Yellow patches in lawn


How to Keep your Lawn Free from Urine Spots

It is a common misconception that “acid” in a dog’s urine is what causes the brown spots left behind on our lawns. However, the culprit causing lawn burn is actually the high nitrogen content of the dog’s urine. Nitrogen is “the waste” in the urine and is the result of protein breakdown through normal body processes. Because a canine diet is very high in protein, there will be high levels of nitrogen, and you’ll be battling blemishes for as long as your pet uses the lawn for its place of business.

A repeated vet school mantra was, “dilution is the solution to pollution,” and that concept holds equally true in the case of urine scald on our once green lawns. Therefore, the best way to help prevent brown spots is either by dilution or by addressing the external environment. Besides training your male dogs to pee through the fence onto your neighbor’s lawn (kidding!), see some tips on maintaining your lawn.

Here are tips to keep your lawn lush and green:

The most effective way to prevent dog urine spots (grass scald) is to the water the area immediately after your dog urinates. If you have easy access to a hose or a rain barrel, give the area a quick dousing. I also have a tub in my sink that I use to catch excess water when I’m at the sink; instead of letting it go down the drain, I collect it and use it to water my plants. This idea could be used to water the lawn as well, while remaining mindful of the environment.

The kind of grass you put in your yard also determines how well it will tolerate dog urine.


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What are the best grass types? Fescue and perennial ryegrass are most resistant to dog urine, and diluted amounts of urine (hosing down the spot like stated above) can actually act as a fertilizer.

What are the least hardy of grasses? Kentucky Bluegrass and Bermuda grass are the most sensitive to urine scald.

Fertilization tip: if you fertilize your lawn, use a reduced nitrogen fertilizer.

Another intervention, if you don’t want to fight this battle, is the construction of a small graveled, mulched, or artificial turf area in the back or side of your yard. You can train your pet to “go to the back,” and with positive reinforcement and praise, they will eventually and automatically head to that area to do their business. You can make this site visually appealing by placing potted hostas, ferns, or other greenery around the perimeter.

Do Grass Saving Supplements for Dogs Work?

Now a word for those over-the-counter medications that are touted to be “lawn-saving supplements.” I personally (and strongly) caution against their use. Nothing you give your pet internally will safely stop urine from damaging grass, and the only appropriate interventions are those that address the environment–not the dog! The environmental changes discussed above may be more time-consuming work, but it’s a small price to pay if you wish to have both a lush lawn and a healthy pet.

These medications work by either changing the pH of the urine, or by adding salt to the body. And it should be reiterated: urine burn is a nitrogen problem, not a pH problem. When you use medications that alter the pH of the urine, you run the risk of causing urinary crystals or bladder stones in your pet. Certain types of crystals and stones thrive in the altered pH environment, which will create a much bigger problem than a lawn blemish. The other “lawn-saving supplements” are actually pills that contain high amounts of salt. This in turn causes your pet to drink more, thereby diluting its urine (dilute the grass, not the dog!). Giving your pet high amounts of unnecessary salt is not a good option, and this is especially true if your pet has underlying kidney or heart disease.

Another recommendation I have heard is the use gypsum salts and this is another option I caution against. Gypsum is calcium sulfate, and this material can cause eye, skin, oral, and respiratory irritation in our pets.

Since we’ll never be free from pee, I hope these tips have helped, and I’ll see you next week!

7 Tips to Prevent Dog Urine Spots on Your Lawn

If you have a dog, then chances are you also have brown spots on your lawn. This happens because dog urine is rich in nitrogen, which is known to kill grass when concentrated amounts collect over time.

The effects of dog urine on your lawn are similar that of a nitrogen-rich liquid fertilizer. A small amount of fertilizer makes your yard healthy, but too much will kill your lawn. To prevent burns, you need to reduce the amount of nitrogen that comes into contact with your grass.

Follow these seven tips to a greener and healthier lawn:

Fertilize your lawn less, or not at all, in areas where your dog urinates.
Fertilized lawns may already have as much nitrogen as they can handle. Even a small amount of nitrogen in dog urine may be all that is needed to burn the lawn.

Spray areas where your dog urinates with water.
Pouring water on the area after your dog urinates will help to dilute the urine and lessen the effects of the nitrogen on your lawn.

Encourage your dog to drink more water.
The more your dog drinks, the less nitrogen will be concentrated in the urine and the less damaging it will be to your lawn. It will also be healthier for your dog as well.

Replant affected areas with a more urine-resistant grass.
Ryegrass and Fescue are the most urine-resistant type of grass, while Kentucky Bluegrass and Bermuda are the most sensitive.

