Spring in Minnesota reveals many things. Unfortunately, one of the things revealed is dead spots on your lawn. What do you do about it? First you need to determine what caused the problem. There are a number of reasons why grass dies. The main reasons are: Salt damage (from winter road salt), Dog urine, Pine trees, over fertilization, and not enough water. Often times if you fertilize and water your grass, in time, your grass can repair itself. However, summers in Minnesota don’t last that long. Here are some of the main causes and what to do about them.
Let’s start with a common reason for dead grass in Minnesota; salt damage. Salt damage occurs when road salt is shoveled or plowed on top of your grass. It raises the PH level in the soil making it impossible for your grass to grow. If left alone crabgrass and other hardier weeds will infest these areas of your lawn. You will often see this type of damage done along the edge of your yard along the street and also along the edge of your driveway (like the picture to the right). To combat the effects of salt you need to improve the drainage of the soil in the areas where the damage occurs. Improving drainage allows the salt to be washed away easier with spring rains. You can improve drainage by adding gypsum to the soil. Have your soil tested to determine the Ph level. You can add lime to the soil to reduce the imbalance. You can also try a different blend of grass seed that isn’t as susceptible to the damaging effects of salt. Try something like NK’s Salt Survivor seed (you can find it at our store).
Next let’s tackle pet spots:
Pet damage looks like spots all over the lawn or it can be a concentrated area that your dog likes to frequent as his personal bathroom. Pet spots are caused by the high nitrogen concentrate and high Ph level in a dogs urine. Nitrogen is good for your lawn in doses (it’s a main ingredient in most fertilizers). The problem with dog urine is that it has too high of a concentrated dose and ends up “burning” the grass. You will find the issue occuring more often with a female dog than a male dog. This is because when female urinates it’s concentrated in one spot. When a male dogs urinates it’s usually on something (like a tree) and is usually not as concentrated in one spot. This problem is amplified if you use a fertilizer on your lawn that is high in nitrogen. There are supplements that you can give your dog but unfortunately they may cause other health issues. It’s better to just treat the lawn. Treatments are relatively easy. For one you can hose down the area immediately after they pee, essentially watering down the dose of nitrogen. This is a little tedious but it is effective. If the grass is too far gone and needs to be replaced you should repair it with a specific pet patch. A good product to use would be a product called Dog Patch by Amturf. It is a fast acting grass seed and mulch mixture specifically designed for patching dog spots.
Dead grass due to pine trees:
The solution for this problem is a difficult one and may not be worth fighting. The soil underneath pine trees is acidic and won’t allow grass to grow. There’s also the added issues of high shade and water competition. The easy solution: put in mulch and/or acid loving plants such as hydrangea or ferns.

If you must have grass under that pine tree here are some steps that can be taken to improve your chances. Clean the area of needles and continue to do so for as long as you want the grass to grow. Apply lime to the soil to reduce the Ph levels. Remove all tree limbs below ten feet. Use a shady area seed (or something high in fescue) under the tree. A good seed would be Scotts dense shade or sun and shade mix. It is designed for shaded areas of a lawn and has the added benefit of scotts water smart technology that allows for less water for seed germination.
Over fertilization:
Unfortunately, the solution for this issue is to water and wait. The only other option that you can try is to cut out the section of dead grass and remove the top 1″ of soil and then reseed. Have your soil tested for Ph levels prior to reseeding to determine if the new seed will have issues germinating.
Heat stroke grass:
Use a de-thatching style rake to remove the old grass and thatch. Once the thatch and grass are gone loosen the top soil with a bow rake. The next step would be to put down a good top soil. A good option is to use Scotts Seeding Soil. It has black good black dirt and starter fertilizer already mixed in. Next you need to choose your seed. There are different blends of seeds for different lawns. Determine what would work best for you based on the amount of sun, shade, and traffic that the grass is going to get. Scotts should have an option that will meet most of your basic needs.
You can always take the route of a patching mixture. Scotts has a new product out that is making some pretty substantial claims. It is called EZ seed and Scotts claims that it grew grass on concrete with this seed-mulch mixture. It mixes seed, fertilizer, and a “super absorbent growing material”. This allows the seed mixture to be watered less and still grow. Scotts also has it’s old line called Patch Master. It uses recycled material as a mulch to hold moisture in on the seed and fertilizer. It also works but will also leave you with a blue patch of mulch on your lawn until the grass is established enough to rake it away.
All of the products mentined above are available at our store
For More Information visit our store located in the Bass Lake Shopping Center at:
12700 Bass Lake Road Maple Grove, MN
you can also reach us by phone at 763-553-1222