If your yard has developed soft spots, start by inspecting grass growing in the area for brown coloration, dark spots, or “rust” growing on the blades. Treat these conditions with an antifungal spray to kill off the lawn disease. Then, cut out the grass over the soft spots and set it aside. Dispose of any dead grass. Check the soil for grubs, excess water, and animal tunnels. Treat these problems before improving the drainage in your yard. Then, add topsoil to the soft spot to build it up to the same level as your surrounding lawn. Finally, either put your grass pieces back into place or seed the topsoil to grow new grass in the repaired areas.
Why is Your Lawn Soft and Spongy?
Soft spots in your yard can be caused by improper drainage, animals digging burrows, grubs eating grass roots, tree roots decaying underground, or diseases that attack grass. In fact, more than one of these problems can occur at the same time. So, it can be very hard to diagnose the cause of soft spots.
- Overly wet ground due to poor drainage.
- Collapsing soil caused by burrowing animals.
- Sagging grass killed by grubs.
- Fungal or bacterial lawn diseases that cause grass to become spongy.
- Decaying tree roots underground.
Since several problems can work together to cause spongy portions of your yard, it’s a good idea to take a step-by-step approach to resolve and correct the problem. This way, you’ll be sure to solve the root cause of soft spots, rather than just treat the symptoms. Keep reading as I cover my method for correcting soft spots in a yard.
7 Steps to Repair Soft Spots in Your Yard
No matter what has caused the soft spots in your yard, the steps below will help you diagnose and fix the problem. Then, you’ll be able to enjoy a level, healthy lawn again.
Check for Grass Diseases
Look closely at the grass growing over the soft spots in your yard. Brown or yellow grass is dying due to too much moisture or grub damage, which we will correct in later steps. However, your grass may be suffering from a fungal disease. Lawn fungus can destroy grass, leading to a soft, squishy texture. Look for these signs of fungus:
- Red or orange rust on the grass blades.
- Grass blades with a stringy or powder coating.
- Discolored spots, which may indicate dollar spot fungus.
- Dead patches of grass that are roughly circular in shape.
- If you see these signs, treat your lawn with this antifungal spray.
- If left untreated, fungus in soft spots can spread to the rest of your lawn.
Identifying and attacking fungal disease can prevent the fungus from spreading to other areas of your lawn. This will stop even more soft spots from forming. However, fungus is often invited by insect damage, animal burrows, and poorly drained areas. So, it’s essential to continue through this checklist to ensure you’ve solved the soft spot problem permanently.
Cut Out Grass Over Soft Spots
Search your yard for soft spots. To do this, walk slowly across the lawn, feeling carefully for soggy areas. Soft spots will often make an audible squish when you walk over them. Mark each soft spot that you find. Then, follow these steps to safely remove the grass:
- Use a shovel to cut through the grass around the perimeter of the soft spot.
- Cut straight downward with the shovel 2–3 inches deep (5–7.5 cm) around the soft spot.
- Use your shovel to pry up the grass over the soft spot at a depth of 2 inches (5 cm).
- Remove the grass in one carpet-like piece, along with at least 1 inch (2.5 cm) of topsoil.
- For large soft spots, cut the grass into small pieces so you can remove it.
- Essentially, you are removing the “sod” over the soft spot.
This system allows you to remove the grass over the soft spot without killing it. This way, if your grass is still healthy you can put it back into place after improving the soft spot. This can save you money that you may otherwise spend on new sod or grass seed.
Trash or Save Your Grass
Once the grass over the soft spot has been removed as pieces of sod, it’s time to decide whether or not it’s worth saving. Brown grass is dead grass and cannot be revived, so it should be thrown into the trash. If the roots of the grass are slimy and brown, the grass will certainly die, so it should be discarded. Grass that is still green or is only partially yellow can be saved.
- If the grass you removed is brown, it is dead and should be trashed.
- Throw out any sod pieces with slimy roots—it is dead.
- Keep green grass or grass that is only partially yellow.
- Store salvageable grass by stacking it in a shady place.
