As a homeowner, you aspire to take good care of your lawn. Your water and mow your grass regularly and even apply fertilizer when you need to, but unsightly dry patches can still develop, tarnishing your landscaping efforts.
The dry patch can affect even the most meticulously maintained grass. Its causes are numerous, and it won’t go away until you can get to the root of the issue.
Dry Patch: What it is and What Causes it
A dry patch, as you could guess by its name, occurs when the grass is unable to absorb moisture, resulting in areas of discolored or dead grass. It can affect lawns of any size, and its effects are most pronounced in the dry seasons.
Unfortunately, rainfall or your best watering efforts aren’t enough to fix grass affected by dry patches, as the soil has become water-repellent.
To fully eliminate the dry patch, you need to treat the soil. Replanted grass seeds will simply die out in the barren ground and letting it run its course could have devastating impacts on your yard’s overall health.
While the cause of dry patches is up for debate, a number of factors contribute to its growth and development.
Dry weather is often thought to be the cause of dry patches. You’ll notice its effects if your grass is older or your yard is particularly shady. In these kinds of yards, the soil is likely compacted and thatch, the layer of yet-to-be-decomposed plant matter between the roots and top layer of grass, has grown out of control.
In that layer of thatch, fungi develop, and that fungi are responsible for your dry patch. The fungi don’t affect the grass itself, instead, it coats the roots in a water-repellent substance. Water isn’t able to reach the roots and the grass begins to die.
However, these fungi can be helpful to your landscaping efforts and play an important role in the yard’s ecosystem. It breaks down dead plant material in the thatch, allowing the grass to thrive.
Small amounts of these fungi can be beneficial, but large quantities put the health of your lawn in jeopardy.
Dry Patch Signs and Symptoms
Dry patch has many tell-tale signs you should be on the lookout for. They include:
Irregular colored grass: Grass afflicted with dry patches will often be a darker shade of green compared to healthy grass. Those darker spots will soon turn brown and appear unhealthy.
Dry soil: If the soil in your yard is dry to the touch, even after rain or watering, you’re likely dealing with a dry patch.
Water pooling: Because dry patch prevents grassroots from absorbing water, rainfall and attempts at irrigation will cause water to pool in the yard.
Visible fungus and musty smell: Fungus is the main cause of dry patches, and you may actually be able to see and smell it. Mycelium, a stringy white fungus, develops in yards with dry patches and its smell is unmistakable.
Dealing with Dry Patch
A dry patch is best left to the professionals, but you can handle it yourself if you’re determined and armed with the right information. So, before you go looking up “lawn care services near me,” take a look at these ways to fight dry patches on your own terms.
Scarification is the process of removing the thatch from the top layer of the yard. To scarify your yard, you’ll need to use a machine outfitted with heavy-duty blades to cut through the thatch layer. This process is most effective if performed in the fall.
In the case of a dry patch, it’s necessary to deeply scarify the yard. This process makes it so that the fungi will have less material to feed on, making your soil more likely to absorb water.
You'll likely need to contract a professional landscaping service to have your yard certified properly. A professional will be able to diagnose the issues your yard is experiencing and remove the appropriate amount of thatch. However, you can buy or rent a scarification machine.
As soil compaction contributes to the spread of dry patches, aerating your yard helps to loosen the soil and allow more water to reach the roots of your grass. You should have your yard aerated at least once a year, but if your grass is prone to dry patch you’ll want to aerate more frequently.
There are two ways to aerate a yard: spiking and hollow tine aeration. If you opt for spiking, shoot for a depth of at least three inches. Hollow tine aeration is more invasive and disturbs your grass more, but it is more likely to be successful in breaking up compacted soil.
Using a Wetting Agent
A wetting agent is a chemical that helps water reach grassroots by reducing the water’s surface tension, allowing it to penetrate deeply into the ground. Hydrophobic soil has little air pockets that won’t allow water to saturate the soil, but a wetting agent allows the softer water to reach those pockets of earth.
It can take months for a wetting agent to do its job. It’s not an overnight fix. You’ll need to continually apply a wetting agent once a month until you achieve your desired results.
Wetting agents come in many forms, but the most common are liquid solutions that you can spray directly on your yard.
Remove Soil and Returf Yard
If the yard isn’t responding to your treatment, it may be necessary to remove the soil from the affected area and returf your yard.
First, you’ll remove the dry grass and the healthy grass bordering on the dry patch. It’s imperative to remove the grass near the dry patch because you want to be sure that no fungi are left behind in the removal process.
Then, you’ll dig up the soil. You’ll have to dig as deep as 8 inches to remove that hydrophobic soil. Replace the removed soil with fresh topsoil.
After you’ve done those things, it’s time to returf the area. You can buy new turf and lay it out, but that can be more expensive than planting grass seed. However, new turf is much more efficient than waiting for new seeds to take hold.
Preventing Dry Patch
The best way to treat dry patches is to take steps to prevent them from happening in the first place.
Aerating and Scarifying
While they are the first steps towards remedying dry patches, they are also effective means of prevention. Busting up that thatch layer and breaking up compacted soil ensures that water reaches the roots of your grass so that the dry patch never takes hold.
Practice Proper Mowing Practices
Mowing lawn regularly is imperative to maintaining a healthy yard, but many don’t follow good mowing procedures.
Too many homeowners cut their grass too short, don’t sharpen their mowers blades, and bag their trimmings.
To prevent a dry patch, you need to set your mower to its high setting. You only want to cut the top of the grass when you’re mowing the lawn.
Additionally, you need to leave the trimmings in your yard. Even though it may not look as manicured, the trimmings help retain important nutrients that your grass needs to grow and thrive.
Use Seasonally Appropriate Fertilizer
Fertilizer feeds your grass and helps strengthen its root system, allowing it to soak up the moisture it needs.
In the spring, use a nitrogen-rich fertilizer to spur growth, and in the fall use a turf-builder to help prepare the yard for winter.
Call the Pros at Lawn Brothers to Get Your Yard in Order
The dry summers in Nassau County and Suffolk County on Long Island New York make the dry patches a tough challenge to handle on your own, but you don’t need to waste time searching for “lawn care services near me.”
If you’re located in Nassau County or Suffolk County, give Lawn Brothers a call today.
Lawn Brothers is a lawn care and masonry company serving Long Island New York for over 50 years. They are the complete package when it comes to lawn care, offering maintenance, pruning, mulching and so much more. As a masonry company, they can even handle landscaping including water features.
Gerry Morano and the rest of his team are determined to provide you with the best service possible and will have your yard looking its best.