We’ve all seen it—brown patches in the midst of an otherwise nice green lawn. Worse, no matter how much you water they don’t go away. Why? The answer is surpisingly simple as is the solution.

Hydrophobic soils

After a protracted period of dryness soils actually begin to repel water. This is known as a hydrophobic soil condition. The causes are a bit complex and not worth really delving into, at least not now.

The solution

Professionals who work with turf a lot are very familiar with this problem. They will use either a granular or liquid product that is applied to the surface of the lawn and watered in.

There is an easy solution to the problem for the home owner as well. Just add a surfactant to the soil and water it in. Say sur-who? Basically any detergent or soap. It breaks down the surface tension of the water so it can penetrate the soil.

How to do it

Ok, this is really complex.

  • Retrieve whatever mild hand dishwasing detergent you have from under the sink
  • Put an ouce or two in the bottom of a bucket
  • Fill the bucket with cold water just like you’re going to wash your car
  • Dump it on the dry spot
  • Water it in immediately
  • Ensure that the dry spot continues to receive adequate watering
  • Wait for it to green up

That wasn’t too hard was it. The good news? It actually works, but you have to be patient. It may take awhile for the grass to begin growing again. However, you can test the results by probing in the soil with a knife or screwdriver maybe half an inch or so down to make sure it is getting soggy. If so, it’s just a matter of time. Note: If the grass actually died you may have to repair the lawn itself.

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