I am in California where we have a drought. Both my front and back yard seem to be holding with watering twice a week but both have odd yellow dead areas while the rest is green.

The contrast with the green areas is striking. The green areas have tall grass but the dead areas look like someone tossed gas & lit it. Its yellow & barren in parts.

I checked the sprinklers & the entire area is covered when they come on early in the morning. Today I walked around poking the soil to determine whether it was hard & found it to be soft & moist still.

I have recently moved into this house so I only know the drought though the grass was evenly green when I first moved in.

What else should I be looking for to account for the dead spots? I cant toss new seeds since I cannot water it often enough yet.

What are good resources to revive the lawns?

  • Do you have any pets?
    – rjbergen
    Commented Oct 20, 2014 at 1:04
  • 1
    Is there any smell to the grass when you put your nose close to it? Dig out a section with your spade to get an idea of the soil profile. How about a picture?
    – kevinskio
    Commented Oct 20, 2014 at 1:29
  • Different breeds of grass? Different amounts of light? Different fertilization? Some critter munching on roots? Many possibilities; consider taking photos/sample to a local extension agency... (Just for what it's worth: One friend's solution, when he lived in CA, was to have a small patch of lawn for when they wanted something soft to lie on but to hardscape/seriscape the rest of the property. Probably makes more sense than trying to keep grass alive in a near-desert, especially as the water situation is only going to get worse.)
    – keshlam
    Commented Oct 20, 2014 at 2:04
  • rjbergen@ no pets. keshlam@ yes, good point. I should look into replacing with something that takes less water or none at all.
    – Ivo
    Commented Oct 21, 2014 at 13:11

1 Answer 1


First off, where in California do you live and what type of grass? Is it St. Augustine (has runners and thick blades) or thin blades? Since the patches started in a drought, are they or are most of them adjacent to concrete or pavement? If so, it may be chinch bugs. See here http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PMG/r785301211.html

They are very common here in Florida where I live in summer. You can tell because the spots usually spread out from the center next to concrete or pavement.

If this looks to be the case, go about a half foot to foot from the edge of where the spot stops on the green grass. Slit it about a foot, put a white sheet of paper under it and shake the grass.

If small black bugs, round and with wings drop out, it is probably cinch bugs.

If the grass is spotty on blades before dying it may be a fungus.

Please give us more info so we can help you better.

  • I live in Alameda County so it gets very hot. The grass is quite thick, I have not mowed in like two weeks so the contrast is striking. Its only one the side of the driveway that the yellow starts & snakes in to the middle. Everywhere else its green.
    – Ivo
    Commented Oct 21, 2014 at 13:17
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    Ok, does the grass have runners? I.e. is it laid as sod rather than seed? A picture would help wonderfully if you can produce it! If it is starting from the driveway my guess is chinch. Always active when hot outside. Here in Florida July and August are the worst months. Commented Oct 21, 2014 at 13:21

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