The grass is always greener on our side is a famous tagline in many forums. But while the slogan can sometimes be sensational to a gardener with a patchy lawn—it’s no joking matter.
Nobody wants a lawn with gaps in it. In fact, about 80% of homeowners say a well-maintained lawn is the #1 charm of their curb appeal.
In this article, I will answer the question, will grass fill in bare spots on its own and help you eliminate the big bald patches and rejuvenate your grass without starting over?
Will grass fill in bare spots on its own
Well, it all depends on your grass type. Kentucky bluegrass, for instance, has natural runners that enable it to spread independently.
However, rye and fine fescue are perennial grasses that are non-spreaders. Also, most northern grasses are species that don’t spread; in this case, seeding would be a better option for filling bare spots.
What causes bare spots on the lawn?
Even with a good spell of weather and grass growth conditions, lush lawns can be prone to bare spots and dismal growth results.
So, what causes that? There are several culprits:
- Excessive foot traffic
- Deficient soil conditions
- Pet urine
- Grub infestation
- Fungal disease
- Chemical spills
- Hidden rocks, among others.
You need to address the above problems to ensure your grass stays greener without bare spots.
This article provides more insight into why your grass won’t spread later.
Will Grass Spread To Bare Spots?
Yes, but only if your lawn has Bermuda or Kentucky bluegrass—the two most common types of grasses in the southern and northern parts of the US.
These grasses have vine-like stolons on top of the ground and stem-like rhizomes underground that help the grasses to spread to bare spots naturally.
The grass reproduces new plants off the mother plant, creeping in to fill the bare spots. If you’re in the southern climate, consider growing “running” grass types like centipede, St. Augustine, and Zoysia grasses that spread easily.
Creeping red fescue is also a good option for the northern climates.
How Does Grass Spread?
If you take pride in your home, the sight of a patchy lawn can be annoying. The good news is that your existing lush grass can spread and fill up the bare spots for you. Let’s see how.
Rhizomes are stems that spread horizontally under the ground preventing grass defoliation (the premature removal of parts of the grass, mostly leaves, by grazing or cutting).
At every rhizome node, shoots grow upwards while roots grow downwards. Genetically, each new plant is identical to its mother plant. This is how Kentucky bluegrass spreads.
Have you ever seen grass with an upright stem? That’s a tiller right there. Naturally, tillers grow from the crown, where the shoots and roots meet.
During mowing, it is the tillers that get cut. Grass that spouts upwards instead of horizontally takes time to spread.
Like rhizomes, stolons are horizontal grass stems that sprout above the ground. The new plant grows at every node, and genetically, it’s identical to its mother.
Buffalo and St. Augustine are two kinds of grass that spread with this method.
This one spreads uniquely. It starts with each grass growing many tillers on its crown before the bunch grows wider.
However, this method isn’t effective when you want to fill empty spots with grass. Hence, seeding your lawn grass to fill bare spots would be better. Perennial ryegrass is a common clumping grass.
Stolons and Rhizomes
Some types of grasses spread using both stolons and rhizomes. These spread aggressively, filling in bare spots faster and even overshadowing other plants.
The grass that spreads this way includes Zoysia grass and Bermuda grass. Bermuda is popularly known for taking over flower beds.
Common Grass Types and How They Spread
Every gardener should know the grass type on their lawns before filling bare spots to ensure the reseeding matches. Below are some common grass types and where they thrive.
This type of grass excels in warm and arid areas such as the gulf coast region of the southeast USA. St. Augustine spreads through stolons and rhizomes and requires plenty of water; hence can’t thrive in extreme drought. It’s suitable for places with less traffic.
Like St. Augustine, Buffalo grass grows well in warm regions and can survive in drier climates. This type of grass is also resilient to heavy traffic.
It spreads through stolons, and despite being common in the Great Plains, it easily adapts to regions with warm weather.
Zoysia grass is naturally thick and can withstand heavy feet traffic and drought pressure. During warmer seasons, Zoysia receives less direct sunlight.
As a result, the grass turns brown in winter or during dry spells but gets back its lush color once the season changes or with regular watering. The grass grows through stolons or rhizomes.
This type of grass is ideal for transforming the countryside areas that are too cool for warm-season grass and hotter for cold-season grass.
