grass that always dies


We have a small city garden with a patch of grass in the middle. Each summer the grass dies. It doesn’t go dormant. It dies, and if we leave it until spring, there is just mud.

We’ve raked and removed thatch. We’d added new soil with peat moss and grass seed. The lawn is lush by June, but then section by section, it dies. Just a few patches of clover.

Can’t see any signs of grubs. The rest of the garden around the grass is fine. I need a trusted source to come and analyze what’s going on. ANy advice is helpful.


Thank you for contacting the Toronto Master Gardeners concerning your lawn.

From your photo the area appears to be quite shady. Would there happen to be a large deciduous tree near by? Do you supplement your lawn with water during the heat of the summer?

If there is a tree near by this could be the issue. The lawn starts out beautiful during the early cool, wet days of spring before the leaves of the deciduous tree leafs out. The lawn is receiving plenty of sun and water. As the tree leafs out the area becomes more shaded and as the heat of the summer continues there is competition for water between the lawn roots and the tree roots.

Since  you have attempted to grow a lawn a number of times have you considered  planting a lawn alternative?  Planting the right natural groundcover attracts the right kind of insects and especially the bees, which will help take care of the more un-wanted insects. They can also prevent erosion caused by storm water runoff and even improve soil quality by adding nitrogen in the case of clover. The following information is from one of our archived posts:

“Like you, many gardeners today are considering alternatives to grass.  One of the more popular choices is white clover Trifolium repens, which can be used on its own as a groundcover, or seeded into an existing lawn to produce a mixture of turfgrass and clover.   Other gardeners prefer sedums, or thyme varieties, many of which are available at large garden centres.  Clover or clover/turfgrass mixtures should be available at most of the big box stores as well as hardware stores at this time of year.

This City of Guelph website gives a very good overview of the kinds of plants available as lawn substitutes based on a variety of factors including foot traffic resilience and soil type.  All choices are winter hardy in our part of the province:!pane2

The Toronto Master gardeners has produced a good guide on lawn alternatives in conjunction with the City of Toronto.”

Also, Landscape Ontario has produced an informative Grow Me Instead guide to native alternatives groundcovers to grow depending on your site requirements.

Lastly, if you would like a professional to come in to look at your space you can contact Landscape Ontario.

On their site there’s a “Find Your Professional” search option. Half-way down the various options you will see “Lawn Care “. Then enter your “Location” street name, and “Search”. You will usually be given numerous options convenient to you.

Good Luck with your lawn.

September 13, 2021