04 Dec How to care for your lawn
Winter may not be a time of year when you think about your lawn, but if you want a healthy and good-looking lawn which adds value to and enhances your home and garden the rest of the year, now is the time to start planning what you’ll do when to ensure you get what you want.
The right seasonal lawn care alongside regular mowing is essential. Here’s what you need to do when.
December & January lawn care
Correct care of your lawn in Winter can make a big difference to the way it looks and behaves the rest of the year. Here’s what to do:
- Moss control: Moss breeds in Winter time. Use of seaweed tonic now peps up the colour of your grass and helps prevent moss build-up.
- Mowing: Mowing is usually not necessary in Winter, unless the weather is mild and the grass is still growing. In this case, mow occasionally with a high cut setting. Don’t do this if the ground is soft or frozen or during spells of cold dry winds. Never mow wet or frosty grass – as this can damage the turf and compact the soil. Wait until the lawn has dried out or defrosted.
March & April lawn care
Over Winter your lawn won’t grow much, but once the weather starts to warm up in early Spring (March to April), you should start your annual lawn care regime in earnest with these tasks:
- Mowing: This is the most important as well as the most obvious maintenance for a healthy lawn as regular mowing keeps it in good health. On average a conventional lawn should be mown once a week. But leave any long lawns uncut in Spring, unless growth is very vigorous. For the first mowing in Spring, set the cutting height to the highest setting. Subsequently, gradually reduce the height of cut until the desired height is reached.
- Feeding: In mid-Spring – usually late March to April – use a granular lawn fertiliser designed for Spring or Summer use. Feeding the lawn will increase its resilience and help prevent weeds and moss from getting established. Follow the instructions carefully and only apply these fertilisers when the soil is moist or when rain is expected. If it doesn’t arrive within two days, water the lawn well. For a beautiful deep green colour, apply a liquid seaweed tonic, which will also aid moss control.
- Moss control: Moss is a problem for damp, poorly-drained lawns. Moss killers including sulphate of iron are the best to apply in Spring or Autumn. Moss killers combined with a fertiliser are best when the grass’s vigour is low. After two or three weeks, the moss blackens and you should use a spring-tine rake to remove it. Killing and removing the moss is just the start. To keep it moss-free, the vigour of the grass needs to be improved and any other factors to its build-up addressed. Good Autumn lawn maintenance is essential to keep on top of it (See below)
- Scarification (vigorous raking) is a good follow-up to moss killing as it pulls out any moss and debris out of the lawn. It’s also a non-chemical alternative to moss killers. On small lawns this can be done by hand (a good form of exercise if you have the energy!) On larger lawns, mechanical scarifiers are recommended and can be hired.
- Aeration: If your lawn’s soil is compacted, it makes life more difficult for the roots and the grass they feed to thrive. Aerating (or spiking) the lawn allows better movement of air and water in the root area. A well-aerated lawn will also manage better in periods of drought or waterlogging. For an average lawn, aeration every two to three years is enough. Concentrate on areas which get the most wear, as well as those which are compacted. Small areas can be spiked with a garden fork, spacing holes 10-15cm (4-6 inches) apart and deep. On clay or waterlogged soil, use a hollow-tine aerator every three to four years. This takes plugs of soil from the lawn. After hollow-tining, sweep up the plugs and then rake a top-dressing into the holes to improve air and moisture penetration.
- Weeding: If your lawn has any visible weeds, now is the time to start tackling them – when they’re growing fast, either with a weedkiller or a non-chemical method. With chemical weedkillers, always check the label when buying to ensure it will work on all the weeds in your lawn. If you prefer not to use chemicals, you can try: feeding, aerating and scarifying to encourage the grass to be more vigorous and compete better against the weeds; removing rosette-type weeds – such as dandelions, daisies and plantains – with a handfork; digging them out.
- Overseeding: After moss or weeds have been removed, or where grass is growing thinly, overseeding may be needed. Early Autumn is the best time for this job, but mid-Spring is also ok. Break up the surface with a fork and rake it to make a reasonably fine surface. Then sow the grass seed at half the recommended rate and lightly rake it into the surface. If it doesn’t rain for three days, water it gently. In areas with heavy use, choose a hardwearing utility mix including ryegrass. For shady areas, choose a shade-tolerant mix.
May & June lawn care
May and June are peak growing season for your lawn. It’s important it has the right nutrition and care – to support growth, resist disease and cope with wear and tear.