Feed your dog a dietary supplement.
Certain dietary supplements, such as Green-UM and Drs. Fosters and Smith “Lawn Guard,” bind with the nitrogen in the urine, making it less harmful to your lawn.

Train your dog to eliminate in one area.
Some products, such as the Simple Solution Pee Post, are impregnated with pheromones to encourage your dog to pee on or near them. Designating an area for your dog to eliminate in will save the remainder of your yard.

Apply a lawn repair treatment.
Some treatments, such as Dogonit Lawn Repair Treatment, contain organic enzymes with soil cleansers to flush the salts from the root zone.

Copyright © 2014 by DoodyCalls. This article may be copied, distributed and transmitted for commercial and non-commercial use as long as it is passed along unchanged and in whole with attribution to DoodyCalls.

Lawn Care: What’s Causing Yellow Spots on Your Lawn & How to Fix It

Has your vibrant green lawn suddenly become tainted with yellow spots? These yellow patches on your lawn can be the result of several different factors. If you’re wondering what’s causing yellow spots on your lawn, wonder no more! Whether you have a small yellow patch or a large swath of yellow, here are a few reasons why, along with some ways to fix them.


Excessively hot weather or having areas of your lawn completely exposed to full sun all day can dehydrate the grass pretty quickly. This heat stresses your lawn, causing damage and discoloration.

One solution to dryness is to water the turf more frequently and deeply, early in the morning if possible to allow the water time to dry over the course of the day. You can also consider reseeding in the fall to repair significant damage.

Excess Nitrogen

Your lawn can get excess nitrogen from two sources: overfertilizing and dog urine. Nitrogen is a chemical that enhances green leafy growth and is a necessary nutrient for a lush, healthy lawn. Too much nitrogen, however, can cause chemical burns to grass roots and a change in the pH of soil, leading to yellowing grass.

Dog urine also contains a high concentration of nitrogen and can cause burn spots on your lawn. Urine spots are often yellow bordered by greener grass because the diluted edges of the urine actually feed the grass (like fertilizer) while the more concentrated center of the urine spot burns the roots and causes the discoloration.

The best way to minimize damage from excess nitrogen is to prevent it in the first place. Use caution when fertilizing and make sure to water it in deeply when applied. If damage has already occurred, water the patch immediately to drain it and then water everyday for a week. Put in compost to replenish any lost minerals. If the grass is already dead, put sod over the area and reseed it the following season. Train your pet to urinate in other places and not go to the same spot repeatedly. Water any urine off your lawn immediately to minimize damage.


Most turf diseases that cause your lawn to have yellow spots are fungal. Temperature, thatch, and moisture levels all affect your lawn’s susceptibility to fungus. Some of the most common fungal diseases include fairy rings, snow mold, fusarium, and smut.

To help prevent fungal disease, make sure your lawn is dethatched and aerated. Try to water in the early morning hours so the moisture has time to evaporate throughout the day and not sit overnight. Make sure to also rake up any clippings, debris, and leaves to prevent moisture from being trapped underneath.

Nutrient Deficiencies

Nutritional deficiencies can lead to discoloration of your lawn. Nitrogen and iron are two of the most common deficiencies that cause yellow spots on your lawn. Nitrogen deficiencies cause leaves to turn yellow-green or yellow and your lawn will have stunted growth. Large collections of clover are also common in nitrogen-deficient lawns. Iron deficiencies will often cause the younger grass blades to turn yellow but don’t usually cause stunted growth. A soil test can indicate the deficiencies.

Once the nutrient deficiency has been identified, treat it with a nutrient specific plant food or fertilizer.


Discoloration of your lawn can also be caused by small insects chewing on grass roots causing damage. One way to check for this is to get a magnifying glass, part the grass blades, and thoroughly inspect the thatch for larvae or insects. Pest damage to grass is usually caused by younger pests and not adults.

Once you have identified the pests that are damaging your lawn, use an insecticide formulated for that pest to treat. Reducing thatch, irrigation, and proper fertilization can also help reduce pest populations.

Soil Compaction

Physical damage from frequent walking on the lawn can cause soil compaction where the soil gets packed so close together that the pores are too small. This restricts the roots and keeps them from spreading. Water and other nutrients also can’t penetrate the densely packed soil.

To help loosen the soil, aerate your lawn with either a core aerator or a rake. Follow the aeration with grass seed, fertilizer, and a layer of loam. Try to keep heavy traffic off the lawn. If that’s not possible, consider installing a walkway or stepping stones in high traffic areas.


Now that we’ve identified some of the reasons your lawn has yellow spots and ways to fix them, how can you restore the vibrant green color? Here are some other tips to bring your lawn back to life.

