Why is My Grass Dying in Patches

Why is My Grass Dying in Patches?

Do you have ugly dead or brown spots on your lawn? In some circumstances brown or dead patches of grass can actually spread across your lawn, becoming an even greater problem over time. If you’re asking why is my grass dying in patches? it’s important to diagnose the problem correctly and fix it right away. In today’s article I’ll help you identify the root cause of dead patches in your lawn.

In today’s article, I’ll reveal the most common reasons for grass dying in patches, as well as how to tell which problem is happening on your lawn.

I will also briefly go into tips for quick fixes to these issues so you can get your yard back on track.

Trust and Accuracy Information

This article was last updated on by Lawn Chick Owner Sarah Jameson
Article content reviewed for accuracy by Horticulturist Arthur Davidson, A.S.

Common Causes of Grass Dying in Patches

Contrary to what many people assume, having brown or dead patches to fix on your lawn is not always a result of any sort of mistake or negligence. Even the most dedicated homeowners can end up with this issue.

Common Causes of Grass Dying in Patches

Let’s go over some of the potential causes of dead or brown grass patches below, but first here’s a list of some of the most common issues that may cause grass to die in patches:

  • Insect Damage
  • Stress Caused by Drought
  • Grass Disease
  • Soil Problems
  • Pet Damage

Here’s a closer look at how to diagnose the issue and identify which is causing your lawn to die or turn brown in patches.

Insect Damage

Insects feeding on your lawn can lead to dead or brown patches.

Grubs, for instance, eat the roots of your grass during a certain growth stage in their life cycle. This can cause significant damage that will spread (as they spread under the soil surface).

Lawn Insect Damage

Grass turns brown when it dies.

When you see a brown patch of grass, it usually means that the roots have been completely detached from the ground. This is why the area may roll up if you pull it.

Signs of Insect Infestation

One of the common signs of a grub problem in your lawn is having more animals come to your yard. Animals, like moles, birds, and skunks feed on grubs.

Signs of Lawn Insect Infestation

Grubs can be hard for humans to see, as they live and eat underneath the surface of the ground. If you lift up the dead grass that has come detached from the ground, however, or dig up a cross-section of lawn in the affected area you may see them.

Consult a lawn care professional about special treatments if your infestation is severe (I have an article on the subject here).

If the infestation is mild, though, measures you can take by yourself may be enough. Treat your lawn with grub pre-treatment in the early spring to remove grubs while they’re vulnerable and prevent an issue later in the season.

Stress Caused by Drought

Most lawns need between 1 and 2 inches of water weekly to look their best. Specific water amounts change depending on the air temperature, growth period of your grass, and the amount of foot traffic it receives.

Add more water during the hotter months. Soil can keep more of its moisture when the weather is cool and there isn’t much traffic on the lawn.

Dry Patches of Grass on My Lawn Caused by Drought

The water your lawn gets can be from a combination of rain and the water that you manually apply. If the weather outside is extremely hot and there isn’t much rain, you’re more likely to have brown patches in your lawn.

The good news is that this may just be your lawn going dormant (which is a natural survival mechanism for turfgrass). Your lawn may not actually be dying.

A sign that your lawn is suffering from drought is if there are brown grass roots but they’re still secure in the ground. Pull on the brown grass, and if it doesn’t pull easily, drought is a likely cause of lawn dormancy or death.

To find out if your soil is too dry, insert a trowel or screwdriver into the ground, if it doesn’t push in easily, your soil is too dry.

Water your lawn to protect it from drought during the hot times of the year. Give your lawn a deep and thorough water three mornings times each week. This should help with brown patches caused by drought.

Grass Diseases

It’s also possible that turf diseases have caused the brown and dead patches in your lawn. This is one of the more worrying causes of dead patches, as disease can spread quickly and ruin your lawn.

Lawn Grass Disease

Weather conditions are among the most significant causes of grass diseases. Growth of harmful fungus can more easily happen in humid or extremely rainy weather.

This is especially the case when there is inadequate air circulation or sunlight.

