My lawn is turning brown. I am new to the world of lawns, having lived most of my life in cities, and do not know how to diagnose this problem. A few observations:

  1. The brown is patchy, not uniform (see photo).
  2. We've had adequate rain (I think) and moderate temperatures for summer (rarely over 90℉ / 30℃.
  3. No one would have spilled chemicals in the yard -- we haven't had any serious work done on the house, or anything like that.

What could be going on? enter image description here

1 Answer 1


When grass dies in patches we need to refer back to what can kill a single grass plant. Cutting off the top will not discourage it, we do that all the time with mowing, but cutting off the bottom, that is, the root, is a totally different matter. There are grubs that can physically chew off the roots, but we should also bear in mind that the soil that lawns grow in is rarely perfectly similar from one patch to another and also that the mix of lawn grasses is rarely uniform in the same way.

Extract a small plug of grass including roots down to a couple of inches from good green and dead areas and compare what you get. Check that the soil types are the same, that is same mix of loam, sand and clay with humus mixed in. Check for stoniness of the soil as you drive in the core tube. Check that grass roots are present and penetrating soil to the same depth. And of course watch for signs of grub activity.

You may find a pattern, soil draining too fast or too slow, presence of grubs, roots chewed, different mix of grasses.

  • Two questions: 1. Can I just do this with a trowel or something, or should I use a plug cutter? 2. How far down do I need to go to do it right?
    – crmdgn
    Sep 7, 2019 at 19:59
  • 1
    Whatever costs nothing and your ingenuity can dream up. Sep 7, 2019 at 20:15
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    Two or three inches deep is enough. A trowel depth is plenty. If this is an established lawn (i.e. several years old) my guess is the likely reason is just a different mix of grass species at different places which are affected differently by heat and drought, and it will most likely recover on its own over winter. Grasses are pretty indestructible plants - they have to be, considering that in the wild things are continuously eating their leaves!
    – alephzero
    Sep 7, 2019 at 20:26

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