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What to Do When Your Lawn is Receding?

We all want a lush, verdant lawn that's full of life but for most homeowners, maintaining the lawn feels like an uphill battle! The green, lush grass often die, which give way to unsightly brown spots, bare areas and often, receding lawn. It’s normal for the lawn to recede in some areas but what’s causing the problem in the first place? More importantly, what steps should you take to solve this persistent problem once and for all? The first step is knowing why some areas are patchy than others:

Common Causes of Disappearing Grass

Lack of Sunlight

If you are seeing prominent patchiness in shady areas, the cause of the problem is the lack of sunlight. Like most plants, grass needs sunlight to thrive and though some grass varieties do well in shady or partially shady areas, others are not as resilient. Other causes of grass patchiness are obstacles that block the sunlight. If you are seeing patchy areas behind trees, the tree is keeping the sunlight from reaching the vegetation behind it.

Grass dying

Drought and Dehydration

How often do you water your lawn? Some grass varieties are quite thirsty and if you don’t hydrate your lawn often or deeply enough, the grass will wilt and die! Drought is also grass’ common enemy so time your watering well during the summer season to prevent dehydration.

Grass dehydration


Too much of a good thing can be bad for the lawn and that includes water. Overwatering could drown the grass roots, which will inevitably lead to plant death. Stick to your watering schedule on normal days and water often only when the climate is hot and dry.

Pet Urine

Do you lead your dog outside to relieve himself? Is Fido out on his own exploring the outdoors for long stretches of time? Has your dog developed the habit of peeing outside? If the answer to these questions is a resounding yes then this might be the reason why your once verdant lawn turned patchy or ridden with yellow or brown spots! You see, dog urine is packed with nitrogen, a chemical that in excessive amounts, kill grass over time. Dog urine is as potent as a commercial nitrogen-rich liquid fertilizer.


Just like plants, grass is prone to pests and an uncontrolled infestation could lead to a serious lawn problem. Don’t wait for obvious signs of an infestation because these mean that the problem has become widespread. Check the lawn regularly for pests or consult an expert.

Over-application/Under Application of Fertilizers

The over-application of fertilizers could affect grass growth. Too much of the stuff could kill the grass. The same thing can be said if the lawn is nutrient-deficient. Grass needs a balanced combination of minerals to thrive. Do not apply fertilizers if the grass does not need it. Keep an eye on your soil’s nutrient profile and stick to a schedule when amending the soil.

How to Revive Receding Lawn

Reseeding Bare Spots

If your lawn is full of thinning or bare patches then it’s best to reseed these areas to keep your outdoor space looking lush and neat. Thankfully, reseeding is not only fast and easy, it’s also inexpensive. It will, however, require some upkeep until the first and/or second mowing.

Before reseeding, do your homework. Check what kind of grass works best in your region and microclimate.

To reseed your lawn, start by clear the area of dead grass and unwanted garden debris using a rake. Check for grub damage because if there is an ongoing infestation, you have to eliminate the pests first before you could reseed your lawn. A sure sign of a grub problem is when a patch of grass lifts up easily. This means the roots of the grass are damaged by the nibbling pests.

Once the pests have been eliminated, work on the soil to boost the air circulation. You can use a rake if your soil is not too compact. But if the soil is as hard as a block of cement, you may have to use a core aeration tool to drill holes into the ground so the ground becomes easy to break.

Add about an inch of loamy soil or compost then mix with the soil using a rake. Do not add fertilizers just yet. Apply only once the grass has been established. Now sprinkle the grass seeds across the area that you’ve prepped for reseeding. Rake the seeds into the soil lightly to a depth of about half an inch. To help the seeds bond with the soil, level the surface ground with a roller or your hands/feet. Until the seedlings sprout, you have to protect this area from birds.

You want to keep the soil moist but never wet to encourage faster germination. Lightly water the area until the seedlings sprout to about 2 to 3 inches. Give the newly reseeded area about two weeks or so before the balding patches are completely covered. Because the seedlings are still sensitive to harsh weather conditions, cover the patch with a sheet of burlap if the weather is too hot.

The newly grown grass may look greener than the rest of the surrounding lawn so give it time to grow slightly longer until the patched area blends in with the surrounding landscapes. Sometimes, you may have to wait for more than a month before mowing the new grass so the color of the grass becomes even.

Filling Bare Spots with Grass Sod

If your lawn is full of bare areas and you need a quick and easy solution, try this trick: fill the bare areas with grass sod. Grass sod is widely available and a roll of it is fairly inexpensive. In addition, a roll of sod is more than enough to fill several bare spots, which is perfect if you are covering a large expanse of space.

To cover a receding spot with grass rod, cut a roll of sod into patches that go about 2 inches beyond the bare patch you are filling. Place the patch over the bare spot and with your shovel; press the sod patch into place. Water the patched up area regularly until the grass takes root. Within a week or so, the patched area would blend into the surrounding grass, making it indistinguishable from the rest of your lawn.


If a patch of grass could be lifted easily like a rug or if you are seeing birds picking at the lawn in the mornings, you might have a pest problem in your hands. Dealing with pests starts by knowing what kind of pest is invading your lawn then using the right treatment to contain and eliminate the problem.

For example, if your lawn is infested by leatherjackets or crane flies, you can use nematode to take care of the problem. If the lawn is overtaken by chinch bugs, you might have to use pesticides to contain the damage. Just make sure to use less toxic solutions like diatomaceous earth or insecticidal soap.

It’s hard work to keep the lawn healthy after a severe case of patchiness so it pays to look for subtle signs of a problem before it worsens. Keep your lawn in tip-top shape with these tips! Sign up for our weekly newsletter to get the freshest gardening resources straight from your inbox.

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