Will Grass Spread and Cover the Bare Spots in My Lawn?

A lush lawn can still be prone to bare spots. We take a look at the causes, how to repair them and cover the bare spots.

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You finally have your lawn just how you want it — green and lush and thriving. Then, all of a sudden, a bare spot appears. What to do? To find out why bare spots occur, and how to fix them to return your lawn to its splendor, we checked in with Joe Churchill, senior turf specialist with Reinders, Inc. to share his insights and tips.

Why Are There Bare Spots In My Grass?

There are several possibilities, Churchill says, and chief among them are dogs, turf disease and human error.

If a dog is relieving itself on your lawn, that can create so-called dog spots, or dead patches of grass that turn into bare spots. And turf diseases such as patch diseases kill grass in circular shapes. Over-fertilizing in one spot, spilling gas while filling the mower and using a grill hot enough to toast the grass underneath are all typical ways you might accidentally cause bare spots yourself.

“Generally, spots don’t just show up without any reason,” explains Churchill. “A bare spot is a dead spot, and it’s a remnant of something else that’s gone wrong; it’s almost like bare spots are scars.”

How to Repair Bare Spots

The cause, of course, determines the cure.

If the bare spots are dog spots, Churchill suggests flushing the area with water to move excess salt through the soil. Afterward, prepare the soil for repair by scratching it up, even adding in some new soil to make the area level with the rest of the lawn.

If the cause of the bare spot is disease or other growth issues, Churchill says to “scruff up the straw or dust from the dead area, add new soil and mix into the existing soil.” Then overseed the area and water in as you would with new grass seed. If the area is bigger, you may want to consider sprigging or sodding to fill the bare spots. Generally, reseeding the spots will do.

Once you repaired the bare spots, Churchill says you shouldn’t need to change maintenance practices, other than spot-irrigating the areas that were reseeded, sprigged or sodded.

Will Grass Spread to Bare Spots?

That depends on the type of grass in your yard.

If your lawn is Kentucky bluegrass or Bermuda grass — two of the most common in the northern and southern U.S., respectively — you may be in luck: The grass should spread to fill bare spots, Churchill says. Those grasses have runners, meaning vine-like stolons above ground and stem-like rhizomes below ground. “They generate plants off the mother plant and will creep in and fill in bare spots on their own,” he says.

Additional types of “running” grasses to consider in southern climates are St. Augustine, centipede grass and zoysia grass. In northern climates, creeping red fescue is an option.

According to Churchill, your chances of having an existing spreading grass are higher in the south. Many northern grasses are bunch-type grasses which don’t spread, so you’ll need to reseed to get grass to fill in. Consider perennial ryegrass, chewings fescue or tall fescue, all bunch-type cool-season lawn grasses that can be used to fill bare spots. Note that tall fescue should only be used to fill in bare spots in an existing tall fescue lawn.

“Tall fescue doesn’t play well with others,” Churchill says. “It can get clumpy and unsightly if used as an overseeder or to patch repair grass in, let’s say, a Kentucky bluegrass lawn, or Bermuda grass lawn.”

Not exactly sure what kind of grass you have? Check with a local lawn care provider, garden center or extension service.

Susan B. Barnes
Susan B. Barnes has nearly 19 years of professional travel and lifestyle writing experience, with recent bylines in Allrecipes.com, Delta Sky, American Way, CNTraveler.com, Garden & Gun, Global Traveler, World Nomads, Gulfshore Life, Southwest: The Magazine, AARP.org and Go Escape Gulf Coast. She has previously written for Food & Wine and Southern Living, too.