How to Fix a Brown Lawn

How to Fix a Brown Lawn

If you’re trying to fix a brown lawn, the first step is to determine what’s causing the problem. Discoloration happens for a wide variety of reasons, so narrowing down the list of potential culprits will likely be one of your toughest tasks.

Once you’ve figured out what’s wrong, the amount of time and supplies you’ll need will depend on the severity of the problem. In most cases, you’ll be able to handle things on your own, but for a few of these issues, it’s best to call a specialist.

Here are some possible maladies and their solutions:


Poor lawn maintenance habits can easily lead to discoloration. For example, if you’re cutting your grass too short, the soil beneath it will become exposed to the sun, causing it and the grass growing in it to dry out.

This can be avoided by making sure not to cut your grass any shorter than 2’’ in the spring and 3’’ in the summer.

Likewise, if you have a habit of refilling your mower’s fuel tank over the lawn, you could be spilling fuel on the grass, which would also cause it to dry out.

To remedy this, water the affected areas thoroughly until they’ve regained health, and be careful to restrict all future refueling to non-grassy areas.


Grubs are pesky little worms that live in the dirt and munch away at grass roots. While grubs will rarely reveal themselves on your lawn’s surface, one way to tell if they’re around is by trying to lift up a patch of ground with a spade. If it comes up easily and in one piece (like a carpet would), you’ve got grubs.

Insecticides, such as Dylox, Merit, or Mach-2, are an easy fix, though it’s best to hold off on applying any until late summer or early fall, as grubs tend to live closer to the surface in these seasons.

Drought, Dogs, and Debris

If rainfall drops below two inches per week, your lawn will become malnourished. The only way to counter a drought is to water the lawn more frequently, using either a hose or sprinkler. If you’re not sure whether your lawn is getting enough water from rain alone, purchase a rain gauge.

Dog urine contains a lot of salt, which can cause grass roots to dry up. Watering the affected areas will help to dilute the amount of salt present, as will applying Gypsum.

If this is a recurring problem, either because of your dog or a neighbor’s, you may want to consider restricting the amount of time the dog spends on the lawn or putting up a fence.

If any construction materials are buried in your lawn (and, when it comes to recently-built homes, they frequently are), they could be pushing up against your grass’s roots and preventing them from absorbing enough water. Unfortunately, the only remedy for this is to dig up whatever’s causing the problem.

Dandelions, Shade, and Compaction

As far as weeds go, dandelions are easy on the eyes, but that doesn’t make them any less harmful to your lawn. Their long roots enable them to rob nearby grass plants of water. In order to fix this problem, you’ll have to remove the dandelions by hand. 

Make sure to pull up the entire plant, though, not just the portion of it that’s above ground; otherwise, the root will remain, and another dandelion will quickly pop up in the last one’s place.

Check out my article on How to Kill Dandelions here.

While the trees that loom over your yard may be great for the view, they also tend to rob the grass beneath them of essential sunlight. Unfortunately, no amount of water is going to fix this, so you’re either going to have to prune the tree, cut it down, or plant something other than grass beneath it.

When the soil beneath your lawn gets packed together too tightly, water can’t seep through to reach your grass’s roots. To prevent this, avoid walking on your lawn when it’s wet (or at all, if you can help it).

If compaction has already taken place, though, your best option is call a professional landscaper and have him aerate the affected areas.


Fungus is one of the most common (and annoying) problems faced by lawn-owners. While most of its effects are unfortunately identical to those of a number of the other issues on this page, it does have the unique tendency of causing discoloration in circular patches.

While your first instinct upon diagnosing this issue will probably be to purchase fungicide, most experts agree that this is actually a waste of money. By the time that the effects of the fungus have become visible, they say, the fungus itself is usually long gone.

Thus, prevention is your best bet. Be careful not to over- or under-fertilize your lawn, as doing either will make your grass more susceptible to fungal growth. There are different types of fertilizers, so know what you’re using. And over fertilizing can lead to fertilizer burn. You can check out our list of the best lawn fertilizers here.

Follow the mowing guidelines outlined previously, as your grass’s height contributes to its ability to fight off disease.

Have your lawn aerated regularly to encourage the growth of your grass’s roots and its recuperative abilities.

Hopefully, by reading this article, you will have come a few steps closer to identifying the cause of your lawn’s discoloration. If you’re still not sure, though, you may want to consider hiring a professional landscaper to do an evaluation.

Once you’ve fixed the problem, spread out a towel and enjoy a long picnic on your lusciously green grass. You’ve earned it!

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