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What Causes the Brown Spots in Your Lawn? (And How to Fix It)

9 Things that cause brown spots in your lawn (And How to Fix It)

We all dream of having the perfect yard. Lush, green grass free of any weeds or brown spots. However, that is not a reality for many of us. Achieving a luscious green yard is harder than it may seem. One of the most prevalent problems that homeowners experience with lawn care is dealing with the brown spots that seem to appear out of nowhere. 

What causes the brown spots in your lawn? There are a number of things that can cause brown spots in your lawn.

  1. Brown Patch Disease caused by fungus
  2. Pet traffic and urine
  3. Neglected toys or items in the yard
  4. Foot Traffic
  5. Thatch
  6. Grubs
  7. Drought or Lack of Water
  8. Improper Mowing
  9. Spilled Gasoline or Pesticides

The most common cause of brown spots in your lawn is brown patch disease which is a fungus, caused by overwatering. However, brown spots can also be caused by grubs, household pets, improper mowing techniques, neglected toys, and even foot traffic. Luckily, there are many ways to address brown spots in your lawn, regardless of their origin. 

In this post, we will discuss the various causes of brown spots on your lawn. By providing you with this valuable information, we hope you will be able to identify the cause of your law-keeping woes. We will also discuss various ways to address this unsightly nuisance, achieving a lush, green lawn once again.

Identifying the Cause of Brown Spots in Your Lawn

The first step to fixing brown spots in your lawn is identifying the root of the issue. There are many outside factors that can cause your grass to appear spotty. Because these issues are so broad, there is not a single type of treatment that will fix them all. Once you identify the culprit that is causing the brown spots in your lawn, you will be able to treat them efficiently.

1. Brown Patch Disease caused by Fungus

The most common cause of brown spots on the lawn is called brown patch disease which is a fungal outbreak. A fungus is most often caused by extremely wet or humid environments. However, outside of natural elements, a fungal outbreak can also be caused by manual overwatering.

When a fungus is responsible for brown spots in the lawn, they will appear as irregular patches throughout the yard. They may be centralized to one location, usually the portion of your yard with poor drainage. Shady regions of the yard or areas that don’t receive proper airflow can also become victims of a fungal outbreak. 

How to stop Brown Patch Disease: Make sure not to over water the lawn and allow it to dry out some. Also treat the fungus in your lawn. Read our article on Recognizing & Treating Lawn Fungus: What You Need to Know.

kill brown patch disease with lawn fungicide

Kill brown patch disease with lawn fungicide.

lawn and yard care2. Pets Urine in the Yard

We all love our pets. However, in some cases, they can wreak havoc on the yard. Household pets, especially dogs, have a large concentration of nitrogen in their urine. Unfortunately, this easily leads to brown spots that cover your lawn. Brown spots caused by dog urine usually appear as a brown center surrounded by a dark green circle. 

How to fix brown spots from pet urine: Make sure your pet has plenty of water to drink to insure their urine isn’t diluted. Also water your lawn regularly to help dilute the urine spots. Train you pet to pee in a discrete area of the yard where the lawn is less prominent.

dog urine turns grass brown

3. Neglected Toys or Furniture

Most families spend significant amounts of time in their yard. This results in neglected toys, outdoor furniture, or even lawn decor being left in places that it doesn’t belong. Even an item such as a small garden hose is left on the lawn for an extended period of time, it can cause a brown spot. Another common cause for brown spots like this is a baby pool or playset.

Items such as these block important sunlight and retain moisture in the lawn that can lead to more serious issues.

How to fix brown spots from toys and furniture: To avoid brown spots created by neglected yard toys and other items, be sure to clean up your yard at the end of each day.

Fixing Brown Spots in the Lawn from toys4. Foot Traffic

There are parts of every yard that receive more foot traffic than other areas. These busy areas are much more likely to be the victim of unsightly brown spots in the lawn.

How to fix high traffic brown spots: If high traffic is the cause of your brown spots, simply try to alternate the paths you take while navigating your yard.

5. Thatch

If your lawn is more established, the brown spots in the lawn may be caused by thatch. Thatch is fairly simple to identify upon close inspection. Caused by improper care including watering, mowing, and fertilization, this condition creates an environment in which your lawn cannot survive. 

Thatch is characterized by the buildup of dead or decaying plant material that is stuck between the blades of grass. This eventually blocks the roots system and prevents your lawn from getting the food and water that is needed to survive. Once it progresses far enough, thatch will cause the roots of your lawn to begin to grow into the thatch layer. Because this layer cannot hold moisture, the grass will die, leaving brown spots throughout your yard.

How to fix thatch in your yard: Utilize a bagging system when mowing the lawn to eliminate the thatch. You can also use a rake to remove the thatch from your lawn. Raking will also help to free up you grass from the thatch and get it back to it’s natural green color.

6. Grub Worms

Grubs are fat white worms that have a curved body. If your lawn is overrun with these worms the grass will begin to turn brown. This can be a problem in late summer. You can further identify it by taking a shove and take off the top layer of sod to see if there are grubs infesting the area. Note: Grub worms are great fish bait.

