Addressing Brown Spots on Your Lawn

As a property maintenance company in the Greater Toronto Area, some of the most common questions we often get at this time of year are “Why are there brown spots on my lawn?” "How do I treat them?" and "How expensive is it going to be?"

We will try to address these questions as best as we can here, while hopefully providing some additional information to help you find the best solution.

Dog Damage on Lawns

This is one of the most common problems we see on residential lawns. Often, clients will tell us, “It can’t be that – I don’t even own a dog!”

Just because you don’t own a pet doesn’t mean there aren’t people in your neighborhood who allow their pets to use your lawn while you’re out.

These brown spots are sometimes ringed by dark green grass. It’s basically a case of too much nitrogen and acid, which burns the area where it’s concentrated, and actually fertilizes it at the edges where the nitrogen is diluted.

There’s nothing much you can do about dog damage spots on your lawn, unless you’re the pet owner. Watering the spots down at the time of urination or perhaps a dietary supplement from your veterinarian could minimally help, but unless it’s your dog, not much you can really do to help except re-seeding. Even that solution has its limitations.

Chemical Burns on Lawns

Similar to dog damage, we often see large spots in the lawn that are dead, but without the green ring around them. This could be caused by fertilizer spills, or gasoline that spilled down the side of your mower.

I even had a client with a lawn tractor whose gas line had a small but steady leak, and left tracks all over the turf.

Again, not much you can do besides re-seeding in the fall, just like dog damage. Contaminants can come from many sources and exhibit the same signs as spilled fertilizer or over-application.

Before you conclude, investigate why your lawn is burned.

Different Kinds of Grass on Lawns

There are certain types of grass that don’t fare as well in your lawn during the summer months. Some examples would be Fine Fescue varieties and Rough Bluegrass.

These grass types prefer milder temperatures and less sunlight, and the often 90-plus degree days we get here cause massive amounts of stress on the turf.

Often, clients will have a patch of one of these types of grass without noticing it for several years due to weather conditions, and once we experience some consistently hot weather, there’s an issue.

Again, re-seeding could offer a partial fix, using a seed type appropriate for our area. Consider consulting a lawn care professional for guidance in which seed types to use for re-seeding and the possibility of success in introducing new grasses in these areas.

Drought Stress on Lawns

Honestly, it could just be that your lawn needs water. Our lawns here in Central Pennsylvania are composed of what are called “cool-season turfgrasses.”

These grasses grow best in cool weather (spring and fall here), and don’t like the hot, dry conditions we experience in the summer time.

Also, there are other conditions that can impact this, like shallow soil near the edges of the driveway and sidewalk, or particularly rocky soil.

Again, ask a lawn care professional to help you identify problem areas in your lawn.

Turf Disease on Lawns

There are several types of diseases that can cause “brown spots” in your lawn. It may appear that the damage is cosmetic, but most of these summer lawn diseases pose serious risks to your lawn’s health and can kill it quickly.

Turf diseases vary from year to year as well, and require three things to grow: the host, the pathogen (fungus in this case), and a suitable environment.

Unless all three are present, there won’t be disease problems with your lawn. However, environmental conditions vary from year to year and season to season. You might go a decade with no problems, and then have one year where your lawn is decimated. In these years, all three conditions were present.

As a general rule, bag your clippings if possible, maintain mowing height at 3″, avoid mowing when the lawn is wet, rinse all grass particles off the bottom of the mower following each cut to remove fungus spores, and core aerating the lawn can all help with relief of disease problems.

However, there are many cases where a preventative or corrective fungicide treatment will be necessary to maintain turf health.

You should consult a professional lawn care company for recommendations. Ask this company about their certifications for diagnosing disease when you call to make sure they know how to identify and treat appropriately.

Specific disease diagnosis is not something every lawn care company is good at so make sure you’re dealing with true lawn care experts.

Insect Damage on Lawns

Grubs are the most common type of insect damage we hear about from clients. However, grubs are NOT actively feeding on your lawn during the early summer. Damage from grubs will not show up on your lawn until late summer through fall.

There are several types of surface-feeding insects that do damage to our turf in the area – insects like Sod Webworms, and Chinch Bugs can all cause massive amounts of damage to your turf.

Chinch Bugs and Sod Webworms are the most common pest in our area, and can be extremely difficult to identify.

Even in years where populations and damage is known to occur, it can even be difficult for turf grass professionals to spot tiny Chinch Bugs that are 1/8″ long and hide in the thatch layer.

Your best strategy is to contact a professional lawn care provider and get assistance in diagnosing and treating for these pests.

Sometimes there are cultural practices you can do (like planting a more insect-resistant grass type) and sometimes insecticide treatments are necessary. A knowledgeable lawn care professional can help you navigate your options.

We’d be happy to speak with you and help you diagnose the cause of your lawn’s brown spots and suggest a remedy for your summer turfgrass issues. Feel free to call us for a free consultation.