Join the RHS today and support our charitable work
Free personalised gardening advice
RHS members get reduced ticket prices
RHS members get free access to RHS Gardens
Free entry to RHS members at selected times »
Reduced prices on RHS Garden courses and workshops
020 3176 5800
Mon – Fri | 9am – 5pm
Help us achieve our goals
Join the RHS today and support our charity
I have forgotten my password
Register for free to receive our newsletters, add comments to blogs/articles and to save content.
See what events are on near you and browse your bookmarked pages.
Dry patch of lawns occurs when the soil in certain areas becomes water-repellent. As a consequence the grass suffers from severe drought, even in wet weather. The result is the appearance of patches of dead grass, with the soil proving very difficult to re-wet.
Lawns: dry patch
Dry patch is just one of the many factors that can cause the appearance of dead patches in lawns. Other possibilities include insect pests, fungal diseases, spilt mower fuel, and dog or fox urine.
Dry soil due to prolonged hot, dry weather will also cause the grass to turn brown, but in this case there is usually good recovery once rain returns. However, with dry patch there is no recovery after rain as the water cannot penetrate the soil to reach the roots.
The causes of dry patch are complex and poorly understood, but a common cause is thought to be the coating of soil particles with water-repellent chemicals due to the growth of fungi.
You may see the following symptoms:
To help prevent dry patch:
If dry patch develops it can be very difficult to re-wet the soil, but the following may help:
Products known as wetting agents are often used by sports turf professionals to treat dry patch. These are chemicals that aid the absorption of water by soil particles. Repeat treatment is likely to be necessary, in conjunction with the cultural methods outlined above.
Dry patch is still relatively poorly understood, and may have a number of different causes. One of the most common, however, is thought to be the deposition of water-repellent substances on soil particles by fungi growing through the thatch layer and amongst the roots. Even if the grass has an extensive root system the water cannot get to the roots and the plant effectively suffers from severe drought, even in wet weather.
These fungi are often not pathogenic species that directly attack the grass, and many may simply be helping to break down the dead roots, stems and leaves in the thatch layer. However, it is known that some of the fungi that cause fairy rings can also leave behind water repellent substances as they move through the soil.
Dry patch is also sometimes thought to occur as a result of chemical or physical changes within the soil itself, leading to reduced water penetration.
Factors that may make a lawn more prone to dry patch include compaction, light soil and a thick accumulation of thatch.
Chafer grubs in lawnsFairy ringsFusarium patch and snow mouldLawns: autumn careLawns: care during droughtLawns: dead patchesLawns: rust diseasesLeatherjacketsRed threadSaprophytic fungiTake-all patch
the RHS today and get 12 months for the price of 9
RHS members can get exclusive individual advice from the RHS Gardening Advice team.
We're a UK charity established to share the best in gardening. We want to enrich everyone's life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.