There can be numerous reasons why grass will not grow in some spots, even a well-maintained lawn will have a couple of bare spots. Most people will simply seed with grass seeds these bare spots and hope for the best although this approach will not always work. The good news is that you can fix these bare patches in your lawn but first you have to identify the main cause of the bare spots and address them accordingly.
You can get grass to grow in bare spots by aerating the topsoil and by composting it. In most cases, bare spots appear when the soil has been eroded, if nothing grows in these bare spots then the soil has been eroded. Once you rebuild the topsoil with organic material like grass clippings and add some compost to it, you will be able to grow grass in it. Just keep in mind that filling these bare spots with grass will take at least a couple of months.
The first step of getting grass to grow in bare spots is by using a soil aerator, my personal recommendation is to use a push spike aerator with 16-inch spikes Click here to check it out on Amazon.com
Generally speaking, the main reason why bares spots appear in a lawn are eroded topsoil, waterlogged soil, over-fertilizing, and not enough sunlight. For the most part, if you have a completely bare spot in your lawn and nothing grows, not even weeds then the most likely cause is that the topsoil has eroded or compacted. Sowing grass seeds and raking this bare spot will not fix the issue, you actually have to add high-quality topsoil in which the grass seeds can germinate.
If you have a lot of foot traffic in a particular area of the lawn then some bare spots might appear, this is a combination of soil erosion and compaction. On the other hand, if the lawn is fairly new, has done well during the last summer but in the current year, some bare spots appeared it might be a combination of waterlogged soil and not enough sunlight. If you have clay soil in your area and you are having bare spots in your lawn then check out my recent article How To Amend Clay Soil Without Tilling ( Top 8 Methods ).
Aerate The Bare Spots In The Lawn
The first step of fixing the bare spots in your lawn is to aerate the soil, odds are that the bare spot has compacted soil which means beneficial microorganisms and bacteria are absent in that patch of soil. In order to aerate the soil you can either till it or use a soil aerator, simply raking the soil will not be enough. There are Commercial Soil Conditioners which you can use, although my personal recommendation is to use organic material. In case you are fed up with constantly tending to your lawn, then you should convert it to a wildflower garden, for more information check out my recent article Wildflower Garden ( In 10 Easy Steps ).
Compost The Bare Spots In The Lawn
It is extremely important to add a layer of compost on the bare spots after you have aerated the soil. Once the soil has been aerated the beneficial bacteria will move in as longs as there is something to eat. A high-quality compost not only feeds the plants growing in it but the bacteria and other microorganisms as well. You can either mix the compost into the soil or just place the compost directly on the bare spot.
Mulch The Bare Spots In The Lawn
Mulching the bare spots in your lawn will help to rebuild the topsoil, even if the soil has been eroded a good thick layer of mulch will fertilize the soil. The mulch will protect the topsoil from drying out and will allow beneficial bacteria, bugs, and worms to move in. Mulches that break down relatively fast are ideal for fixing bare spots in the lawn, like grass clippings, hay, and straw. Just make sure to make a thick layer on top of the compost.
Keep in mind that you need to allow the mulch to decompose for a couple of months before you sow the grass seeds. Do not under any circumstances mulch the bare spots one day and sew the seeds the second day as the mulch is not an ideal environment for the grass seeds to germinate.
Use Seed Grass That Grow Well In Your Area
There are a lot of different types of grasses that are used in lawns, the problem is that not all of them will be good for your local climate. Make sure to choose a type of grass that does well in your local area, and most importantly make sure that the grass is relatively low maintenance. In case the lawn is high maintenance you will have to use a lot of fertilizers and these can actually destroy your topsoil and you will end up with bare spots in your lawn once again.
Sow The Grass Seeds In Fall
I know that you want to fix your bare spots in the lawn as soon as possible, although if you have a lot of bare spots in your lawn then it is extremely important to sew the grass seeds during the fall. Ideally, you should check the first frost date in your local area and sew the grass seeds around 50-60 days before it. On the other hand, if you have a small bare spot in your lawn you can sow the seeds even during the summertime although make sure to keep the soil moist for the first couple of weeks.
Sowing The Grass Seeds On The Bare Spots
Once you have amended the bare spots with compost, it is time to sow the grass seeds. Make sure to rake up the compost on the bare spots and start sprinkling in the grass seeds. You can either use the rake to cover the grass seeds with a thin layer of compost or you can simply step on them. By stepping on the grass seeds you will ensure that the seeds have a lot of surface area touching the compost and the germination rate will be a lot higher this way.
Water The Grass Seeds
Make sure to water the bare spots well where you have sown the grass seeds. Grass seeds will not germinate if the soil is dry, water the area once or twice a day and keep the soil moist for the first couple of weeks. After a couple of days, you will see the germination rate, at this point you can still add more grass seeds to the bare spots. If the area gets a lot of direct sunlight and you notice that the seedlings are struggling then make sure to give them some shade. The cheapest way of watering your lawn is by collecting rainwater, however, it is not legal in all states, for more information check out my recent article Collecting rainwater illegal? ( Laws in all 50 States ).
Protect The Grass Seedlings From Slugs And Snails
If you live in an area where slugs and snails tend to be a problem then you have to protect your grass seedlings for the first couple of weeks. If you have a relatively small patch of bare spots in your lawn then the best way to protect them is by placing plastic bottles on top of them, for more information check out my recent article Protecting Young Plants With Plastic Bottles ( Slug & Snail Proof ). On the other hand, if you have several bare spots or a large bare spot on your lawn then you have to use slug pellets.
Although slug pellets do their job at killing slugs and snails, but their downside is that they work relatively slow. Once a slug or snail has ingested the slug pellets it has still a couple of minutes to an hour until the poison starts affecting it. During this time the slugs and snails will simply eat the grass seedlings. In this case, my personal recommendation is to start applying slug pellets to the bare patch in the lawn around 2-3 weeks before you sow the grass seeds, this way you will have a far easier time controlling the number of snails.
As you can see there are a couple of steps that you need to make in order to fill the bare spots in your lawn. Most importantly you will need to rebuild the topsoil, as this is where the grass seedlings will actually grow. In case your soil is eroded and you only rake in the grass seeds you will not see any results, as the seedlings will not be able to survive in the eroded soil.