Patching Lawns

Small dead spots in the lawn may be made by dogs urinating, fertilizer or chemical spills, contruction, weather damage or lawn insects or diseases. There are three ways to fill these spots:

  • If the spot is small, it may repair itself depending on the grass type. Kentucky bluegrass, for example, will fill in naturally through its growing habits. This is not an option for tall fescue lawns and warm-season grasses.
  • A second option is to patch it with sod, sprigs or plugs. This is a bit more trouble, but the dead spot is gone immediately.
  • A third option is to re-seed. Re-seeded areas are slower to establish than sod—but quicker than self-healing. This option is often used for larger dead areas or badly damaged lawns with many dead spots.

Patching With Sod

Sod for patching can be obtained at a local nursery. Some nurseries sell small pieces of sod just for this purpose. Select sod that’s as close to your lawn type and color as possible. Different varieties of the same grass can be quite different shades of green. For example, some bluegrass varieties are a deep blue-green, while others are a soft apple green. If the purchased sod is very different from your lawn, it will look like a patch forever.

Another way to get patching material is to raise it yourself by cutting patches from an out-of-sight portion of your own lawn. You might even plant a small piece of lawn just for this purpose, making your own sod farm. Raising your own sod saves you a trip to the nursery, and you know the sod will match your lawn. Whenever you remove a piece of sod for patching, re-seed the spot.

Use a sharp spade to cut a square shape in the lawn around the damaged spot. Holding the spade horizontally, cut the damaged sod out, taking about 3/4 inch of soil with it. Lay the cut-out portion on the new sod. Using the cut-out piece as a template, make cuts around the edges into the new sod. Lift this sod (if it’s part of your lawn) by undercutting with the spade.

Rough up the soil in the damaged spot with a rake or cultivator and lay the patch in place. Press it down firmly to establish good contact with the soil. Water it daily in dry weather for the first couple of weeks until the roots have grown into the native soil. Gently lift a corner to test. If you meet resistance, the sod has established.

Reseeding Dead Spots

Damaged spots can also be patched by reseeding them. Rough up the soil in the damaged area to remove dead grass and expose fresh soil. Scatter lawn seed (of a type that matches your lawn), sprinkle on some starter fertilizer, press the seed into the soil, and keep it damp until the seeds sprout. This may take up to a month in cool weather.

Re-seeding can be made easier by purchasing a patching mix of grass seed, fertilizer and mulch. Just spread it on the dead spot and water daily until it germinates.