If the grass you removed isn’t dead, stack the pieces of sod on top of each other in a cool, shady portion of the lawn. Sunlight will dry out this sod and quickly kill the grass. If your lawn is very sunny, you can even stack your sod in your garage or garden shed for temporary storage.
Search for the Cause
Removing the grass over the soft spots gives you a closer look at the soil underneath. Use a shovel or hand trowel to turn over the top few inches of soil. If you see white grubs in the soil, your soft spots are likely caused by grub damage. If you find tunnels or holes under your grass, you know that your soft spots are due to burrowing animals, such as moles. Ground that is very soggy or waterlogged usually means that the soft spot was caused by poor drainage and pooling water.
- Dig into the top 2 inches (5 cm) of the soft spot, turning the soil over.
- If you see grubs in your soil, use a specialized treatment to kill grubs and prevent future soft spots.
- If you encounter animal burrows, hire an exterminator to get rid of the animals.
- Wet, muddy ground can be corrected in the next step.
If your soil has grubs, use the most effective grub killer we’ve found to treat your yard before moving on. If you see animal burrows, contact an extermination specialist to drive out the pests. In the event of soggy, muddy soil with excess water, move to the next step on this list.
Soggy, wet, or muddy soil can cause problematic soft spots in your yard, as well as invite grass diseases and insects. The best way to improve soggy soil and permanently fix soft spots is to dig a trench for drainage in your yard. This will allow for healthy grass growth as well as keep your yard firm and level.
- Soggy or muddy soil must be corrected by installing better drainage.
- Sloping your yard away from foundations and digging drainage trenches are the best solutions.
- You can dig a drainage trench yourself or hire a professional drainage contractor.
If you do not wish to dig a drainage trench yourself, hire a professional drainage contractor for the job. A french drain and underground dry well will drain water away from soft spots and safely distribute it deep below ground, where the water can feed your lawn safely.
Build Up the Ground with Topsoil
Soft spots typically sink below the level of the surrounding yard. If this isn’t corrected, it will be hard to mow the grass in the soft spot. Plus, low areas will continually collect more rainwater. This leads to soft spots that get worse over time. To correct this:
- Purchase topsoil from your local hardware store.
- Use a shovel to mound topsoil into the soft spot until it is 2 inches (5 cm) above the surrounding yard.
- Tamp down the soil with this tamper or the back of your shovel.
- Add more topsoil and repeat the tamping process.
- Make sure the new soil is level after tamping.
- Repeat until you have firmly tamped soil that is level with the surrounding yard.
Even soil that has been firmly tamped may settle over time. So, it’s a good idea to add a little extra topsoil. This way, as the new topsoil settles, it won’t form a new soft spot.
Reinstall Your Grass
With your new topsoil in place, it’s time to put grass back over the soft spot in your yard. If the grass you removed earlier is still living, put the pieces of sod back into place over the soft spot. Water them lightly and provide a small amount of fertilizer to encourage the grass to take root again.
- Reinstall your living sod where it was removed from the soft spots.
- If the grass in the soft spots has died, throw it away.
- Spread new grass seed or install new sod over bare topsoil.
If the grass you removed from the soft spots was dead, dying, or extremely diseased, discard it. Then, follow our steps for planting grass seed in bare spots. With our simple process, you can grow new grass that blends in perfectly. Soon, you won’t be able to tell where the soft spots were.
How Do You Fix Soft Ground in Your Yard?
In order to repair soft spots in your yard, you must:
- Inspect the grass in soft spots for fungal disease.
- Cut out the grass from soft spots and set it aside.
- Throw away dead grass removed from soft spots.
- Turn over the soil in soft spots to search for signs of grubs and animal burrows.
- Improve drainage around soft spots by digging a drainage trench.
- Add topsoil to soft spots until they are level with the surrounding yard.
- Put removed grass back into place over the soft spots or reseed the area.
These steps will help to eliminate several potential problems that can sauce soft areas in your yard, including grass diseases, insect damage, animal burrowing, and insufficient drainage. Instead of hunting for one problem, you can correct them all with this 7-step system.