Here’s what you should be doing:
- Mowing: most lawns shown be mown once a week. Avoid mowing grass too short, as it can weaken the grass, encouraging shallow rooting and making the lawn more susceptible to drought, weeds and moss. Short lawns also need more regular feeding and watering and you may ‘scalp’ the lawn – leaving bare patches where there are bumps or tree roots. On the other extreme, lawns regularly cut too high can suffer from loose, weak growth that’s less resilient to wear and tear. The general guideline is to never remove more than a third of the leaf shoots in any one mow.
- Feeding: Now is the time to apply a nutritious Spring/Summer lawn feed. If your grass loses its vigour and freshness between late Spring and late Summer (usually May to August), repeat the application of Spring or Summer lawn fertiliser or apply 15g per square meter of sulphate of ammonia mixed with four times its weight of dry soil (mixing with soil ensures even distribution and avoids scorching the grass). Apply this mixture in cool, moist conditions and lightly water it in. As an organic alternative, use chicken manure pellets. A liquid seaweed tonic will boost your lawn’s Summer greenness.
- Weeding: You should spot-treat stubborn weeds using your preferred methods.
July to September lawn care
Summer is a difficult time for your lawn – it’s getting more wear and tear, these are the drier months (risking dehydration) and weed seeds are in the air. Late Summer lawn care is about boosting vitality:
- Mowing: Over Summer, on average for a conventional lawn, you should mow twice a week, reducing to once a week or longer during periods of drought. Deep lawns are best cut once or twice in the Summer, but not before June.
- Watering: If your lawn goes brown and dry in the Summer, it will usually recover well once it’s rained again, so watering is usually not necessary over Summer. If you do have to water your lawn, do it when the soil becomes dry but before the grass turns yellow or brown. If the ground is very hard, aerate it by spiking with a garden fork before watering – to help the water penetrate the soil. Watering every 7 to 10 days is normally enough. Ensure the water reaches a depth of 10cm (4 inches) after each watering. In the middle of Summer one square metre (one square yard) needs about 20 litres (5 gallons) every 7 days.
- Feeding: Using a Summer formulation of lawn feed with plenty of potassium helps the grass to regulate its water content and cope with drought conditions. See above for what to do If your grass loses its vigour and freshness between May and August. Do not apply Spring or Summer lawn fertilisers, chicken manure pellets or sulphate of ammonia after August as they contain too much nitrogen for Autumn use – encouraging leafy growth at a time of year when it could be damaged by winter cold, pests or disease.
- Weeding and Moss control: Spot treating stubborn weeds and moss is best in this time of the year.
October & November lawncare
Autumn is the time to help your lawn recover from Summer and work on the condition of the soil as well as managing moss. Here’s what to be doing:
- Mowing: On average a conventional lawn shown be mown once a week at this time of year.
- Feeding: The right liquid Autumn feed is vital if you want to avoid common lawn diseases. An Autumn seaweed treatment is a good idea as it contains iron, which encourages a deep green colour and helps kill moss.
- Aeration: If your lawn is well-used, poorly-drained or compacted, it will benefit from aeration in Autumn. See above for what to do.
- Top-dressing is the application of loam, sand and well-rotted organic matter to a lawn to correct surface irregularities (a bumpy surface) and improve the texture of heavy soils. The top dressing fills the holes created by aeration. This encourages better rooting and thicker grass. Although you can make your own, we would recommend buying it. We use local company, Turffit, based in Kinross, for top-dressing – they pre mix it, as a part soil and sand mix. They always do a great job! If you do want to make your own, apply roughly 2-3kg per square meter (4-7lb per 10 square feet). Work the dressing into the aeration holes in the surface with the back of a rake. The top dressing should largely disappear from view.
- Scarifying and Moss control: Now is the time to clear out any moss and thatch from the lawn. Regular scarifying keeps levels of thatch under control. To remove thatch, rake vigorously but carefully with a spring-tined rake. For moss, Apply an Autumn fertiliser and mosskiller. When the moss has browned or blackened, scarify the lawn, then aerate with a garden fork or hollow tiner if necessary. Brush in a light lawn top-dressing of three parts loam, six parts sharp sand and one part peat substitute by volume.
- Overseeding: If your lawn is challenged by shade or heavy use, overseeding in Autumn with a carefully chosen species of grass seed is recommended.
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