Here's what you need to know to cover diseased and distressed areas with lush grass again.

By BH&G Garden Editors
Updated June 05, 2020
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Keeping a lawn in tip-top shape often means applying an organic fertilizer twice a year, aerating periodically to discourage thatch buildup and soil compaction, watering regularly, and properly mowing it. But even if you do everything right, you can still end up with bare, thin, or weedy patches here and there. One of the most important parts of lawn repair is figuring out what has caused the problem. Sometimes an accident, such as a fertilizer spill, creates a bare spot in the lawn. Or there could be a plant disease, destructive insects, or competition for light and moisture from overgrown neighboring plants. Correct these issues first so grass can grow in these spots again. Then, get to work repairing your lawn with fresh seed or sod.

lawn with beds and potted plants
Credit: Richard Brown

What You Need for Lawn Repair

To fix larger areas of your lawn, you'll need a few tools. If you're just working on a small patch, you can get away with just grass seed, topsoil, and a trowel.

  • Lawn mower
  • Rake
  • Grass seed
  • Seed spreader
  • Lawn roller (optional)
  • Topsoil or compost (optional)
  • Water

Lawn Repair: Patching with Seed

In spring, mow the existing grass as closely as possible; be careful not to scrape the crowns of the plants (if you're just filling a spot that's already bare, you can skip mowing). Remove the clippings in the area to be repaired so the seed will have direct contact with the soil. Remove any dead grass or weeds within the area.

loosen up matted turf and debris with rake
Credit: Brie Passano

Use a garden rake to rough up the soil between the grass plants. This, and the stubble of the freshly mown grass, will make a good seedbed for the new seed you're adding to the lawn repair area. Rake the soil smooth and level.

sprinkle grass seed on bare spots
saturate topsoil and grass seed with hose
Left: Credit: Brie Passano
Right: Credit: Brie Passano

Sprinkle seed thickly in the lawn repair area. Use a variety that corresponds to the surrounding grass if possible. Otherwise, use a mixture of grasses appropriate for your region. Cover seeds with a light sprinkling of topsoil or a thin layer of compost. Then, lightly water the area to help the seeds germinate. You can also use a lawn repair mix that includes grass seed and mulch or soil, and just sprinkle that on top of the bare patch. Mow the new grass when it reaches about 3 inches tall.

add layer of topsoil above grass seed
Credit: Brie Passano

Lawn Repair Seeding Tip

Spread a thin layer of topsoil, straw, or polyspun garden fabric over the lawn repair area that you've just patched with seed. This protects the seed and, later, the sprouts. More importantly, by covering the soil, it reduces moisture loss. A constant supply of moisture is the key to good germination for a repaired lawn.

cut sod piece with blade to fit patch
cover bare patch with sod piece
Left: Credit: Brie Passano
Right: Credit: Brie Passano

Lawn Repair: Patching with Sod

Laying sod is the quickest way to patch a dead or damaged turf area. You can lay it any time during the season. Prepare the soil the same way you would for patching with seed. Keep the area an inch or so below grade so the new grass will be level with the lawn. Then cut a piece from the strip of sod to fit the repair site. Press it firmly onto the soil, placing its edges snugly against the surrounding lawn. Walk on it to settle it into place. Water deeply and often until roots grow into the soil beneath the sod.

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