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Why is my Lawn Patchy? | Troubleshooting Common Lawn Problems

A healthy lawn is the crowning glory of any garden, something that many people who invest hours of their life into cultivating will attest to. From feeding to weeding and watering to cutting, a lot goes into maintaining the perfect lawn.

We tend to take our lawn health for granted, often forgetting it still has a set of conditions it needs to meet for it to be able to thrive. When one or more of these conditions are not met, your lawn can start to show some quite specific problems. There is nothing quite as annoying as seeing your once thick and green lawn begin to turn patchy and yellow, especially when you don't know why.

Before you decide to uproot your lawn and replace it with a patio or deck, we’ve brought in our partners at Lawn Solutions Australia (LSA), Australia’s largest network of turf specialists, to better understand a few of the most common reasons why your lawn may be turning patchy and what you can do to fix it.

LB 553iV, Walk-behind lawnmower, battery

Common issues that can lead to an unhealthy-looking lawn

When it comes to a patchy, yellowing lawn, the culprit is usually something that's easy to treat, as long as you know what you are dealing with. In fact, it could be something as simple as your lawn being affected by a layer of thatch that can retain water and prevent fertiliser from reaching the roots.

But that's just one possible issue. Here we have a short list of key things to look for to help you identify the likely cause of your lawn issues and how to resolve them.

  • Over watering and poor soil drainage
  • Reduced airflow
  • Dealing with thatch
  • Fungus
  • Lawn pests
  • Weeds
  • Suitable Sunlight

Overwatering and poor soil drainage

For an established lawn, it is best to only give it water when it needs it. You should only be watering when there is not enough rainfall to meet your lawn’s needs. A tip from Lawn Solutions Australia is to water first thing in the morning before the heat of the day. Avoid afternoon and evening watering as the lawn will sit damp overnight which can cause fungal diseases to develop.

Grass that looks yellow can often be the cause of poor drainage and either too much or too little water being retained. When it comes to soil drainage, aerating your lawn is one of the best ways to fix the problem. Helping to move water from the lawn surface into the roots and preventing water from resting on the surface is the first thing you would want to do.

One way to tell if you need to improve lawn drainage is to turn on a hose and leave it running for a couple of minutes - If the water starts to spread out and pool rather than soak into the ground, you know you have a drainage issue, and your soil is likely compacted.

Compacted soil can easily happen to lawns that receive a lot of foot traffic, especially homes with pets or kids. There are a few products on the market that can help fix these issues, and depending on the severity of soil compaction, you could even do a few things with the tools you have in the shed. Lawn Solution Australia suggests that a great, low-cost DIY way of fixing drainage issues is by aerating with a garden fork or tine aerator. To aerate your lawn, insert the tool into the lawn, giving it a wiggle back and forth, loosening up the compacted sole underneath. This will help fracture the soil profile, allowing air, nutrients, and water to flow better throughout the soil and allow the grass to grow a deeper root system. But if this doesn't do the trick you may need to remove the grass from the affected area, till the ground, add soil conditioning agents and then re-turf.

Lawn thatch

Thatch can also prevent water and nutrients from reaching your lawn's root system. Thatch can be caused by several factors and results in a dense and fibrous layer of organic material that can effectively suffocate your lawn.

Tell-tale signs of thatch include lawns that feel spongy or bouncy when walked on, poor drainage, excessive moss growth or thin, sparse growth. The easiest way to check if you have a problem with thatch is to spread a section of lawn apart, and if you can't see the soil, then you know it's time to get out the scarifier and dethatch your lawn.

The Husqvarna S138i Scarifier efficiently removes dense thatch and moss, with the ability to easily switch between moss rake and scarifier at the push of a button. However, a little bit of thatch can be good for lawns in hotter climates as it helps prevent excessive evaporation and root scorching. Nevertheless, too much thatch will starve your lawn of its essential nutrients and trap old grass, resulting in more thatch over time.

Battery scarifier S138i

Fungal infestations

From fairy rings to powdery mildew and grass rust to fusarium wilt, there is a wide range of fungi that can really damage your lawn. Fortunately, most lawn fungi are easy to treat and are typically seasonal. For example, Fairy rings thrive in lawns with low moisture levels and thick thatch. Removing lawn thatch will allow more water to enter the soil, minimising their growth and spread.

