Excessive heat and sunlight can stress the young plants and cause the ground to dry out, leading to weak early-stage growth.
Note: If you do have a scorching, bright day, you can use a bit of burlap or a sheet to cover the ground.
These materials will lock moisture in for a while, allowing for airflow to the plants. Be sure not to use anything too tightly woven, as the lack of air and heat buildup could harm the plants. This step will also not be necessary if your new grass is in a shaded area.
Step 9: Let New Grass Grow Long Before Mowing
The final step in the lawn repair process is to avoid mowing it until it is over three inches tall.
While the long grass may seem annoying, letting it grow longer before mowing is essential for the plant’s health.
Mowing stresses the grass and limits its ability to conduct photosynthesis by reducing the surface area of the individual blades. While mature grass isn’t harmed by regular mowing, younger plants must be allowed to reach a decent size before being cut for the first time.
After you have grown a beautiful lawn, learn How To Stripe Your Lawn – just like the Pros do – It’s easy!
Frequently Asked Questions: (FAQ)
Q: How Do I Match Grass Seed To My Existing Lawn?
A: If you want to be more accurate about matching grass seed for your existing lawn, cut a small 6″ x 6″ piece of healthy sod from your existing lawn, and bring it to a quality lawn care company that sells sod or grass seed. (Your big box store probably won’t have the expertise to assist).
Once you determine the type of grass your existing lawn is, you can buy matching grass seed for lawn repairs.
Alternate option for Matching Grass Seed: Most cool-climate lawns have shady and sunny areas. A sure-fire alternative to matching existing grass is to buy a mixture of shade and sun-tolerant grass seed, including an equal mix of Kentucky Bluegrass, Fine Fescue, and Rye Grass.
Q: Can You Spread Too Much Grass Seed on a Lawn?
A: It is possible to spread too much grass seed when patching a lawn. Too much grass seed causes competition for growth, as new grasses compete for water, nutrients, and sunlight.
Q: Should You Put Down Fertilizer or Grass Seed First?
A: You should always plant grass seed first before laying down any fertilizer. Plant grass ahead of fertilizer and allow it to grow for at least 3 weeks before spreading a recommended amount of “Starter Fertilizer.”
Q: Can You Repair a Lawn Without Grass Seed?
A: Here are the Top 3 Methods to repair a lawn without Grass Seed.
1) Use Sod or Lawn Repair Mix instead of Grass Seed
If you want to use Sod from your local Landscape Nursery or Big Box Home Improvement store, you can skip the Grass Seed only method and find a suitable sod, usually sold in 18 x 24″ strips, to grow in your new grass patch.
Cut the sod to match the size of your patch or patches, and continue with the watering steps below. You may also elect to buy Lawn Patch Mix – which is sold in bags and contains Recycled newspaper, Grass seed, and fertilizer all in one mix.
You spread the mixture, water it, and you’re done. The recycled mulch keeps the seed from washing or blowing away, while the fertilizer feeds the grass seed. Lawn patch mix is not as cheap as grass seed, but it’s very convenient if you only fix a few small patches.
2) Use a Grass Seed Mat (Roll-up)
If you’re short on time and want an all-in-one package for growing grass, then a Grass Seed Mat, sometimes referred to as a Seed Mat or Carpet Grass application – could be your solution.
You prepare the ground as you would for the standard grass seed installation by raking out the soil – rolling out the grass seed mat containing biodegradable fabric, grass seed, and fertilizer – providing a short watering cycle 2-3 times a day, and that’s it.
The manufacturer estimates 5-6 weeks to germinate and grow grass seed with grass mat material. Precaution includes grass mat installation with a daily temperature between 40-90 degrees and adequately securing the mat so it doesn’t blow away.
Now that you know how to plant grass seed in the bare spots of your lawn, you can quickly restore the appearance of your yard and fix bare or thin spots that have developed over the years. For all you “Visual learners,” here are some great step-by-step illustrations from WikiHow that you can also refer to.
Unless you switch to Artificial Grass, you should plan on seasonal patching and repairing damaged grass.
If the problem is confined to patches, though, these instructions will help you make quick work of helping restore your lawn’s health and grow your lawn fast.
References & Additional Resources