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Lawn Care

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Lawn Care

Giving your lawn a little attention at the start of the year will give it the best possible chance of withstanding the worst any drought can throw at it.

In spring, once the weather is warming and grass starting to grow, it is important to undertake some routine lawn maintenance. Without this the turf declines in vigour, and weeds and moss rapidly establish. This is especially important following a summer drought, which can make the ground too hard and dry to carry out a thorough round of autumn lawn maintenance.

Initial steps

Begin by lightly raking the lawn to remove debris and moss. If moss is a significant problem, apply a moss killer a couple of weeks prior to raking, once the grass is growing strongly.

Spring is also a good time to carry out aeration where there are problems of compaction. For small areas, this is easily done using a fork. Pushing the fork to a depth of 10cm (4in), spaced 10-15cm (4-6in) apart, allows air and moisture to the roots and can help drainage.

Mowing (se below) should start as the soil warms up and grass growth increases. If worm casts are a problem, use a stiff broom or besom to brush them away before cutting. Do not mow during wet or frosty weather. Start the season at a high cut, mowing once a week before increasing the frequency and reducing the height.

If the lawn edges have become irregular, recut them using a half-moon edger. Cut against a plank for a straight edge.

Feeding in late March or April will maintain the vigour of the grass (see below).

Apply lawn weedkillers, if needed, when weeds are growing vigorously, usually from about mid-April onwards.

Mowing

Frequency and cutting height depend on lawn quality and time of year. A summer height of 1-2.5cm (0.5-1in) is satisfactory for a general-purpose lawn, mown weekly. High quality, well managed turf can be mown to 0.5cm (0.25in) when mown every two to three days.

Spring feeding

Feeding annually in late March to April will maintain grass vigour. If the lawn is not fed vigour declines. Weeds and moss can then rapidly establish. Use a proprietary spring/summer lawn fertiliser at the manufacturer's recommended rates. If no rain falls after three days, water in.

Summer feeding

If grass loses its vigour and freshness during May - August, carefully apply 15g per sq m (0.5oz per sq yd ) sulphate of ammonia, mixed with four times its weight dry soil to ensure even distribution and avoid scorching. Apply in cool, moist conditions and lightly water in. Repeat if needed after six to eight weeks. Alternatively, use a proprietary spring/summer lawn fertiliser. Do not apply these fertilisers after August as summer feeds have too much nitrogen for autumn use.

Watering

Grass has good drought resistance but becomes limp, then brown, in prolonged dry conditions. When necessary water in the evening to minimise evaporation loss. Steady sprinkling for 25-30 minutes once every seven days should be adequate for most lawns during drought. Frequent but light watering encourages shallow rooting.

Running repairs

If the grass cover is thin, overseeding can be used to improve the composition and density of the sward. This involves broadcasting 10-15g of grass seed per sq m over the existing turf. Although best carried out in autumn, spring-sown seed can still establish well before summer. Lightly rake the lawn or, where patches completely bare of grass exist, use a fork to break up the surface before seeding. For bare patches sow at the supplier's recommended rate (usually 20-25g per sq m). If the weather remains dry for two or three days water gently (hosepipe bans permitting). Grass should germinate after seven to ten days. Water again if conditions

Autumn Care

Autumn is an ideal time to examine the lawn for summer wear and tear, and carrying out work in September will allow the grass to respond to treatment before soil temperatures fall too low.

Scarifying

'Thatch' (old grass stems, dead moss and other debris) can build-up on lawns between grass roots and foliage. Regular raking (left) keeps levels at an acceptable level, but a layer greater than 1cm (0.5in) can impede water and fertiliser penetration. To remove such build-up rake vigorously but carefully with a spring-tine rake - a process known as scarifying. For larger areas powered tools are available as single units or mower attachments.

Turf is damaged if scarified too deeply. Do not scarify in spring - opt instead for a light raking.

Aerating

Compacted lawns benefit from spiking to deter summer drought and winter waterlogging. For an average lawn aeration every two to three years should be adequate. Concentrate on areas that receive the most wear.

Small areas can be spiked with a garden fork (see photograph above right), spacing holes 10-15cm (4-6in) apart. On clay or waterlogged soils use a hollow-tine aerator (see photograph above left) every three to four years. This extracts plugs of soil from the lawn. After hollow-tining sweep up the plugs then top-dress with a sandy mixture to improve air and moisture penetration.

Top dressing

Top dressing corrects surface irregularities and improves the texture of difficult soils, consequently encouraging greater rooting and thickening of turf. A simple mixture is three parts sandy loam, six parts sharp sand and one part compost or leafmould (by volume). Apply 2-3kg per sq m, working the dressing in well with the back of a rake.

Flattening

To correct bumps and troughs, use an edging iron to slice through turf and roll it back. Fork over, adding or removing soil as needed. Replace the turf, and water thoroughly.

 

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Alford U3A Gardening group