How to Diagnose and Troubleshoot the Most Common Lawn Problems, From Brown Patches to Weeds

Clear up bald spots, brown patches, and identify disease with our expert tips.

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Healthy lawn of beautiful home
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A lush, green lawn is often a homeowner's pride and joy, but when brown patches, weeds, or unsightly bald spots crop up, those feelings can quickly turn to anger and frustration. Fortunately, these common lawn problems are not only easy to diagnosis, but are also easy to fix on your own (so you don't need to call in a landscaping company to troubleshoot). Here, we spoke with several experts to find out what you need to know about these grass issues—and how to get your full, verdant turf back.

How to Remove Weeds From Your Lawn

To control weeds in your lawn, focus on three important steps: identification, elimination, and prevention, explains Ron Henry, the owner of Golf Course Lawn Store.


"To eliminate weeds in your lawn, it's important to first identify the weed(s) you're dealing with," he says. Common lawn weeds include crabgrass, dandelions, nutwedge, and white clover. Try using apps on your phone, like PictureThis, or do a Google image search to pinpoint the weed type plaguing your grass.

It's just as important to identify your lawn's grass variety (if you don't already know). Grass generally falls into two different categories: warm-season and cool-season. "Examples of warm-season grass include Bermuda, Zoysia, and St. Augustine," he says. "Kentucky Bluegrass, Ryegrass, and Fescue are cool-season grass examples."


Understanding your grass type is important, since you want to kill the weeds without killing your grass—and to do that, you'll need to buy (or make) an herbicide that is safe for your grass type. "If you have warm-season grass, an herbicide combination like Celsius and Certainty will eliminate most weeds," he continues. "For cool-season grasses, go with Tenacity and Sedgehammer. These products will eliminate weeds in your lawn, which gives your grass the chance to grow thick and healthy."


Not every homeowner will need to break out the herbicides, though. Some of us allow certain lawn weeds, like dandelions, to bloom (they're good for bees and other pollinators)—but sometimes, a well-tended lawn will take care of weeds all on its own. "The best way to have a weed-free lawn is to do all you can to keep your lawn thick and healthy," says Henry. "A healthy lawn will outcompete weeds for resources and is a natural form of weed control."

sprinklers watering lawn
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How to Fix Brown Patches on Your Lawn

Patches of brown grass can be both unsightly and the sign of a larger problem. To figure out the cause of your dead and dying lawn, take a closer look at your turf and do some research.

Disease or Fungus

First, try to determine if you're dealing with fungus or disease, says Rhys Charles, the founder and CEO of Mower On the Lawn. Signs of lawn disease and fungus include wisps of white, powdery threads on your grass or dead, brown blotches on individual blades of grass. If you've noticed something that definitely doesn't belong in your grass (like red thread, which presents as red hairs protruding from the blades), it's probably a good sign that you're dealing with an external issue. "If so, you'll need to treat the affected areas with a fungicide," Charles says.

How to Prevent Disease and Fungus From Returning

After treating diseased or fungal patches with fungicide, focus your efforts on preventing future infections, says Henry. First, avoid letting your grass get too long (or cutting it too short). "We recommend mowing the grass twice per week," he says, adding that you should never cut more than a third of the entire length when you mow.

Next, deal with compacted soil. "Remedy this by aerating your soil, which involve perforating the grass with small holes to allow air, water, and nutrients to penetrate down to the roots," says Henry. Lastly, avoid over-feeding your greens. "Excess fertilizer can encourage weeds and fungi to grow, as well as your grass," he says.


Often, these brown patches are the result of a less dramatic problem: underwatering. If you haven't found another culprit, you may just need to give these areas a bit more to drink during the warmer months. "If the brown patches are caused by drought, you'll need to water the entire lawn more frequently," Charles says.

Mowing Mistakes

Less frequently, brown patches on your lawn stem from human error—particularly from a lawn mower blade that has been set too low. "If you cut the grass too short, it can become stressed and more susceptible to browning," says Charles.

spraying fertilizer on lawn
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How to Fill in Bald Spots on Your Lawn

According to Charles, thinning turf is often a sign of improper grass maintenance. "Make sure you mow your lawn regularly and at the proper height," he says, explaining that this will help to keep grass healthy and thick. "Fertilize your lawn regularly to promote strong growth." Also, water deeply and regularly, especially during periods of hot, dry weather.

If you've spotted some bald spots in an otherwise healthy area, your grass may not be getting enough light. "Most grasses need more than eight hours of direct sunlight to do well," says Henry. Lawns with large trees or nearby houses that cast shadows may struggle to become thick and lush. "Your options are to trim the trees to allow more sunlight to reach the lawn or choose a more shade-tolerant grass type, like Fescue," he says.

How to Fix General Wear and Tear

Of course, some problems simply stem from how much we use our lawns—especially if you have kids that love to run around outdoors or dogs that like to dig. "High-traffic areas are more likely to become thin or bare," explains Henry. "Bare areas tend to be more prevalent during spring and fall when the grass is growing slowly," he says. Slower growth means slower recovery from wear and tear. The best course of action? Reduce traffic to that area and give your turn some time to restore itself.

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