If you find a few bare patches in your lawn, it’s easy enough to fix the problem without resorting to major work. And to help you get it done with the minimum of effort, here’s our guide to lawn patch repair to give you all the info you need.
For a preview of some of the stuff we’re going to be talking about, you can also check out this video before reading on.
Identify the problem
If you don’t know why a patch of grass has died, you are unlikely to see much improvement from just throwing out a few handfuls of grass seed since whatever caused the grass to die in the first place will probably have the same effect on the new grass you try to grow.
With this in mind, here are a few of the more common issues that can cause patches of grass to die and what you can do to stop it happening again.
Wear and tear
One of the simplest reasons why parts of your lawn may suffer is through natural wear and tear, especially those areas that see the highest amount of foot traffic.
Parts of the lawn used as a football pitch or the place where you stand when hanging up the washing are candidates for this kind of problem.
These areas will become compacted more quickly, and the grass will have trouble receiving the water and oxygen it needs to thrive.
One solution is to aerate these areas more often to help water and oxygen penetrate the surface. You may also decide to discourage such intense use of these areas of your lawn, and replanting with hardier species of grass may also help if your grass is too delicate.
Lawns can suffer from many diseases, including fungal infections and others.
Most diseases are opportunistic and will move in when grasses are weakened, so ensure your mower blades are always sharp when mowing the lawn, never take off more than a third of the grass’s height each time and always follow lawn care best practices.
Don’t water your lawn in the evening since most diseases like cool, damp conditions and also consider clearing away overhanging tree branches to reduce the amount of shade.
Pests also tend to move in when lawns are weakened and unhealthy. If you are suffering from an infestation, try to establish which bugs are responsible and take action to remove them.
For example, if you suspect your lawn is infested with leatherjackets, dig up a small sample section of soil and check to see if they are present.
Once they are gone, you then need to make sure conditions are unfavourable for them so they don’t return.
Sometimes weeds can infest a lawn, and when you remove them with weedkiller, they leave a bare patch with no grass.
The best defence against weeds is a healthy lawn since thick grass won’t allow weeds to establish themselves. This means once you re-establish grass over the dead patch, keep it healthy to prevent the weeds from making a comeback.
Lack of nutrients
With time, lawns suck up the nutrients from the ground, and if you don’t replace them, the soil will become gradually less fertile.
This means the best solution is to ensure you feed your lawn regularly, either by leaving grass clippings on the lawn to return the nutrients naturally or by using grass fertiliser of compost.
Pet urine, especially dog urine, can cause grass to die. If you suspect this is why your grass has dead spots, you’ll need to train your dog to do its business elsewhere.
Two methods – pros and cons
If you don’t identify why your lawn has bare spots, there’s no point in trying to repair it since it will just keep dying.
However, once you know what was causing the problem and have taken steps to rectify it, you’re ready to move on to filling in those unsightly bald spots, and to do this, you have two options – seed or turf.
Both methods work well, and each has its advantages.
Seed is inexpensive and can also be used to patch up areas of lawn of any size – from small bald spots to larger sparse zones. It’s also not particularly labour intensive.
However, seed takes longer, so if you’re impatient, using turf can speed things up. Turf doesn’t need to cost much either since you can pick up a single roll for an affordable price. You can even ‘borrow’ pieces from parts of your garden where they are not needed as much.
The main downside is that it requires a little bit more work up-front – and you will have to find the turf if you don’t already have some available.
Lawn Patch Repair with seed
Here are the basic steps to follow when repairing a patch of lawn with seed.
- Clear the area – Start by raking the area clear of any debris like twigs, leaves, weeds or anything else.
- Loosen the soil and aerate – The simplest way to do this is with a garden fork. Once you have broken the surface, give the soil another rake, and if the ground is compacted, consider aerating it.
- Add nutrients – If you think the problem was due to a lack of nutrients, this is a good time to add some fertiliser or compost to the soil. Rake it in and smooth it over again.
- Sow the seeds – When sowing seeds, it’s important to use the right amount. If you use too much seed, there will be excessive competition, causing the grass plants to crowd each other out. However, using too little will result in a thin covering of grass, inviting weeds to move in and take over. Check the grass seed packaging for details of the correct amount to use.
- Rake the seeds in – The seeds should be just under the surface but not too deep. If they sit on the top, they will dry out too quickly and also be exposed to hungry birds – but too deep and they won’t receive the light they need for germination. The perfect depth for grass seeds is about 1cm.
- Water the area – For germination, seeds need to remain moist – but not wet – for around 10 days to two weeks. This means you should water the area gently once or twice a day until the grass starts sprouting.
- Mow when ready – Leave your grass to grow at least 6-8 weeks before you mow it. Let it grow higher than the rest of your grass for the first two months and then mow it like the rest of your lawn.
Lawn Patch Repair with turf
Here are the steps for using turf to repair a patch of lawn.
- Remove the old patch of lawn – Take a knife and cut around the area of lawn to be replaced. You should cut an extra 5cm of healthy lawn around each side. Once you have cut the outline, take a spade and lift out the area that you have marked out.
- Prepare the soil – Use a fork to dig up a layer or the soil to loosen it then give it a rake. Aerate if the ground is compacted. This will help the roots of the turf grow into the soil below, fixing it firmly in place.
- Cut out the turf – Cut out the piece of turf you are going to use to fill the hole, either from a roll of turf or from another part of your garden. To do this, you may need to measure the hole and then measure the piece of turf you cut out.
- Place the turf in the hole – Place the turf you have cut out into the hole. If you measure correctly, it should fit perfectly. Walk over it a few times and press down on the edges to help fix it in place. Fill around the edges with some sandy soil.
- Water – Water the square of turf as soon as you put it in and continue to water once or twice a day for the next few days. Within a week or two, you won’t be able to tell the difference between your old lawn and the new section of turf.
Pro tips for Lawn Patch Repair
Here are a couple of tips to help you achieve the best results.
- Pre-germinate – For more reliable results, pre-germinate your grass seed in a bucket of soil covered with clingfilm. After a few days, you should be able to see the first roots, at which point you can use the soil mixture to fill the hole in your lawn.
- Choose the right seed for your needs – Make sure you choose hard-wearing seed for lawns with lots of foot traffic because more delicate grasses won’t enjoy being walked on. Also, use grasses that are suitable for shade if your lawn doesn’t see direct sunlight.
- Follow guidelines for how much seed to use – Avoid using too much or too little seed to guarantee the best results.
- Avoid using pre-emergent weedkiller – If you use pre-emergent weedkiller, it will also prevent your grass seed from germinating.
- Consider using netting to protect your seed from birds – This is more effective than scarecrows or similar.
- Understand the best time to repair lawns – You will see the best results if you repair your lawn in mid-spring or early autumn since this is just before the main growing periods for grass in the UK.
A simple job anyone can manage
As you can see, repairing a patchy lawn is an easy job that anyone can do, either with seed or with turf – and with this guide, you now have all the information you need to do it.