Ironically, tall fescue thrives in wet climates though it can still survive in drought. Fescue spreads by bunching.
This cold-season Kentucky Bluegrass will struggle through summer but flourish in other seasons.
It does well in sunny weather and can withstand pressure from moderate foot traffic. The turf uses spreading or rhizomes for growth.
It’s that shiny grass you see around. Perennial ryegrass thrives in cool seasons though it has a hard time growing in the northern regions with wintry conditions.
The grass spreads through the bunch grass method and withstand heavy foot traffic.
Bahiagrass is known for its heat and drought tolerance. It thrives in conditions where most grasses struggle. It spreads through Stolons or rhizomes.
This grass is well-suited for the southeastern parts of the US, as it ensures lawns that are relatively low-growing and easy to maintain.
Additionally, Bahiagrass is suitable for harsh soil conditions unfavorable to other grass types.
Bentgrass, also known as the creeping genus Agrostis, is a perennial cool-season grass.
It grows rapidly in wet and cool weather conditions. This spreading lawn grass is commonly found on tees, golf course greens, and fairways.
Bentgrass naturally spreads through stolons and tends to encroach nearby lawns.
It requires irrigation for survival. When maintained at normal mowing heights above an inch, bentgrass forms dense and fluffy lawns.
Bermuda grass is a perennial grass type that flourishes in the warm season.
The grass requires adequate sunshine and great drainage to grow well. The grass uses Stolons or rhizomes for growth. It’s commonly used for seeding during the summer or spring seasons. Being a hardy grass type tolerant to heat and drought has made it more popular.
Fescue is a cool-season turf with fast, clumpy, and upright growth abilities that have earned it the name “bunchgrass.”
The lawn adapts to different climates, and though it’s a cool-season type of grass, it’s tolerant to cold, heat, shade, and drought.
Fescue is one of those grasses that can accommodate endophytes—a fungus that grows symbiotically with plants. The grass allows lawn owners to improve their lawn durability and resilience. It spreads through the bunch grass method.
Also known as Eremochloa ophiuroids, the centipede grass is a warm-season perennial turf that grows slowly through Stolons.
The apple-green-colored, rough-leaved grass spreads and requires minimal maintenance. It can also grow in poor soils where other grass species can’t thrive.
The turf thrives in wet, warm climates like the southeast USA.
Grasses come in different types and species. Not sure which kind of grass you have? Check with your local lawn care expert.
How to Grow Grass Quickly in Bald Spots
Growing lush lawns can be lucrative—so many are out there! Yet, many gardeners teeter around, unsure how to repair bare spots. If this sounds like you, here is what to do:
Reseed to Fill in Bare Spots
Reseeding is great for growing grass in bare spots or replacing thin grass in your yard.
While this method won’t give you quick results like sod or plugs, it can do wonders when your grass looks unhealthy or has brown bare patches.
The best time to reseed or overseed your lawn is during the fall, though springtime is also good for reseeding.
According to the research findings by North Dakota State University, the best grass seed to fill gaps in your lawn should be a top-quality mixture of several turf species.
For grass patch repair, choose a seed mixture suited to your climate.
The University Of Minnesota Extension recommends growing perennial ryegrass, germinating quicker than other grass species. Unfortunately, the turf is not suited for colder climates.
After applying your grass seed to bare spots and areas with thin turf, water the grass slightly to moisten the seeds without washing them away.
Then, moderately water the lawn several times daily to ensure the seeds remain moist until germination.
Aerate to Fill in Bare Spots
When bare spots become a persistent menace, your soil is highly compacted. In this case, seeding alone might not work.
Compacted soil means your grass can’t breathe. As a result, the roots can’t absorb water or nutrients, which weakens the turf making it susceptible to weeds and diseases.
Lawn aeration involves a machine that pulls out soil plugs to create spaces that enable air and water to penetrate for a healthier root system.
I recommend this Heavy Duty Manual Lawn Aerator and Grass and Dead Spots Seeding Tool for aeration.
After aeration, seed your lawn right away. The holes formed by aeration will become excellent habitats for your new grass seed.
Sod to Fill Grass Gaps
Filling bare spots in your lawn using sod is the quickest way to repair bare spots and achieve a greener, more beautiful lawn.
