A DIY summer revival guide: How to fix dead or brown patches in your lawn
Updated: Mar 24
Whether it’s heat stress, chinch bugs or Fido that has damaged your turfgrass, the best time to repair your lawn is coming up quickly in late summer. This is when nights are cooler, the sun’s intensity is decreasing and moisture—whether from Mother Nature or the irrigation system—doesn’t evaporate as quickly.
Tools you’ll need for a successful DIY lawn repair
Get the job done right the first time with tools that will make the lawn repair easier. You'll need:
Lawn mower or weed whacker
Dethatching attachment for lawn mower or manually pushed dethatching tool
Metal lawn rake or hand tiller
Soil test kit or pH strips (can purchase at a garden center)
Repairing lawn patches or brown spots
Repairing patches of lawn follows this series of steps:
Mow the lawn or the area to patch as low as possible.
Remove the thatch to expose as much of the soil as possible. Also remove any weeds.
Rake or scratch the soil’s surface. Grass seeds won’t germinate unless they are physically touching the soil.
Overseed or scatter seed of a grass type that does well for your area and conditions (e.g. full sun, part shade, etc.). Follow the directions on the grass seed package. Water the seeded area well.
Applying an all-purpose fertilizer at this time will benefit the new grass as it begins grow.
Restoring your entire lawn
Lawn restoration is a labor- and time-intensive project. The procedure follows the same steps outlined above with the addition of checking your soil’s nutrient levels, treating for weeds, adding a layer of compost and aerating the soil. For information on soil testing before your lawn restoration, check out the Rutgers University Agricultural Experiment Station’s procedures for submitting samples.
Lawn restoration with sod
Sod is a more immediate way to bring your lawn back to a lush and green appearance. It’s a nice way to have a finished lawn if time is of the essence; e.g. you’re having an outdoor gathering or can’t have muddy, non-walkable areas of the lawn. Sod is convenient in that sections of sod can be cut from a role and inserted into spaces within a lawn, like patching your divots on a golf course. Sod can also be laid down for much larger areas, such as along salt-damaged areas of lawn along a roadside.
With careful attention to installation and ongoing care, sod will give you a full, thick lawn in about three weeks. The general steps in laying sod are:
Prepare soil by removing debris from the area and taking a quick test of the soil’s pH.
Fill holes with topsoil and smooth the area with a garden rake.
Lay the sod over the prepared soil. Once down, tamp it down firmly to remove any air pockets between the sod’s roots and the soil.
Water the sod right after laying, and then water deeply on a daily basis (depending on weather).
Watering your newly-seeded or sodded lawn
Whether you renovate the lawn yourself or have someone do it for you, a consistent watering regimen will ensure the seed or sod takes hold. We recommend using an oscillating watering fan or rotary sprinkler that can reach all seeded or sodded areas. This may requiring moving the device during the watering process. You may already have an automated irrigation system. Be sure to water for at least 30-minutes in the early morning hours. This timing allows for the water to soak into the soil rather than evaporating during the heat of the day.
For newly seeded lawns, be sure to not allow the seeds and soil to dry out completely. This may require you to water several additional times during the day for shorter lengths of time. Avoid watering in the evenings as promotes fungal growth.