  • Thin out trees so plenty of sunlight can get to the area (without allowing full sunlight exposure all day)
  • Maintain sharp mower blades and only mow when the grass is dry
  • Improve drainage of your lawn
  • Rake up any excess grass clippings and fallen leaves
  • Fertilize as recommended and watch for weed competitors which can deplete resources from your lawn
  • Utilize a professional lawn care service that can provide you with a free lawn analysis and lawn care plan

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Cinch Bugs

These drought-loving bugs drain plant juices like tiny vampires. First your lawn will look wilted, then yellow, and eventually brown. Pull back a wilted patch and look for small red, orange, brown, or black bugs (1/32 to 1/5 inch depending on life stage) with white markings.
Thatch removal and consistent moisture are good preventative measures; insecticides are a last-ditch effort because many contain harsh chemicals that run off into the watershed and can harm beneficial insects.


These beetle larvae feast on turf roots and mimic drought damage. Use a shovel to undercut a 1-by-1-foot square of turf, then peel back the patch and look for more than 10 grubs/square foot, which indicates a problem.
To control grubs, let your lawn dry out thoroughly before watering again. Or, plant low-maintenance turf grasses that are more grub-tolerant than Kentucky bluegrasses or perennial ryes. Also, you can try spreading milky spore powder (40 oz., $76, treats 10,000 sq. ft.), a natural organism that controls grubs.

Pet Waste

Round patches of dead grass indicate animals are peeing (urine contains acid) on your lawn. If you know a pet has a favorite spot, flush the area with water to dilute the acid.

Related: Landscaping Do’s and Don’ts When You Have a Dog

If Necessary, Call in the Experts

Diagnosing the problem can be tricky, and your local extension agent or a lawn care company can help you determine exactly what ails your lawn.

Ounce of Prevention

Here are some prevention tips that will help your grass stay green, courtesy of Kevin Doerfler of Grass Seed USA.

  • Aerate and inter-seed (add seed to existing grass) in fall when weather has cooled and rain is likely.
  • Fertilize in spring and fall. Don’t fertilize when your grass already is stressed or during drought.
  • Water in the early morning to combat fungal diseases. Water deeply to nourish roots.
  • In summer, raise mowing height to 3 inches or above. The taller grass will shade roots and reduce water loss from evaporation.
  • Perform a soil test to determine what amendments your lawn might need.


  • Why Fake Grass Is Gaining Popularity
  • Early Spring Lawn Care Tips to Revive Your Frozen Turf

4 Simple Steps To Fix A Yellow Grass Lawn In Wrentham

There is nothing pleasant about a yellow lawn or yellow spots on your turf. They not only look nasty, but a damaged grass lawn just doesn’t feel soft and healthy under your feet. Your turf may turn yellow from deficiencies, diseases, pests, over-fertilizing, chemical damage, and pet urine. If you take action immediately when you notice your lawn yellowing, you can soon return it to health. Everyone wants to enjoy a lush grass lawn, and with a little prevention, mintenance and troubleshooting, you can have a beautiful carpet of turf around your home.

Yellowing Due to Deficiencies

Soil tests can help you determine if the yellowing of your lawn is due to a lack of iron or nitrogen. A good plant food or balanced fertilizer can remedy this problem. If you have an excess of weeds mixed in with your grass, the nutrients may be sucked away from your lawn. Taking action to make sure your lawn is getting enough sunshine and has good drainage can lessen damage from weeds. Living in a winter climate where salt is used to combat icy roads can cause damage and yellowing in your turf. In the spring, you should water heavily to flush away salt from the soil, rake away any dead grass, and re-seed bare or thin areas. If you are going to re-seed, make sure temperatures are above 35 degrees at night, soil is well-drained and warm, and that you’ve raked away any dead grass.

Dealing with Diseases and Pests

Fungal diseases are the most common culprits in yellowing your grass lawn. Mold and fungus will leave powdery-white, black, or orange spores. If you have active fungus in your lawn, you should collect grass clippings to discourage the growth of this disease. You may choose to apply a fungicide and approach your lawn care with a cultural lawn care program. Pests are another reason why lawns turn yellow. Some common pests that you may find in your yard include:

  • Sod web-worms
  • Chinch bugs
  • Bluegrass billbugs
  • White grubs

Once you have determined which pest or pests are attacking your lawn, you can apply an insecticide that is specially formulated for that particular insect.

Over-Fertilizing, Chemical Damage and Pet Urine

When you are fertilizing your lawn, check to see if the spreader is calibrated to properly distribute the fertilizer. You may also have yellow lawn spots if you do not apply the fertilizer in the correct pattern. When you turn the spreader be careful so you do not over-apply fertilizer in the same area. If you use gasoline, salt, herbicides, oil, or any other chemicals near your lawn, make sure they aren’t getting into the turf. This is another situation that will turn your grass lawn yellow. Anyone with a pet, especially a dog, knows that urine creates yellow spots if you let them pee in the grass. The only way to prevent this problem is to train them to eliminate in a specific area that will not damage your yard. Some yellow spot damage to your grass lawn may look like it is caused by dog pee, but you should check for pests and deficiencies if you do not let your dog in those areas or have any dogs roaming the neighborhood.

You may find all this information overwhelming and out of your area of expertise. If you need help with yellowing of your grass lawn in Wrentham, contact Distinctive Landscaping, Inc. Jason Scott, president of the company, holds many certifications and has over 20 years of experience in the industry.

Problem: Dog spots on grass

An ounce of prevention

1. Soak your pet’s favorite areas in your lawn to get the salts out of the root zone before they kill the grass.

2. Fertilize your lawn in the spring to boost the overall color and mask the darker green dog spots.

3. Train your pet to urinate in a designated area. Replace or repair the grass in this area annually or cover it with mulch.

4. Keep your pet well hydrated to make its urine less concentrated.

5. Become a cat person.

Photo 1: Soak

Soak the patch until the grass is sopping wet to dilute the urine acids and salts and wash them deeper into the soil, beyond the grass roots.

Photo 2: Scrape

Scrape up the dead grass with a hand rake and remove it. Rough up the area to loosen the soil 1/2 in. deep. Seeds germinate better in soft soil.

Photo 3: Sprinkle

Sprinkle on a 1/2-in.-thick layer of topsoil, then pepper it with grass seed. Cover with a pinch of new soil and press it to firm it up. Keep the area moist until the new grass is about 3 in. high.

Symptoms: Dog spots are round patches about 4 to 8 in. in diameter with dead grass in the middle, encircled by dark green grass. They’re most apparent in the early spring when dormant grass first begins to turn green again.

Cause: Dog urine contains high concentrations of acids, salts and nitrogen, which burn (dry out) the grass roots and kill them. As rain washes the area, the urine is diluted and the nitrogen spreads, causing the grass surrounding the spot to grow faster and turn greener.

Remedy: You have to replant your grass; it won’t come back on its own. But first you have to dilute or remove the caustic urine from the soil (Photo 1). Thoroughly soak the area with lots of water. Let the hose run for at least three minutes. Then you can start the replanting process (Photo 2). Add a half inch of new soil to help absorb any remaining urine (Photo 3). Then you can spread new seed, as we show, or use a commercial yard patch mixture (available at most nurseries or home centers) or even sod. In any case, the secret of good germination is keeping the seed moist. And keep the area moist until the new grass is about 3 in. high.

When you’re watering new seed, moisten the soil daily and keep it damp—but don’t soak it. Overwatering is a common mistake.

Recovery time: Four to six weeks.

Problem: Thatch

1. Mow often and cut no more than one-third of the grass height.

2. Water your lawn less often but for longer periods to prevent shallow root systems.

3. Reduce the amount of fertilizer you spread at any one time.

4. Reduce the use of pesticides. This will help keep the worm and microorganism populations healthy.

5. Aerate at least once every year if your lawn is prone to thatch.

Photo 1: Check the turf

Slice the turf grass with a shovel and pry it back. If the thatch depth measures more than 3/4 in., aerate at least 3 in. deep.

Photo 2: Aerate

Make two or three passes with an aerator until you’ve made 3-in.-deep holes 2 in. apart throughout your yard.

Photo 3: Rake in topsoil

Spread 1/4 in. of topsoil on the yard’s most thatchy areas and then rake vigorously to fill the holes with loose soil.

Symptoms: If your grass feels soft and spongy when you walk on it, your lawn may have a thatch buildup. Thatch is a fibrous mat of dead stalks and roots that settles between the lawn’s green leaves and the soil (photo above). When this mat becomes greater than 3/4 in. thick, it can cause your lawn to suffer from heat and drought. Affected lawns will rapidly wilt and turn blue-green, indicating they’re hot and dry.

Cause: Cutting off too much at each mowing (letting the grass get too long) and cutting too low. Both will produce more dead grass tissue than microbes and earthworms can recycle. Thatch can develop in any soil but is most often associated with high clay content. Other causes are overfertilization and frequent, light watering, which encourage a shallow root system.

Remedy: Slice open a section of your lawn (Photo 1). If your grass shows 3/4 in. or more of thatch, it’s time to rent an aerator. An aerator is a heavy machine that opens the soil by pulling up finger-size soil cores. The lawn will absorb more oxygen and water, which will encourage healthy microbe growth and give worms wiggle room.

Aerate in the spring or fall when the grass is growing but the weather is not too hot to stress the plants (Photo 2). If the machine isn’t pulling plugs, your lawn may be too dry. To avoid this problem, water thoroughly the day before you aerate. You can also rake in topsoil (Photo 3) to increase the healthy microorganisms that aid thatch’s natural decomposition. Topsoil is available at any garden center.

Recovery time: You can expect the thatch layer to decrease by about 1/4 in. per year, about the same rate at which it forms.

Renting a Lawn Aerator

If your goal is to have one of the nicest lawns on the block, you can go a long way toward achieving it with annual aeration.

When a lawn lacks sufficient air (a “compacted” condition), it grows slowly and becomes vulnerable to disease, insects and heat damage. The soil will become impermeable and shed water instead of absorbing it.

Gas-powered aerators are available at most tool rental stores. They’re slow-moving but powerful machines, so ask the clerk for handling directions. An aerator weighs about 200 lbs., so be prepared for some heavy lifting or ask your rental store for a ramp to get it into a truck bed or van.

Cool-season grasses should be aerated in the late summer or early fall. Spring is best for warm-season types. (If you’re not sure what type you have, take a sample to an expert at a local garden center.)

Resist the temptation to remove the thatch with a rented power rake. Power raking is less effective than aerating because it typically removes less than 15 percent of thatch and may damage the healthy grass as well.

Problem: Fairy Ring

Aeration will help with fairy rings, but maintaining a healthy lawn with a balanced fertilization program is essential. Apply three doses:

1. Apply 1/2 lb. per 1,000 sq. ft. in late April or early May to give the overwintering grass roots a bit of a boost.

2. Add no more than 1/2 lb. per 1,000 sq. ft. at the end of June or in early July when temperatures are not at their peak. Stimulating growth during a heat wave will stress the plants.

3. Spread 1 lb. per 1,000 sq. ft. at the end of October. The best root growth takes place when the soil temps are between 58 and 65 degrees F. The roots store energy over the winter, making the entire lawn healthier the following spring.

Photo 1: Fertilize around it

Spread 1/2 lb. of nitrogen fertilizer per 1,000 sq. ft. to green up your lawn, but skip the fairy ring zone. This masks the lush green of the fairy ring by blending it into the rest of your yard.

Photo 2: Break it up

Break up the fungi with a hand aerator. Punch holes every 2 to 4 in. throughout the ring and 2 ft. beyond.

Photo 3: Dig up the problem

Go “treasure” hunting if you see no improvement in three weeks. Dig out rotting stumps, roots, construction debris or other organic materials under your lawn.

Symptoms: Fairy rings are circles approximately 3 to 8 ft. wide that consist of a dark green and fast-growing area of grass surrounding an inner area of partially dead or thin grass. Some rings also produce mushrooms.

Cause: Fairy rings are caused by fungi that live in the soil. As the fungi feed on organic matter, they release nitrogen, causing the grass to turn dark green. As the colony grows, it disturbs the flow of needed water to the turf roots, creating thin or dead spots. Fairy rings often begin with the decomposition of organic matter, such as an old tree stump buried under the lawn.

Remedy: By bringing up the color in the rest of your lawn with a nitrogen fertilizer, you can mask much of the overgreening of the fairy ring (Photo 1). Hand-aerating the ring will break up the fungus and allow the flow of water and other nutrients to the grass roots (Photo 2).

Recovery time: Generally fairy rings can be masked with the application of fertilizer, with results in 10 to 14 days. The grass within the ring will thicken up with aeration in about two to three weeks.

Problem: Grubs

Inspect your turf periodically by pulling on patches that look unhealthy, or have a professional inspect your lawn if you suspect a problem.

Photo 1: Check for grubs

Pierce lawn with a shovel in a U-shape. Peel back the lawn (as though rolling up a rug) and count the white grubs in a 1-sq.-ft. area.

Photo 2: Treatment

Treat your lawn with an insecticide if the count is six to 10 grubs in a square foot. Follow the manufacturer’s directions carefully. Or consult with a yard service.

Moles love grubs

A grub problem is often indicated by increased mole, bird and raccoon activity. They dig up and feed on grubs at night. This may sound good, but moles kill your grass along with the grubs.

(Photo by fotosearch.)

Symptoms: Grub-chewed turf has patchy areas that wilt and die. You can easily pull up the affected turf if you tug on it. Another indicator of grubs may be increased raccoon, bird or mole activity. They like to dig up and eat the grubs at night. While this may sound good, the moles will kill the grass as they forage for grubs.

Cause: Lawn grubs are the larval stage of moths and beetles. The grubs eat the roots of grass, setting them up for death by dehydration.

Remedy: Be vigilant. Are beetles swarming around your porch light? In the next month, keep an eye out for patches of grass that wilt or are blue-green on hot days. They may be larvae infested. Turn over some turf (Photo 1). If you count six to 10 grubs (white wormlike larvae with black heads) under a 1-ft.-square area of sod, consider using a grub insecticide (available at home centers and nurseries). Or talk to a professional (search “Grass Service” online) about treating your yard. They will be familiar with the grub problems in your region and the most suitable treatment methods.

If you spot the grubs but your count is lower than six per square foot, baby your lawn to strengthen its natural defenses. Mow on higher blade settings and water thoroughly but infrequently to encourage the grass to grow new, deep roots. Do not cut off more than one-third of the grass height at each mowing, to avoid stressing the plant.

Problem: Shade

Avoid the frustration of sun-starved grass by starting a shade garden or ground cover in any area that doesn’t receive six to eight hours of good light.

Photo 1: Replant with shade lovers

Using a garden hoe, work up the shady area to remove any struggling grass. Plant ground cover or a shade garden.

Symptoms: Shaded grass will look thin and patchy. Some types of grass actually produce wider blades as the plant attempts to catch more rays. But they also produce far fewer blades, lending a spindly appearance to the lawn. The cold truth is, if your lawn gets less than six to eight hours of sun daily, you are unlikely to sustain lush grass.

Cause: Trees, buildings and bushes.

Remedy:There are no good remedies. You can increase the sunlight as much as possible by trimming trees and shrubs. Also try starting areas in shade with sod instead of seed. The sod will adjust to the lower level of light. Although all seed varieties have their shade limitations, try overseeding your thin area with a shady grass mix.

Or throw in the towel, grab your trowel and plant a shade-tolerant ground cover. Many will thrive where your turf withered. Lamium (dead nettle) and ajuga (bugleweed) collaborate nicely in providing lovely blooms and an enthusiastic, but not invasive, carpet. This pair fares well, with a hearty tolerance spanning zones 3 to 8, and can be planted right up to your grass. They are fairly low growers and won’t get more than a few nicks from a lawn mower.

Also, mulching between the ground cover plants will help retain moisture. This is especially wise if your new “shade garden” is on a slope; mulch will help prevent your fledging plants from washing out in a hard rain.

Recovery time: The plants and mulch will immediately boost the appearance of an area that was once thin grass. It’ll take a couple of seasons for the ground cover to become established and blanket the area.


Call your local utility provider or 811 to mark your underground utility lines before you dig.

Required Tools for this Project

Have the necessary tools for this DIY project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.

  • Broadcast spreader
  • Garden rake
  • Spade
  • Wheelbarrow

You’ll also need a hand rake, a hand aerator, a power aerator, a hoe, and gardening gloves.

Required Materials for this Project

Avoid last-minute shopping trips by having all your materials ready ahead of time. Here’s a list.

  • Fertilizer
  • Grass seed
  • Insecticide
  • Topsoil

Dog urine spots of yellowed grass are often surrounded by a ring of denser green living grass caused by a slightly lower concentration of nitrogen.

Dog owners, especially owners of female dogs, know the problem. Their grass is dotted with yellow spots 4 to 8 inches (10 to 20 cm) in diameter caused by dog urine. It’s especially a problem with female dogs since they squat to urinate, pouring the liquid directly onto the lawn, but some males also squat to urinate, especially when on their home turf (otherwise, they tend to urinate on upright objects in order to mark their passage and thus less urine lands on the grass).

Small dogs are less of a problem than large ones.

It goes without saying that large dogs produce more urine and therefore larger and more visible spots, while the urine of small dogs can be less damaging because there is simply less of it… unless they are forced to use a limited area of lawn.

The Cause

Curiously, the main cause of these dog spots is nitrogen from the ammonia urine contains, the same mineral we apply to lawns to boost their growth. But as much as nitrogen can stimulate growth in the right quantities, too much of it can damage or kill plants. Note too that when the soil is moist, as is usually the case in the spring, dog urine actually does make the grass grow faster, leading to clumps of darker green grass. It’s when the soil is on the dry side and therefore the urine isn’t diluted that yellow spots occur. Often there will be a band of greener grass all around the yellow patch, because the urine is diluted enough as it spans out on the margins of the spot to stimulate grass growth rather than kill it.


Train your dog to use a dog potty corner.

The best treatment for dog urine spots in a lawn is to install a dog potty corner where there is no vegetation: it could be covered in pea gravel, sand, or mulch. Of course, you’ll have to train your dog to use it.

The second best way is to always be around when your dog urinates, then you can immediately irrigate the spot with a good spray of water, as the water will dilute the nitrogen to an acceptable level. It isn’t necessary or even desirable to add any products to the water, or use a special kind of water: plain tap water is all you need.

Another tip: keeping the lawn at least slightly moist at all times will also help to dilute the nitrogen and prevent damage. It’s dry lawns that suffer the most. And regular fertilization with a nitrogen-rich fertilizer will make the lawn greener overall, helping mask the dark green spots that show up early in the season.

No Need For Special Products

When you start searching on the Internet, you will find lots of sites that promote homemade or commercial treatments (baking powder, soap dish, gypsum, etc.) to “neutralize” dog urine, but these products are no more effective than water alone and can sometimes even be harmful. Often these treatments are said to work by lowering the alkaline pH of urine. But dog urine is not normally alkaline, but is rather slightly acidic, with a pH of about 6.0 to 6.5: just about right for healthy lawn growth. Why apply a product to reduce alkaline conditions when that isn’t the problem? Gypsum or baking powder won’t “neutralize” excess nitrogen!

Note that most of these treatments conclude by recommending a good soaking with water. Try water without using the product and you’ll see the water treatment is just as effective.

Lawn Repairs

Sometimes if the sod is only slightly yellowed, a thorough watering can save it. But if there are no signs of it greening up a week after watering, the patch is definitely dead.

If so, remove the dead sod, rake the earth, add a thin layer (1/2 to 1 inch/1-2 cm) of good soil, then resow with quality lawn seed. Keep the location moist for the next 2 weeks to allow the seedlings to fill in. Repairs are most effective when the temperatures are cool.

When nothing else works …

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Your lawn is still dotted with yellow spots despite your best efforts? You can always spray paint the yellow patches green! No, that is not a joke: you can buy lawn paint specifically designed to cover up any kind of damage to lawns. Desperate situations call for desperate measures, I suppose!

Or learn to live with a less than perfect lawn. After all, there are other more important things in life that green grass!

Identifying Issues of St. Augustine Lawn Management

I have, in my 30-plus years on the radio, taken some 300,000 phoned-in questions. I have found St. Augustine diagnostic calls to be ultimately frustrating. Symptoms of the various problems are very difficult for home gardeners to describe accurately and in a time frame that can fit into a talk show.

Let me try to differentiate as best I can. I have lived with St. Augustine lawns for almost all of my life. I love the grass, but I, too, find it a little challenging at times. This is a complete list of the issues people have brought to me. Hopefully, you will find your answer here.

Take All patch. Shows up in spring. Areas are not as green as you would wish, even yellow and sometimes browned and dead. When you pull on the runners, they come loose easily from the soil. The roots are shortened and obviously dried and dead. This is the disease that Texas A&M research pathologist Dr. Phil Colbaugh found responds better to an acidic soil surface than it will to a fungicide treatment. Apply one-half inch of any brand of Canadian peat moss to the surface of the lawn. Rake it out smooth and water it lightly several times to filter it onto the soil’s surface. The photos you see in my MAQ section of our website are from my own lawn, and they show the beneficial effects of applying the peat.

Gray leaf spot.

Gray leaf spot. Shows up in mid-summer and early fall (times may overlap with Take All patch). Grass appears yellowed in washes across the lawn. Your temptation will be to apply a high-nitrogen fertilizer to green it back up again, but this accelerates the disease. On close inspection of affected turf, you’ll see b-b-sized, gray-brown, diamond-shaped lesions on the blades and runners. Discontinue nitrogen until early fall, and apply a labeled fungicide.

Excessive shade. Grass thins and dies away. Same symptoms as above two problems, but is directly associated with increased amount of shading. Grass usually does not yellow in this process. Only solutions: remove one or two lower branches to allow more light to reach the turf, or switch to a more shade-tolerant groundcover to replace the failing turf.

St. Augustine decline. This is less common now than in years past since most of our lawns are now planted in resistant varieties. It is not a likely candidate if the turf is less than 30 years old. SAD is a viral disease that causes yellowed areas. Individual blades, on close inspection, are gently mottled in shades of yellow. There is no chemical control for SAD. It will be more evident in spring and fall. Replace with a resistant variety.
Iron deficiency. Yellowed blades, often with dark green veins. This is a comparatively minor problem unless you live in really alkaline soils of the Texas Hill Country. In fact, even completely healthy St. Augustine will occasionally show these symptoms when the grass is fertilized with a fast-release, all-nitrogen fertilizer. It will usually outgrow that issue, but, for more widespread iron chlorosis problems, you may need to apply a sulfur-iron additive. Keep it off concrete and other masonry surfaces that could be stained.

Grub worms. The grass will turn yellow in irregular patches, usually in the fall. When you pull on the grass, it will come loose in your hands since the grubs will have devoured its roots. If you find 4 or more of the almost-one-inch-long larvae with brown heads and legs in the top several inches of the soil, apply a labeled insecticide. The best treatment time is actually mid-summer, as the young larvae are starting to develop.

Chinch bugs. These will make areas of your lawn look dry. You’ll water the turf, but it won’t respond. They will show up in the middle of the summer, and they’ll be in the hottest, sunniest part of your lawn. Old suggestions called for pushing a can with no top or bottom into the soil, then filling the can with water. The chinch bugs would float to the top. If that works for you, great, but most of us have trouble driving it through the runners and into hard Texas soil. It’s easier to get on your hands and knees and part the grass blades at the interface between dying and healthy grass. If you do that on a hot afternoon, you’ll see the b-b-sized, black insects with white, diamond-shaped patches on their backs moving around in the lawn. Use a labeled insecticide. Treat at first evidence. Chinch bugs can kill patches of St. Augustine in short order. They tend to return to the same places each summer.

Brown patch.

Brown patch. This fungal leaf disease hits only during cool weather, usually in the fall, and most commonly in October and November. The grass will yellow in round patches, usually 15 to 24 inches in diameter. Within a week, the patches will have turned yellow and the blades will pull loose very easily from the runners. You will be able to see the decayed bases of the sheaths of the leaves (where they attach to the runners) as proof of the fungus. Treat with a labeled fungicide, and water only in early morning hours so that the grass won’t be wet overnight.

Runners arching over the lawn between mowings. This alarms some gardeners, but it’s almost entirely cosmetic. For some reason, the affected runners don’t “peg down” to the soil. It happens in mid-summer more than at other times, but it does not indicate any kind of special problem. Lift them up with your foot before you mow and you’ll be able to remove them with no ill effects to the lawn.

Nitrogen deficiency. If your St. Augustine isn’t growing as well as it should, and if conditions are favorable otherwise (sunny site, warm weather), it may need to be fertilized. Use a high-quality lawn food with half or more of its nitrogen in slow-release form. Fertilize in late March or early April, early June and early September. Personally, I would never recommend a weed-and-feed fertilizer. The two processes should be handled separately.

Posted by Neil Sperry

Why Does My Grass Turn Yellow?

A common problem during the summer months on a great number of laws in Austin County is the leaf blades turn yellow. Despite the amount of rain, irrigation or fertilizer homeowners place on their yards, their once jalapeno green grass still turns to pale green or yellow. This condition is known as Iron Chlorosis. Iron Chlorosis results when green chlorophyll in leaf tissue fails to develop. Iron Chlorosis first develops in new growth and appears as yellowish-green leaves, usually as an interveinal yellowing, giving the leaf a striped appearance. As the condition worsens leaves appear yellow to almost white.

Management practices can also contribute to iron deficiencies. Well aerated soil is needed for plants to take up iron. Excessive irrigation and soil compaction result in poorly aerated soils and reduced iron uptake. A common remedy for controlling Iron Chlorosis is the use of kelated iron. In a recent study, 6 iron products were evaluated on St. Augustine grass. Each product was applied at the lowest recommended rate and at 2, 3, 4 and 5 times that rate. For this study Ironite was applied at 10, 20, 30, 40 and 50 pounds per 1,000 sq. ft.

In general, application rates of 3 and 4 times the lowest recommended rate of application were required to produce the greenest color and a higher color rating. At the 2x rate of application, which is the highest recommended rate for most products, 4 or 5 weeks were required to achieve a highly desirable color response. As a homeowner, I would be disappointed to see no response from products where I followed the label directions. The bottom line is this, the problem can be corrected with kelated iron products, but cultural practices such as aeration to reduce compaction and following soil test recommendations will go a long way in helping to avoid the problem in the first place.

For more information on Iron Chlorosis or on Lawn and Turf Grass management, contact the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service of Austin County at (979) 865-2072, or click on the “ASK THE AGENTS” tab.

Prepared by Philip Shackelford, PhD
County Extension Agent for Agriculture & Natural Resources
Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service of Austin County
The information given herein is for educational purposes only. References to commercial products or trade names are made with the understanding that no discrimination is intended and no endorsement by Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service personnel is implied.

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