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How to fix a patchy lawn

Updated February 21, 2017

Growing grass when it doesn't want to grow seems like an impossible task and a fight against nature. Weeds, parasitic and insect invasions, beloved pets and poor soil are just a few of the reasons for ugly, patchy lawns. The first step to repairing an unsightly lawn is identification or diagnosis of the problem. Eliminate weeds and parasites, train your dog to use an out-of-the-way spot and add nutrients to your soil to get a head start on a beautiful lawn.

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  1. Rake the area to be reseeded in a manner that loosens the top soil to a depth of about 5 cm (2 inches). Reseeding is the least expensive and most easily achieved method of reviving your grass.

  2. Aerate the area. This is done either by hand using a special tool with hollow tines, or with an aerator. Aeration opens the soil, feeding the grass roots the essential oxygen and nutrients for good growth.

  3. Top-dress the area. A top-dressing is a mix of fertiliser, or compost and peat moss applied at roughly a 6 mm (1/4 inch) thickness. You can also mix in the plugs from the aeration. Smooth and level this application with a rake. Ideally, a lawn benefits from a quality top-dress twice a year.

  4. Seed the area using a grass mix appropriate for your needs and location. For instance, if your pet is causing the problem, choose a rye-grass or Fescue mix that is more resistant to urine. In a heavily travelled area, choose Bermuda or Bluegrass for best results. These latter two also do well in a warm southern climate, while Bluegrass and Fescue fare well in colder UK climates.

  5. Firm and water liberally until your seed germinates. Germination times are listed on the seed packaging. Once sprouting occurs, water for greater lengths of time less often. A seed must stay moist in order to survive.

  6. Tip

    Installing a sprinkler system on timer minimises the time spent watering your new grass.


    Be cautious of over-fertilising, or using fertilisers too high in nitrogen, as this results in burnt patches. Stay off the new grass until it's well-established. Walking on it, or cutting before it's 7.5 to 10 cm (3 to 4 inches) in height will damage or kill it.

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Things You'll Need

  • Rake
  • Aerator
  • Fertiliser or compost
  • Peat moss
  • Grass seed
  • Garden hose or sprinkler system

About the Author

Angela Baird has been writing professionally since 1995. She has a wide range of life experiences from work with abused animals with the Humane Society, to more than 20 years of hands-on experience in the culinary arts. In addition, she keeps horses and does her own home improvements and home gardening.

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