identifying problem with lawn

I moved into a property this Spring and am having difficulty getting to grips with the lawn. Over the Summer it has developed dead patches of varying shapes and sizes (see below), which are encircled by lush green growth which outgrows the 'healthy' or unaffected parts of the lawn.

When I moved in, the lawn had grown to about hip-height over the late Spring / early Summer before I moved in, and I quickly chopped it back to the highest setting on my Flymo (all in one go, though, which I read may have been the wrong thing to do).

Since then my regime has been to weed the lawn with a hand weeder (, and no chemicals, and to cut the lawn every few weeks.

When I first noticed the brown patches, I watered it for a few hours a day using a sprinkler (, but that didn't seem to make any difference.

I've done a bit of reading and have come up with two possible culprits:

1) I have a neutered male dog, who urinates in the garden. Given the placement of the dead patches, I'm not certain it's him, though. Can dog urine cause this kind of problem? If it is likely to be him, what can I do? Is there a type of seed I should use that is resilient to that for example?

2) I have read about 'fairy rings' and wonder if a fungus may be at work, given the lush growth around the dead parts.

Most recently, I've bought some aerating shoes so will have a go at giving the lawn a bit more access to air and water and see if that helps.

Does anyone recognise this type of problem with a lawn, and could you recommend any suitable treatments?





  • Looks like nitrogen overdose from dog urine. The area around the 'dead' patches looks healthier than the rest of the lawn because as the urine leaches outwards in decreasing volume it acts as a fertiliser and improves the grass. Only thing you can do is follow the dog with a gallon watering can and dilute his urine immediately after he's finished or keep him off the lawn.

  • DovefromaboveDovefromabove Central Norfolk UKPosts: 42,870

    I agree with Potteringabout - it looks like typical damage caused by dog (or fox) urine.

    Apparently including tomato in the dog's diet can help ameliorate the problem - or you can place Dog Rocks in the dog's drinking water.

    As for the damaged lawn, I'd leave it for the rain to dilute what urine salts remain in the soil, or if the hot dry spell continues then a few buckets of water would help.  Then in September, when we get wetter weather but the soil is still warm, I'd rake the dead grass out, scarify and reseed the patches - by next spring it'll be back to normal image

    Gardening is cheaper than therapy, and you get tomatoes. 
  • FairygirlFairygirl Posts: 19,692

    Just reading your original post Oliver, and you said that after initially hacking back your 'hayfield', you're cutting every few weeks. It really needs more regular cutting than that - once a week anyway. Little and often is always better for the health of your grass. If it's been hot and dry just keep the mower on a higher setting. image

  • I agree with you, Dovefromabove, that by spring time after the winter rains etc, the lawn will be back to normal. However, without some kind of plan going forward by this time next year it will be the same as it is now. I had an awful problem with my labrador. I ended up creating a gravel bed in a corner and training him to 'wee' there. I then raked out and scarified the dead patches before re-seading them. The lawn is back to normal now.

  • DovefromaboveDovefromabove Central Norfolk UKPosts: 42,870

    The tomato juice or Dog Rocks are reputed to work well image

    Gardening is cheaper than therapy, and you get tomatoes. 
  • Don't know about tomato juice but I was told Dog Rocks really only work on small dogs. So as Frankie is an 8 stone chocolate labrador I thought training him to wee elsewhere was the better option. Probably worth a try with the alternatives though if you don't fancy following your dog around and rewarding him for weeing in a designated area for a couple of weeks!

  • DovefromaboveDovefromabove Central Norfolk UKPosts: 42,870

    I bet he'd go for tomato juice in his food - my lab would (and did) eat anything image

    Gardening is cheaper than therapy, and you get tomatoes. 
  • Yes he would probably love it! He loves anything edible and quite a lot of stuff not meant to be edible too. He is very fond of cheese, as all dogs are. so a cheese and tomato sandwich for lunch every day would, probably, keep the brown patches away.image 

  • Looks like dog probs, although it does look a bit extreme - try dog rocks in the drinking water, but also rather than just dosing the lawn with water too, try a feed on the faded patches - I usually find this works if it is a dog problem. I have 2 dogs and a bitch - I usually find it is the bitch that makes patches, but it can depend on the heat too as to what effect it has... 

  • I would be very sceptical about dog rocks. Usually people try them when their lawn is already at the stage of ruin, as in the photo on the original post. They take a couple of months before they take effect but by this time the weather will have changed and we will have more rain, therefore, diluting the nitrogen in the urine and reducing it's effect. In fact this may actually help the lawn! My advice would be to remove the dead grass and re-seed the patches. The key, however, is to stop it re-occuring by training your dog to 'go' in a designated area. This is not difficult with a bit of patience and persistence.

    It is correct that bitches are more likely to cause lawn problems but this is not because of the chemical composition of her urine but because they tend to empty their bladder in one go rather than spraying dribbles here and there as a dog does when marking his territory. My dog was castrated at 4 months old and has never taken on the male characteristic of 'cocking' his leg and dribbling. Instead he crouches down and releases it all in one go, as a bitch does. He is 6 years old now. Believe me, my lawn was far worse than the one in the OP but within one season I have a lush green lawn with barely a blemish to remind me of when it was like a WW1 battle field.

    Dovefromabove mentioned tomato juice as a method to control the problem but as this is high in fruit acid and dogs can't clean their teeth, as we do, I don't think I'd recommend this.

  • DovefromaboveDovefromabove Central Norfolk UKPosts: 42,870
    Gardening is cheaper than therapy, and you get tomatoes. 
  • Very nice Dove. However, as I'm always waiting behind the bathroom door while someone else is preening themselves I don't think I'd want to add another user to the queue. I'd never get in there!!!

  • DovefromaboveDovefromabove Central Norfolk UKPosts: 42,870


    My son was told to clean his cat's teeth!  The vet then tried to demonstrate - result, one very angry large ginger 'tiger' and one very scratched vet! image

    Gardening is cheaper than therapy, and you get tomatoes. 
  • Yep, I can imagine! Sort of goes against the grain to mess about inside a cats mouth! Good diet and plenty of exercise usually keeps 'em healthy without inflicting human practices on them. If dogs and cats were meant to clean their teeth like we do they'd be able to pop along to the chemists for a tube of Colgate themselves.image

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