If you’re irrigating your lawn, try to do so early in the morning. This will allow your grass blades to dry during the day so there isn’t extra moisture which allows fungus to take hold (a common problem if you water at the end of the day).

You should also make sure you sharpen your mower’s blade. A clean cut is important because it helps prevent disease from getting into your grass.

A dull blade rips the end of the grass blade and leaves a ragged edge where disease can enter.

Finally, aerate your lawn and dethatch it when needed. This allows plenty of air flow and moisture penetration into your turf which will keep your lawn healthy.

The Dethatcher I Use & Recommend

For lawns up to a half acre there’s one clear choice when it comes to dethatching tools. I recommend The Greenworks 27022 10AMP Electric Dethatcher.

It works really well and will pay for itself after a few uses when compared to renting a power rake.

LawnChick.com is reader supported. If you make a purchase after clicking a link, I may earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

Some types of lawn grass require these mechanical maintenance projects more often than others.

Soil Problems

Another common cause of brown patches on your lawn is problems with the health of your soil.

Compaction is a common soil issue that prevents your grass from accessing all the water, nutrients, and sunlight it needs to grow and thrive.

Compacted soil is too firmly packed and water will simply run off instead of penetrating to the roots of your grass.

Lawn Soil Problems

Test if you have compaction by using a soil probe or trowel to dig out a tiny part of a brown patch. Do the same at a green patch.

After that, you can compare the two samples. If you find that there seems to be more clay or rocky material in the sample from the brown patch, you probably have a compaction problem.

Compacted soil needs to be aerated. The best time to aerate your soil is when it’s actively growing (spring or fall for cool season lawns, late spring for warm season lawns).

If you do this every year, you’re much less likely to have problems with compaction and brown patches of soil. I like to aerate and overseed at the same time for a beautiful, healthy lawn.

Pet Damage

One other common reason your grass may be turning brown and dying in certain areas is pet damage.

More specifically, when dogs pee on grass the nitrates can burn the lawn and actually kill the grass in that area, the same way putting too much fertilizer on grass can burn your lawn.

Pet Damage Can Be Why Your Grass is Dying in Patches

The simplest way to solve this issue is to take your dog for a walk and let him pee on someone else’s lawn, but if that’s not an option, then you can simply hose down the area where he or she pees right after they go. This will help prevent burning.

And some types of lawn grass stand up to dog urine better than others. Tall fescue is one of the best grasses for dogs due to its deep roots which tolerate urine better than most other lawn grasses.

And for a quick repair of pet damage, try products like Sunday’s Pet Patch, Pet Lawn Bare Repair, or Pet Lawn Grass Seed.

It’s Time to Deal With Your Lawn’s Brown Patches

Of all the reasons why your grass is dying in patches, these are the most common.

By using some of the tips for diagnosing these issues I’ve shared in this article, you should be able to figure out which one is causing your lawn’s brown areas. Accurate diagnosis is the key to resolving the issue.

The most common issues which can cause brown spots on your lawn include insect damage, stress caused by drought, grass diseases, soil structure problems, and pet damage.

The next steps you take depend on which challenge you’re facing, and as you work to fix patches in your lawn, consider testing your yard’s soil to be sure that your lawn has the correct pH and a good balance of the nutrients it needs to thrive.

At Lawn Chick, I am committed to publishing accurate, useful, and trustworthy resources for my readers. As part of this commitment, I’ve invited subject matter experts to review our articles for accuracy. I invite you to read our editorial policy and publishing standards which outlines in detail how every article on this site is sourced, edited, fact-checked, and vetted.



Sarah Jameson’s blog, Lawn Chick, is read by over 2 million homeowners each year and she is regularly cited as an expert source of lawn care knowledge by major publications. Her goal is to meet you where you are, and help you achieve a yard you’ll be proud of. Ready to take the next step toward improving your lawn? Grab her free lawn care cheat-sheet: What to Do When - Take the Guesswork Out of Lawn Care, or upgrade your garage by browsing her favorite DIY lawn care products.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *