Large dead/dirt spots on rural lawn

Asked September 8, 2013, 9:48 PM EDT

Hello! I have a rural lawn 2 miles West of Minot, ND that has maintained its natural grasses for the past 25 years with no issues other than what would be considered normal issues for rural lawns. The entire lot is about 3 acres, but only half of it was considered the "lawn" and has been maintained and mowed like one. The other half is natural, hilly prairie that has never been mowed. We take pride in having natural prairie grasses as its hard to come by anymore up here.

This spring I noticed very large (8 feet by 8 feet or so) areas where the grass was not coming back from the winter like it normally does. In fact, nothing grew there at all and it was completely old clippings from last fall or just plain dirt. I did notice small holes, maybe the size of a quarter on the surface in these areas.

Normally whenever I had a area of damaged grass in this yard I would just rake up and water and it would come back. Pretty resilient "lawn". This is what I did to remedy the issue, but it did not help. The only thing that grew there all summer long were weeds, but that didn't happen until about late July.

I did not spray the lawn or try to seed at all. As of last week I saw large holes in these dead spots. About 2 inches wide or so with mounds of dirt around them. I dug down a bit and found tunnels. I dug them all up and loosely put the dirt back.

2 days later they're I'm assuming whatever was there never left.

My lawn and I need HELP!

Thank you!

Ward County North Dakota lawns and turf horticulture

1 Response

Your lawn is mostly affected by winter kill. Due to the extremely dry fall we experienced in 2012, much of our turf grasses were not able to come out drought stressed dormancy to properly prepare for the harsh winter. Diseases or insects could have also weakened the lawn last fall in addition to the drought. This resulted in many of the lawns in the area exhibiting patchy winter kill. Now is a good time to reseed those areas. The ground is warm and the seeds will germinate quickly. You can find more information on reseeding the dead patches at this link:

Also, if you would like to send a sample of the damaged turf into the NDSU Diagnostic Lab, contact me and I can discuss how to go about submitting a sample for diagnosis of possible disease. You may contact me by email at or call me at 701-857-6444.