Q. I am finding spots of dead looking grass in my lawn. What could be causing that and what are some things I can do to repair those areas?
A. There are various causes so I'll mention a few and some suggestions of what you can do to fix each one. Some causes could be: Urine burn made by a pet dog; lawn mower blades so dull that they actually cut unevenly ripping the grass off instead of cutting it; a mower that is set too low and cuts grass too short; grub damage; and fertilizer and weed killer damage. These are probably the most common reasons for grass damage and bare spots. I'll begin with the last reason and work forward:
Fertilizer and weed killer burn: Fertilizer and weed killer applied unevenly over the lawn can burn and kill grass in spots. (Also if there were a lot of weeds, dying weeds could be causing some of the bare spots.)
• Proper settings for your spreader are provided on the bag of weed and feed if you are applying it yourself. If this is what has happened in your lawn, resist fertilizing until early spring.
• Rake off the dead grass, loosen up the soil in the bare spots, add compost, and sow with grass seed. Keep watered.
Grub damage: Grubs can be the problem and to know if that is what you have, pull on the dead grass and if it is grubs, the grass will lift right off the spot. This happens because the grubs have eaten the grass roots.
• We are seeing an upsurge in Japanese beetle damage this year so grubs in the lawn are a possibility.
• If you determine this is what is causing the problem, you can purchase environmentally safe grub control products such as milky spore, a hose end spray product by Safer, and several other products that are offered at most garden centers or online.
• After treatment rake off any dead grass, then aerate your lawn.
• You can do this by using your heavy duty garden rake or rent an aerator.
• If you want to do it the inexpensive way and your lawn isn't a large one, lay the rake tines down and press with your foot in strips throughout your lawn.
• Then spread compost over the area and match grass seed to your present grass and seed the bare spots. Keep all well watered.
Dull mower blades: The answer to this is almost self-explanatory. Always make sure your mower blades are sharp and set your mower high (3 or 4 inches for Fescues). Both of these suggestions can provide you a low maintenance, drought tolerant lawn. That also protects your grass from disease and pests.
• It this has caused the bare spots, after you correct the mower problems, aerate, spread compost evenly over the damaged areas, and sow grass seed. Always keep watered.
Pet burns: If you have a dog you know they often use the same spots over and over and soon there are urine burns throughout your lawn.
• These are said to be nitrogen burns like what happens if a high nitrogen fertilizer was wrongfully applied and you wind up with damaged and spotty grass as a result.
• One method to stop the damage (or slow it down) is to stop the high nitrogen fertilizer on the grass the pet uses and then take it a step further and every day flush the area with water.
Jane Ford is an Advanced Master Gardener. Email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. This column is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of The News-Sentinel.