Lawn repair and care: how to revive a damaged lawn

Lawn not looking its best? You can fix that! Find out how to repair and care for damaged patches of grass.

A garden with a patchy lawn and mature trees and shrubs

What has damaged my lawn?

Grass discolouration, bare lawn areas and unexplained holes in the ground are not just a source of annoyance for garden owners but also indicate a deficiency or an unwelcome visitor of some kind. Just like other plants, grass is vulnerable to external influences, and these can show as visible changes in your lawn that you need to take steps to repair. Fortunately, in many cases, it is quite straightforward to revive your lawn.

We recommend you act promptly when it comes to lawn repair, as it is not simply a matter of aesthetics: untreated patches and holes represent points of weakness where weeds will be more than happy to establish themselves. If this happens, you will have a much larger lawn care job on your hands, and the repair is likely to take much longer.

Before you can start to actually repair your lawn, you need to establish the cause and extent of the damage. Are large areas affected, or do you only need to repair small patches of lawn? Has it been maintained incorrectly? Or has the damage been caused by animals, diseases or waterlogging? The more thoroughly you investigate, the easier it will be to identify a long-term solution.

Repairing bare patches of lawn

Close-up of a lawn with patches of dead grass

Have you noticed bare patches that you need to repair? These can be caused by different things:

  • Dead or damaged patches and imprints caused by garden furniture, trampolines, paddling pools or planters. This is a common problem during the summer months when lawns are heavily used for playing on or for barbecues.
  • Deficiencies in your soil.
  • Insufficient or excessive maintenance. 
  • Uneven distribution of seed during sowing. 

Overseeding bare patches

It’s generally easy to repair a lawn with bare patches by sowing new grass in the affected areas. The best time to do this is in April or September when the ground won't be exposed to frost or hot sun; the soil temperature needs to be at a little over 10° C to ensure uniform growth.

When reseeding, it is best to use the same grass seed mix as was originally used for the lawn. If you don’t have it anymore, choose a similar variety that will match the colour of the rest of the lawn.

Step 1: mow your lawn

Mow the remaining grass as short as possible. You can find out more about the right way to mow your lawn in our guide. 

Step 2: clear dead patches

Loosen the surface in smaller affected patches using a rake, and remove any weeds, moss and dead plant matter. This will open up the surface, making it easier for air, water and micronutrients to get underground and nourish the grass as it grows. It also means that the grass seeds will have good contact with soil later on.

Close-up of green grass

STIHL scarifier

Start by dethatching any severely matted areas of grass with a scarifier; then remove remaining grass and weeds from the area and loosen the earth with a rake. 

Improve soil quality if needed

If the earth is too heavy or too light, grass growth will be impeded. Clay-heavy soil is often compacted and holds too much water, but it can be improved by adding silica sand. If necessary (e.g. if there is matted grass), scarify the lawn and scatter silica sand over the area. When it rains, the sand will be pushed into the earth and loosen it.

Sandy ground can be improved by adding compost or finely ground clay. If you are unsure of conditions in your garden, a soil analysis can help. You can buy soil testing kits easily online.

Step 3: scatter seed

With the ground prepared, you can now continue your repair work by scattering the grass seed evenly throughout the damaged patches. You can do this by hand, though if you have more extensive areas of bare earth, you may prefer to use a spreader. Finally, push the seed down into the soil using a board or roller. Alternatively, you could mix the grass seed with potting compost before sowing, so it already has soil contact when you scatter it. Cover the prepared areas of soil with the potting compost and seed mix and use a broom to spread it evenly.

Step 4: water and feed

Water the sown areas with as gentle a stream of water as possible (use a spray nozzle) so that you do not wash them from the surface of the earth. If necessary, cover the patches you have repaired with a thin layer of potting compost or similar.  

Now all you need to do is wait and keep the soil moist. Avoid walking on the newly sown areas for the next few weeks.

A partly laid lawn, with a half-unrolled piece of turf in the middle

Rolled turf as an alternative method of repair

A faster way to repair bare patches of lawn is with rolled turf. This is cultivated grass that is cut then rolled up like a rug for delivery to you. It simply needs to be unrolled onto level, bare earth and kept moist, and it will quickly establish in your garden. This is an attractive alternative for anyone who wants to quickly make full use of their lawn again. It is a significantly more expensive repair option than reseeding, however. 

Find out more about the benefits and disadvantages of rolled turf

Divots and holes in the lawn

Holes in the lawn are often an indication of visiting animals. They may dig up the garden as they hunt for food, destroying your beautiful, level lawn and leaving unsightly trip hazards behind. Before you fill in the holes and repair the grass, you may wish to identify your uninvited guests by using a wildlife camera or simply by keeping a close watch on your garden.

Animals that may cause lawn damage   

Every animal has a distinctive way of burrowing: hedgehogs leave shallow, funnel-shaped holes, while moles make underground tunnels and leave behind mounds of earth. Gnawed roots in small, irregular holes are a typical sign of voles. Wasps, ants and earthworms leave tiny holes that don’t affect the grass, and while squirrels do not burrow, they may dig up the earth to bury the nuts they find.

Many wild animals visit our gardens for simple reasons of survival. With once-common visitors such as hedgehogs and stag beetles in decline in the UK, there are good reasons to make your garden animal-friendly and create refuge spaces and habitats for them. With the help of our guide, you can make a cosy hedgehog house, for example.

How to repair holes in the surface of the lawn

To fill shallow depressions, all you need is a thin layer of sand, while deeper holes can be filled with potting compost. Tramp down the surface with your feet. 

Next, revive your lawn by repairing the patches of bare grass by reseeding or using a piece of rolled turf.

A woman using a shovel to scatter compost from a wheelbarrow onto a lawn

Lawn repair: other problems and causes

Weeds, waterlogging and scorched grass are all signs that your lawn needs specific extra attention. We have outlined other lawn damage problems and how you can repair them.

Close-up of moss growing in a lawn

Summary: Lawn repair and Care

  • Soil condition, improper care, garden furniture and other objects can all cause bare patches in your lawn.
  • You can repair any gaps or holes in your lawn by reseeding.
  • The best time to reseed a lawn is in April or September when the soil is no longer exposed to the stresses of frost or hot weather.
  • Divots and holes in the lawn are usually created by animals. You can use a wildlife camera or investigate the specific damage to identify your uninvited guest.
  • Weeds, yellowing and scorched grass are indications of improper lawn care. You can prevent lawn damage from shade by selecting a shade-resistant variety of grass or by opting for an alternative ground cover.
  • You should not allow leaves to collect on your lawn, as they can cause the grass to rot.