6 Common Lawn Problems That Are a Real Pain in the Grass

Make your neighbors green with envy by diagnosing and overcoming these common problems so you can grow a lush lawn free of brown spots, bare spots, weeds, and other prickly situations.

By Lori Lovely | Published May 31, 2023 6:18 PM

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Person looking at brown lawn

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Many homeowners strive for a picture-perfect green lawn, free of weeds, bare spots, brown spots, or any impediment to playing an exhilarating round of croquet. But if the grass is greener in someone else’s lawn, it may be time for some serious turf talk to determine what’s going on.

While some unsightly problems can be blamed on Mother Nature and her minions (insects and rodents, mostly), other problems are self-induced. Over-eager gardeners may be applying too much water or fertilizer–or not enough. It’s not that lawns are particularly fussy, but, as for Goldilocks, everything has to be just right.

Brown spots

Brown spot in lawn

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Brown spots can be caused by a seemingly endless list of things: grubs eating grass roots, fungus (Rhizoctonia) attacking during late summer’s hot, humid days, thatch from the decaying organic material caught between grass blades and the roots, dull mower blades damaging grass, over-fertilizing, poor soil, or dog urine. To correct, use a grub killer, dethatch, sharpen your mower blades, follow the directions for the right fertilizer, and take Fido to a different spot to pee and then repair by scratching up the dead grass and applying gypsum to neutralize the salts. Reseed the area, covering the grass seed with fresh soil.

RELATED: Solved! What to Do About Brown Grass


No matter how attentive you are, weeds occasionally crop up in the best of yards. The most common are dandelions, clover, and crabgrass. Invasive weeds like creeping Charlie and broadleaf plantain can crowd out grass. If weeds are new and small, you can pull them. If they’re established with a long tap root, you may have to dig them, boil them, or use either an environmentally friendly remedy or an herbicide.

RELATED: 10 Common Garden Problems—and How to Fix Them


Mushrooms growing in lawn

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These aren’t the kind of mushrooms you hunt for in the woods after a spring rain. Although many homeowners don’t like them, mushrooms are good for the lawn because they break down organic material in the soil. Pulling them doesn’t make them go away. You’ll probably need a fungicide. To prevent fungus, water your lawn early in the morning, replace old mulch, keep mower blades sharp, and don’t mow too low. Dethatching and aerating the lawn can help.

RELATED: 13 Low-Cost Solutions for an Ugly Lawn


Thatch is a brown spot resulting from the buildup of grass and decaying organic matter that suffocates the roots of grass. Ironically, it occurs more frequently in well-cared-for lawns than neglected lawns and can result from use of chemicals, which inhibit the natural decaying process. Dethatch with a rake or dethatching machine. Aeration can help reduce thick thatch.

RELATED: The Best Lawn Fertilizers


Bare areas in lawn

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During the dog days of summer when little rain falls, lawns can go dormant and turn yellow. If you don’t want to wait for the rainy season and cooler temperatures to bring it back to life, you can water it–sparingly. Deep, infrequent watering is the way to go. One inch of water per week encourages deep roots. Raising the height of the mower deck will also encourage root growth. Stop fertilizing while grass is dormant.

RELATED: Solved! Here’s How to Treat a Drought-Stressed Lawn

Bare spots

Like brown spots, bare spots have many potential causes: heavy foot traffic, grubs, pet urine, poor soil, fungus, buried rocks, turf disease, or chemical/fertilizer/gasoline spills. Depending on the cause, you may need to flush the area with water before overseeding. Scratch up the exposed soil, spread grass seed, and cover with fresh dirt. If you have Kentucky bluegrass or Bermuda grass, the surrounding grass may send runners to fill in the gap.

RELATED: How to Get to the Root Cause of Bare Spots in a Lawn and Fix Ugly, Patchy Grass