How to fix a grub worm infestation: Utilize a grub worm treatment to get them out of your yard.

grub worm lawn treatment

lawn and yard care7. Drought or Lack of Water

Lake of water in areas of the lawn can lead to brown spots. If you irrigation system isn’t functioning properly in the heat of summer it can leave areas without the proper water to thrive.

Fix Lack of Water: Monitor your irritation system to ensure proper lawn coverage. You may need to adjust your sprinkler heads or have an irrigation expert check your system.

8. Improper Lawn Care Techniques

In addition to the outside factors that can impact the health of your lawn, the lawn care techniques you use could be causing brown spots. Things like mowing your lawn too short, failing to water properly, or neglecting fertilization of the lawn can create poor growing conditions. 

Fix for improper lawn care: If you desire a luscious green lawn, it is important to invest time and energy into learning proper lawn care techniques for your area. You can find a variety of helpful lawn care tips here.


9. Spilled Gasoline or Pesticides

When filling the gas tank on your lawn mower it is critical to avoid spillage on to the lawn. Most gas tanks have an air valve to allow air in. This will help to create a smooth pour of gasoline and help to avoid spills. If you are utilizing pesticide around your house it’s important not to spill it or over use it. This can also cause brown spots on your lawn.

Fix for Gasoline Spillage or Pesticide Spillage: Utilize care and also a funnel to avoid spills onto the lawn.

Treating Brown Spots in Your Lawn

Once you discover the cause of the brown spots in the lawn, you can begin to treat them effectively. Even if you are not currently experiencing the presence of brown spots throughout your yard, it is wise to begin to practice these tips to prevent further outbreak. 

Don’t Overwater Your Lawn

Overwatering the lawn can cause a fungal outbreak. Not only does this create problems with the appearance of your lawn, but it can also spread into other areas of your landscaping. In addition to ensuring that your lawn has an appropriate amount of moisture, it is helpful to investigate areas that could use an improved drainage method

The amount of water your lawn requires each week will depend greatly on the area in which you live. Seasonal changes will also impact the moisture needs of your grass.

Improving the drainage of your yard will prevent areas of extreme moisture. This, in turn, will decrease the likelihood of brown spots caused by fungal outbreaks.

Cut Your Lawn to an Appropriate Height

It makes logical sense to cut your lawn as short as possible. After all, the shorter your grass is, the less often you will need to mow. However, this is not a good mindset to have when it comes to lawn care. When your grass is cut too short, the soil will dry out more quickly. This can create areas of dead lawn that appear as unsightly brown patches.

Additionally, it is important to make sure you are using a sharp blade on your lawnmower. Using a blade that is dull will damage the quality and health of your lawn. Dull mower blades tend to shred the blades of grass, causing them to dry out and die.

Use a Fertilizer

One lawn care step that is often overlooked is fertilization. Providing your lawn with the proper nutrients in the form of a high-quality fertilizer is a great way to prevent and treat brown spots throughout the yard. 

The best way to ensure that you are using a fertilizer that is well-suited for your lawn is to conduct a soil test of your lawn. This allows you to provide your lawn with the nutrients it needs to succeed.

Consult With a Professional

When in doubt about how to properly care for your lawn, it is always wise to consult with a lawn care professional. Individuals who provide lawn care services specific to your area of the country will have the best advice as to how to properly address the brown spots in your lawn. 

In addition to providing you with valuable tips and tricks, lawn care professionals are also able to easily diagnose the cause of the brown spots in your yard. They may also be able to perform a soil test to determine the best type of fertilizer for the overall health of your yard.  

Preventing Brown Spots in Your Lawn

As you can imagine, it is much easier to prevent brown spots in the lawn than it is to treat them. Some of the causes of brown spots such as weather and pet urine are hard to avoid. However, others are easily addressed simply by changing your lawn care routine. 

Taking care of your lawn by providing it with the proper nutrients and moisture will create an environment that fosters healthy grass growth. A lush, healthy lawn is not only aesthetically pleasing but it also provides more opportunities for your family to enjoy time together outdoors.

Unfortunately, a yard that is covered with brown spots of dead grass is often hard to enjoy. Create a lawn that your whole family will appreciate by first discovering the cause of the brown spots in your lawn. 

Once you have discovered the culprit behind your lawn care woes, you can move onto addressing them with an effective treatment plan. By treating your lawn using appropriate lawn care techniques, you can easily return your yard to its once ideal state.

After creating a beautiful lawn, you will be much more dedicated and motivated to follow through with proper lawn care techniques and procedures. A soft, green lawn is within your reach!

Thank you for reading American Lawns! Find more of our lawn care tips here.

Written By

Hi there! My name is Matt and I write for American Lawns. I've been a home owner for over 15 years. I've also had the pleasure of working with some experts in lawn care and outdoor living. I enjoy writing about everything related to your lawn, pests and types of grass. In my spare time, I'm either spending time with my family, doing a DIY project or learning a new skill.