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How to detect lawn problems

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Keeping a lawn healthy and looking lush can be a challenge with ever-changing weather, weeds, foot traffic and pets.


This guide shows you how to diagnose common problems to revive your lawn and prevent issues reoccurring. We also have step-by-step advice for how to repair your lawn.


Know your lawn


There are many types of lawns, from classic varieties such as buffalo, couch and kikuyu to modern hybrids and newer species like zoysia. It’s important to know your lawn type so you can select fertilisers and treat weeds with techniques that work best for your lawn.


It’s common for older yards to have a mix of grass varieties. In these situations, treat the lawn based on whichever variety dominates. If in doubt, take some close-up photos and ask our ever-helpful Bunnings Workshop community members to help identify the variety.


Identifying issues


Understanding the cause of your lawn problems can determine if the lawn can be repaired or will need to be replaced. It can also prevent a reoccurrence.


As weeds spread they kill off lawn beneath.As weeds spread they kill off lawn beneath.Weeds

Annual weeds can spread quickly and smother grass, blocking sunlight and causing grass to die back. The weeds then die and you are left with a dead patch. To prevent weeds from dominating, hand-pull them as they pop-up, or apply a suitable lawn weeder seasonally.



Lawn grubs are a pest both above and below ground. Army worms can strip a lawn of foliage almost overnight. Curl grubs chew off roots below ground, leaving dead patches above. If you have curl grubs, the giveaway is that dead grass will easily come away from the ground when grabbed. Insecticides for lawn grub and army worm control can be applied over the lawn in spray and granular form.



Urine is concentrated and high in nutrients like an undiluted liquid fertiliser. It will kill grass where the concentration is highest and feed grass towards the edges. You’ll notice distinct circles that look dead in the centre but, unlike curl grub damage, are lush and green with vigorously growing grass towards the edge. Train your dog to go in a mulched spot of the garden or water the lawn area where you see the dog has relieved itself to minimise potential damage.


Compacted soil at the bottom of a set of steps.Compacted soil at the bottom of a set of steps.High traffic

Worn areas are often around a letterbox, under the clothesline or at the bottom of a set of steps. These are caused by constant use of the same spot and compaction of the underlying soil. Consider adding a small pad of pavers or a boxed-in gravel area.


Overgrown plants

Patchy strips along lawn edges or in corners are often caused by overshadowing garden plants. A slow decline over large areas is most often caused by changes in light levels through overshadowing. Thin the trees or plants casting the shade or grow a shade-tolerant lawn. You can do this by replacing the lawn or by over-sowing with seed of a shade-tolerant lawn variety.


Seasonal conditions

Thinning all over is most commonly caused by less-than-ideal growing conditions. This could be a hot, dry summer or a colder than usual winter.


To help avoid a patchy lawn, take these simple steps.


  • Apply a granulated soil wetter to maximise water penetration. This way your watering will be more efficient, and any rainfall will penetrate, not runoff.


  • If you have underlying clay, spread powdered gypsum seasonally and water-in well. This will gradually open-up the clay structure, reducing problems with compaction and drainage.


  • Maximise sunlight by clearing fallen leaves.Maximise sunlight by clearing fallen leaves.Use a quality lawn food at the start of every season. This improves your lawn’s resilience, making it better able to tolerate heat and cold, and to recover from physical wear-and-tear.


  • Feed your soil by regularly applying a hose-on seaweed product.


  • Run your mower in mulching mode in all but the coolest months as the clippings add nutrients back into the soil.


  • In cooler months, rake up fallen leaves to make sure your lawn gets as much sun as possible.


Repairing damage


When fixing problem areas, there are two pathways you can take to regrow your lawn – grow from seed or lay roll-turf. For step-by-step instructions, check out How to repair a lawn.


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