How to Revive Your Dying Lawn: Diagnosis and Repair

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Grass growing up from the ground

Summer is well and truly here and so naturally we look forward to long evenings spent in the garden. You’ve spruced up the decking, dusted off the barbecue, given the kids climbing frame a hose down, and weeded the borders but sadly your lawn looks worse for wear from the hot weather.

Never fear! It’s normal for a lawn to go a little brown at this time of year, especially with the extra hot days we’ve been having recently. But, that doesn’t mean that all hope is lost.

A little detective work can enable you to identify the cause and get your lawn looking luscious and lovely in no time!

Why Has My Grass Died?

There are several causes of brown, faded or wilting grass. Getting to the root causes and resolving them can help you revive your grass to a verdant lawn once more.

Worn Patches

In most cases, wearing of the grass is down to regular traffic, whether this be man-made or by a pet, such as a dog. In such cases, it would be wise to lay a path which tracks this regular route to avoid mud and further erosion of the ground. In these cases, the ‘desire lines’ (routes created by cutting through or across a piece of grass) will follow a natural curve and so your path will naturally be more practical and aesthetically pleasing than a straight path would.

Brown Spots

In places your grass may have died completely. This can be down to many things including:

  • Exposure to toxic substances (such as dog or cat faeces) .
  • Spillage, such as white spirit, petroleum or diesel.
  • pH Balance – If the soil pH is too acidic the grass will die. Test the soil with a pH tester kit and if necessary feed the soil with a nutrient to balance out the pH levels.
  • Stony ground – If the ground is particularly stony or if a previous occupant has buried rubble under the lawn this will cause your grass to die as the water will drain too quickly. In such circumstances, the only solution is to dig up the lawn and remove the rubble before replacing with soil and reseeding to allow a more gradual leeching of the surface water.

Brown Grass

Typically, grass becomes brown during summer months when it experiences a drought. During these warmer periods your grass will need a deep watering rather than just a sprinkling of rain once in a while.

To test how dry the ground is beneath your lawn, sink a long screwdriver into the ground. This will help you to determine how much moisture is being stored below the surface. In normal circumstances, the screwdriver should come back slightly moist. If the screwdriver is dry you should water your lawn.

You can do this with a watering can, hosepipe or by attaching your hose to a sprinkler system. As days are long, during the summer, your lawn will be exposed to sunlight for extended periods. For this reason, it is wise to water your garden early in the morning, optimum time being between 5am and 9am to prevent evaporation. Whilst evening watering may seem more convenient, evening watering can lead to water sticking to the blades of grass which can encourage the growth of fungus.

This does not need to be done every day. It is actually more beneficial to water your lawn up to 3 times a week, for a longer period, than to water your lawn lightly every day.


Circles tend to appear in your grass when there is fungal growth in your lawn. Apply a fungicide to combat this and avoid watering your lawn in the evening as this will promote further decay of your lawn.

Brown Striping

If exposed to consecutive nights of rain, your grass can become matted and brown. This occurs when your grass does not get enough sunlight during the day to dry it, resulting in the growth of fungus. In such cases you should apply a fungicide to combat this.

Grass Dying Under an Overhanging Tree

In areas of your garden which are shielded from the sun, especially by an evergreen tree, the denseness of the tree will prevent direct sunlight from reaching the lawn for long periods of the year. Pine needles also exacerbate the problem as they cover the lawn. Whilst you may see some improvement by raking up the needles, you will ultimately be fighting a losing battle. In such cases, you will be wise to lay some mulch or bark to these areas.

Insect Infestation

Whether it be ants or some other infestation the trick to dealing with any insect which is affecting your lawn is to get close enough to find out which particularly creepy crawly has taken up residence under your precious lawn!

Once you know which insect you’re dealing with, you can purchase the appropriate insecticide. Take care to choose one which is specific to that creature and which will not affect pets or plants.

How to Repair a Lawn Full of Weeds

When it comes to dealing with a lawn full of weeds, the first thing you should not do is to grasp at the plat and attempt to pull it out. Many weeds, especially dandelions, have a large established root, rather like a parsnip or carrot. Pulling at the plant’s leaves will usually just remove the plant which is visible above the ground, leaving the root still intact. To address this, you should use the right tools. A large flathead screwdriver or trowel will enable you to loosen the soil around the root so that you can remove the whole plant.

Dead heading a seeding dandelion (dandelion clock) and disposing of the seeds carefully will also prevent further spreading of the seeds for the following year. Before reseeding the lawn, your bare patches are likely to be dry and hard. Failure to break up the soil will likely result in grass seeds being washed away. You will need to break up the soil, in the same way you would before sowing seeds in a flowerbed or vegetable patch. Having broken up the soil you can sow grass seed onto the newly broken up soil.

If you have a large area which has been removed, you may need to sprinkle fresh top soil over the area once weeds have been removed before re-sowing. Sprinkle straw over the grass seed. This prevents the seeds from being washed away, prevent birds from eating the seeds and the straw retains moisture which feeds the seeds as they germinate.

Don’t be tempted to mow fresh grass until it has become established as mowing can cause young grass plants to become uprooted. If you do decide to re-turf, ensure you water often in order to ensure that the rolls of turf grow again quickly and do not dry up.

How to Reseed a Patchy Lawn

If your lawn’s condition is not critical but just needs some TLC, in most cases, the sprinkling of lawn thickener or new seed on sparse areas will promote stronger growth. You may need to scrape out dry areas and gently reseed these. Cover newly seeded areas with netting to prevent birds from eating the seeds (pigeons are particularly fond of grass seed!)

Don’t despair if your lawn is looking tired and worn. Don’t just dig it up and re-turf, show your lawn some tender loving care and you will be amazed at the results!

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