While, mildew can spread quickly and easily making its way through the lawn and onto surrounding plants and shrubs. One of the main causes of mildew is damp, wet lawns with poor air circulation - if this is an issue for you, it's best practice to water in the morning instead of the evening. 

What about if you notice your grass is developing yellowy-orange patches? Then you may have a case of lawn rust. Luckily, once you know what you're dealing with, it's easy to pick up a fungicide to treat the affected areas and keep things under control.

Invasive weeds

Some say weeds are just flowers that grow where they weren't planted… And sure, that's one way to look at it. But they can also wreak havoc on a well-kept yard and once they start, they can very quickly spread. From stealing essential nutrients from the ground to blocking sunlight, weeds are the enemy of a perfect lawn. Some of the most common lawn weeds include Bindii, Dandelion, Crabgrass, Oxalis, Paspalum and Nutgrass, each competing with your lawn for the top spot.

Depending on the weed type, removal can be easy. However, some weeds such as Dandelions, can be more persistent and take a bit more effort. As they can have deep growing root systems, you may need a few applications of some wettable weedkiller powder with a sprayer to truly get rid of them.

For lawns that have been left patchy and bald after weed removal, a scattering of grass seed and regular watering should have this sorted in no time at all. However, to ensure they don't come back, regular mowing is the best thing to do. It is the best way to prevent the spread of invasive weeds as it will stop them from flowering or going to seed. 

Lawn pests

Lawn pests are easy to miss and hard to treat if left for too long. In Australia, some of the most common types of lawn pests include Armyworms, Cutworms, Black Beetle, Billbugs and Couch mites. At first, it might seem fine, but each of these lawn pests has the capacity to kill off patches of your lawn.

If you find that insects are taking over your lawn, the first thing you want to do is ensure that the grass is mowed regularly. This will remove much of the habitat and humidity they need to thrive. Applying a registered insecticide with a handheld sprayer or backpack sprayer is also good. Ideally, apply a day or two after cutting your grass, as this will ensure the chemicals reach the ground, making the pesticide more effective. Lawn Solutions Australia also recommends the use of  a preventative insecticide. Something like Acelepryn GR, as it will help prevent them from coming back for up to 6 months.

Common signs you may have a grub infestation are brown patches, increased bird activity and a spongy lawn. If you are unsure, Lawn Solutions Australia suggests doing a grub test. To do this, mix a bucket of soapy water and pour it over the edge of an affected area. Keep an eye on it and after about 10 minutes or so, usually if there are grubs there, they will come to the surface. This is best done at dawn or dusk when grubs are most likely to be active. If your lawn is grub affected, a fast-acting product like Grub Guard or Baythroid Advanced will provide a quick knockdown.

For pests such as Black Beetles and Cutworms, regular mowing is the best way to remove them from your lawn. But if mowing the lawn regularly seems like hard work, you can consider a robot lawn mower such as Automower® that can keep your grass healthy with its regular mowing.

Suitable Sunlight

Is your lawn getting the proper amount of sunlight that it needs? Each grass type has different sunlight needs in order to thrive. If your lawn is not getting enough sun it can become thin, sparse and eventually die out. 

Lawn Solutions Australia recommends the following daily sun exposure:

  • Buffalo grasses have a high shade tolerance needing a minimum of 3-4 hours of direct light or scattered light.
  • Couch grasses require at least 5-6 hours of direct light.
  • Kikuyu grasses love full sun areas, needing direct light throughout the whole day.

If your lawn is not getting the amount of sunlight it needs, ensure you regularly prune back trees, bushes and other foliage that may be causing issues. If your lawn is shaded by something such as the house or another structure that cannot be moved you may want to change to a more shade-tolerant variety that would be best suited for this area. 

Automower 405X / 415X

The Husqvarna Dealer Advantage

When it comes to keeping your lawn in the best condition possible, having the right tools for the job goes a long way. From automated mowing with Automower®

to lawn scarification and pesticide and insecticide application, Husqvarna has tools for every situation.

Take back control of your garden and breathe new life into your lawn today. Contact your local Husqvarna dealer to find out how using Husqvarna products and dealer services can improve your productivity around the garden.

View the full range online or drop by your local Husqvarna dealer, today.