Why Does Your Lawn Have Brown Patches?

Why Does Your Lawn Have Brown Patches?

Freckles on little kids? Adorable. Brown spots on puppies? Cute. Brown patches on your otherwise emerald green lawn? Not adorable or cute. You can be doing everything right when it comes to your lawn and still – brown patches appear. Before you drive yourself crazy trying to fix them, you first need to understand how why on earth they’re happening. So put on your Sherlock Holmes deerstalker cap and learn about some of the most common causes of brown spots in the lawn and what you can do to fix them – or avoid them altogether!

Animal Damage – Humans Included

It’s really easy for you or your pets to damage your lawn without realizing it. Some of the most common causes of brown spots by the two and four-legged include:

  • Dull mower blades – Properly sharpened mower blades should slice the blade of grass. Dull mower blades will tear them, causing gradual death to your lawn.
  • Scalping – If you’re setting the mower blades too low, then you can cut your lawn too short and cause damage.

The fix for these problems? Proper mowing techniques! Raise those mower blades and make sure they’re properly sharpened.

Your four-legged friends can also cause problems by urinating on your lawn. Dogs are obviously the biggest perpetrators, but damage can also be caused by:

  • Large birds
  • Cats
  • Other wild animals

If you notice small brown or yellow patches with bright green rings, then animal urine may be the problem.

Chemical Issues

Chemicals can also damage your lawn. Dead spots can be caused by spilling:

  • Fertilizer
  • Gasoline
  • Pesticides
  • Herbicides

Make sure you pour any chemicals or sprays on your driveway or another solid surface, not over the grass. Also, follow the direction on the bottle – they’re there for a reason!

Soil Issues

If you’ve got poor soil quality, then brown, bare, or mossy patches can pop up in your lawn. The fix for this is the screwdriver test. Take a screwdriver and push it into your soil. If you meet a lot of resistance, then you probably have compacted soil, which doesn’t allow proper nutrients to be delivered to the roots of your grass. You need to aerate your lawn and also incorporate some organic matter into the soil.

Buried Treasure (or Debris)

If you’ve got a brown spot taunting you and none of the other explanation fit, then it could be a simple matter of buried debris. Buried lumber or other things can cause issues. All you have to do is poke around with your trusty screwdriver. If anything is under the soil of the brown patch, then you’ve found the culprit. Elementary!


In the winter months, warm-season grasses will go dormant. The same is true for cool-season grasses in the summer. A mix of two different types of grasses can cause brown spots in alternating seasons. So, if you’ve got some curious brown spots, it could be as simple as dormant grass. There’s not a true remedy to this because dormancy is a part of the normal lifecycle of grass. The most you can do is make sure your lawn is strong and healthy in order to prevent unnecessary browning.

There you have it – the most common explanations for those bungling brown spots. Now that you have an idea of what could be causing the, go forth and tackle it!

Sara Butler

Sara Butler has written scores of articles for Lawn Love -- everything from how to revive your dead lawn to how to start to lawn care tools every homeowner should have.