Sod is suitable for repairing the larger, bare gaps, though you can still use it for smaller bare patches. It’s available in various sizes, including small pieces that measure between 1.5 and 3 inches.
Here is a quick guide on how to fill gaps with this method:
- First, place the plugs in your bare spots and fill up the spaces between the plugs with the soil.
- Next, water the plugs into the well-aerated soil and apply high-phosphorous fertilizer to promote strong root growth.
- Water the grass daily for a few weeks until the roots are well-established.
- Add fertilizer about four weeks after planting the plugs.
While this method can surprise you with a lush lawn, beware that it is labor-intensive and requires a hole for each plug. Therefore, I recommend springtime as the ideal time to plant plugs.
What You Will Need
- Sod or plugs
- Grass seeds
- High-phosphorous fertilizer
- Garden hose
How To Make Your Grass Spread Faster
I’ve been there, with a brown yard that looked like a clown—I learned how to green things up the hard way.
Your lawn can grow faster, spread, and fill in bare spots. But first, you have to remove the dead grass.
Below are better, easier ways to salvage the bare spots in your lawn to make your grass spread faster. You’ll thank me later.
Perform a soil test to ascertain any existing soil pH issues or nutritional deficiencies in the soil. Be sure to test the soil in each bare spot separately to help determine the nutrients that are already present or should be added.
Water your new grass more frequently as it gets established. Then start deep watering weekly to strengthen its root system as it grows deeper. This way, your turf becomes strong enough to resist drought. Your grass should get at least an inch of water weekly.
Your newly seeded lawns should receive fertilizer 4-6 weeks after the seeds germinate. Add fertilizer to the new grass planted from sprigs, sod, or plugs 6 weeks after planting.
I recommend adding only the required nutrients based on the soil test results.
Remember, over fertilizing your lawn is worse than not adding fertilizer because it weakens the turf, so avoid adding excess.
Sometimes the chemicals in fertilizer can burn the lawn. Water the soil with fertilizer immediately to dilute and help spread the excess salts.
Improper lawn practices, like mowing your grass too short, can cause damage to your lawns, leaving behind thin turf and bare patches.
On the other hand, if you care for your grass properly, your turf should grow into a thick, greener lawn.
Reasons Your Grass Won’t Spread
It’s easy to fix bare spots when they appear; your lawn can grow and thrive again.
Even then, grass will not always spread. And there are a couple of reasons why it won’t:
- They are bunch-type grasses
- Insufficient sunlight
- Inadequate water supply
- Excess water supply
- Insufficient nutrients and no fertilizer
- Cutting more than 1/3 of your lawn blade when mowing.
- The soil needs aeration or de-thatching
Does putting grass clippings on bare spots help the grass grow
Yes. Re-using grass clippings on bare spots will promote better grass growth, ensuring a healthier lawn.
The soil will also benefit since the clippings attract earthworms and other useful micro-organisms that improve the general health of the soil.
Does Grass Spread on Its Own?
The answer is—it depends. How grass grows depends on the grass species and their ability to spread.
Some turfs grow diagonally, spreading naturally to fill bare spots. These include stolon or rhizomes grasses. Other types of grasses like rye and fescue don’t spread
Does grass multiply?
Yes. Clumping grass can multiply and produce several shoots. Most grass seeds produce 10-16 blades or leaves per seed.
All these compete for water and nutrients to survive. If you plant the grass seeds densely, the sod blades fight each other for resources and eventually wither away.
Does grass seed spread?
Yes. Whether overseeding an existing lawn or planting a new one, spreading grass seed will help you achieve a healthy lawn.
Why is my grass growing in patches?
Insects such as grubs and Japanese Beetles or diseases like powdery mildew cause grass to grow thin and patchy. Excessive shade can also lead to thinning of sod under trees or in some random grass patches.
Does sod spread?
Yes, sod spreads. Some grasses spread faster, while others take ages or never spread at all. Generally, plants that grow through stolons and rhizomes spread faster, while bunch-type grasses spread very slowly.
A beautiful yard doesn’t have to be hard. But will grass fill in bare spots on its own? As I’ve clarified here—it depends.
Once you understand the kind of grass in your lawn and what’s causing the bare patches, fix the issues.
Reseed, aerate, or sod your grass if you have to, and then sit back and watch it grow into a freshly-looking uniform grass carpet in no time.