If you have bare spots and brown patches in your handful of culprits can be at work.  In most cases, brown patches are caused by thatch choking out grass.  A too-thick thatch layer sheds water, creating dry soil beneath, consequently killing your grass.

Although most dead spots are caused by thatch, there are many other causes.  Soil compaction, dog urine, foot traffic, an object left on the lawn,  possibly grubs, will lead to dead grass.  Solve the problem before attempting to fix the patches, therefore eliminating a recurrence.

After solving the problem of your bare patches, you can fix them with these 7 easy steps.

1. Attack the brown patches using a short stiff rake or thatching rake to pull built-up thatch out of the grass to expose bare soil.  Thatch is the build-up of dead grass that creates a thick spongy layer that kills healthy grass.

2. Loosen the dirt in the bare patches using a rake or rotary cultivator, therefore allowing seeds to send roots into the ground, resulting in faster germination.  Add as much topsoil as necessary to dry and compacted spots, resulting in 1-2” of loose, fertile soil.  Compacted soil prevents newly germinated roots from penetrating the soil in order to grow.

3. Seed the areas you prepared at a rate of 10-12 seeds per inch. Too many seeds result in another bare patch.  Planting too densely encourages root competition, due to seedlings fighting for nutrients, moisture, and sunlight.

4.  Sprinkle a light layer of grass starter fertilizer. I like to use my hands for the seeds and the fertilizer. This makes it easy to get the right amount, while a hand spreader also works excellently.


This step is the key to the foolproof method to patch your lawn.

5. Cover all the newly seeded patches with a 1/2″ layer of peat moss. Peat moss holds water and expands, keeping the seeds in place, therefore surrounding the seeds with moisture and nutrients.  Think of it as a nutrient-rich safety blanket for the grass to germinate in. Peat moss also stays springy when it’s wet, consequently preventing future soil compaction.

What is Peat Moss?

(peat moss ˈpēt ˌmôs/noun 1.a large absorbent moss that grows in dense masses on boggy ground, where the lower parts decay slowly to form peat deposits. Peat moss is widely used in horticulture, especially for packing plants and (as peat) for compost.)

6. Water the layer of peat moss.  Really wet that stuff down,  really soak it!  It will expand in place preventing the seeds from either washing or blowing away, or being eaten by birds before they germinate. This works brilliantly!

In the past, I failed at attempts to re-seed following the traditional method of using a layer of straw to cover seeded areas.  Straw is, first, ugly, second, it takes too long to disappear, and third, doesn’t work!

7. Go back over the wet patches lightly with the tiller or rake, as a result, ensuring the seed is spread evenly and covered with peat moss.

One last tip for the rest of the lawn.  Dethatch the grass lightly and add a top dressing of peat moss.  The peat moss will strengthen the grass with much-needed moisture and nutrients,  resulting in a beautiful, green lawn. The healthier the lawn is, the easier it is to maintain!

*I live in an area where Tall Fescue is the most common grass grown.  It’s important to know what type of grass you have so you can buy the right seed.  If you aren’t sure, snap a couple of close-up pics and take it with you to the garden center.