Your Lawn

Questions related to looking after your lawn: (click on question)

How do I get a gorgeous green lawn?

Why is my lawn mossy?

Why does my lawn have bare patches?

Why does my lawn have weeds and look unhealthy?

Is turf better than grass seed?

Your questions answered:

Q: How do I get a gorgeous green lawn?

A: Grass is a plant and, like any other, has certain requirements to keep it healthy. Lawn care is a series of simple measures that, done at the correct time of year will help you produce superb results.

LAWN CARE in 6 Easy Steps.

EQUIPMENT: All mower blades should be clean and sharp. Blunt blades tear at the grass leaving it yellow, vulnerable to disease and needing more nutrients to repair the damage.

TASK

SPRING

SUMMER

AUTUMN

WINTER

1.MOWING. Mainly between March and October. NOT if ground conditions are either very soft or frozen.

Blades on the highest setting, 40mm. The aim with first cuts of the main growing season is to tidy the grass and stimulate it to grow – not scalp it.

Twice weekly.

Blades on a low height setting. 13-25mm.

Heighten blades during drought conditions.

Once a week.

Blades on a higher setting 40mm.

Winter mowing is not usually necessary. However, if the weather is very mild and the grass still growing, a light mow with blades on a high setting will be fine.

Dry and Shady areas under trees.

As above.

Once a fortnight.

Once every three to four weeks.

2. WATERING. A good soaking enables the lawn to develop deep roots which will tap into subsurface water. Light sprinkling only wets the grass itself, meaning roots are deprived of water.

Not if weather is damp and grass is wet.

Several good soakings early in the morning, per week. The hose and sprinkler can be set up on a timer – then you can forget about it.

Infrequent unless it’s hot.

None.

3. WEEDING.  As with all chemicals, always read the manufacturer's instructions and stick to them.

Start weed treatments early spring.

Keep removing or treating weeds to prevent from flowering and seeding.

Keep removing or treating weeds to prevent from flowering and seeding.

None.

Dandelions

Remove entire tap root as soon as you spot them.

Can also be treated with a spray.

Continue to remove the entire tap root as soon as you spot the foliage.

Can be treated with a spray.

Do not allow to flower or remove them.

Remove entire tap root as soon as you spot them.

Can be treated with a spray.

Do not allow to flower or remove them.

4. AERATION. Necessary for good healthy grass roots. Best done in autumn when there are fewer weed seeds about to grow in the spaces.

Remove small plugs of soil with an aerator or a garden fork, to

allow air, water and feed to penetrate deeper into the lawn

Remove small plugs of soil with an aerator or a garden fork, to allow air, water and feed to penetrate deeper into the lawn

5. FEEDING. Feeding the lawn will increase vigour and help prevent weeds and moss from establishing. Apply fertilisers when the soil is moist, or when rain is expected. As an organic alternative, use chicken manure pellets or seaweed growth stimulants. Repeat fertiliser application a third time, if needed, six to eight weeks later.

Mid spring – late March to April.

Use a spring or summer lawn fertiliser.

If grass loses its vigour between late spring and late summer (often May to August).

Do not feed after August.

Do not feed unless the fertilizer is formulated for autumn growth.

None.

6. SCARIFYING. This simply means regular raking to remove thatch (old grass stems, dead moss and other debris) and prevents build-up which will affect the health of the lawn. Thatch, when deeper than 1cm, can impede water and fertiliser penetration.

In April.

Light scarification.

August/September.

Heavy scarification which will thin the lawn, possibly leaving bare soil which can be seeded.


Q: Why is my lawn mossy?

A:  Moss growth is one of the problems that afflicts most lawns and requires a regular maintenance programme to eradicate it and keep it out of your lawn. Be tough on moss and the causes of moss.

Causes of moss in a lawn:

  • Compacted soil – the lawn is subject to a lot of wear and tear when we walk on it, play games on it, sit on it and generally use it as an outdoor carpet. All of this causes pressure on the soil and it becomes compacted. Compacted soil is solid and so cannot absorb the water and nutrients it needs to produce new, healthy grass blades. The hard soil prevents good drainage creating a nice damp, spot for moss to grow instead of grass.
  • Shade (particularly under trees) - grass needs plenty of sun to grow whereas moss doesn’t.
  • Sparse or poor quality grass - give it the space and moss will jump right in.
  • Wet weather and waterlogged conditions suits mossy growth.
  • Drought – lack of water stresses the grass and it starts to die off. Gaps in your lawn allow other plants to populate.
  • Poor mowing technique – mowing too short and ‘scalping’ the soil surface will stress grass and create bare patches allowing moss to invade.
  • Poor infertile soil - weak grass growth allows competitors to thrive.
  • Poor preparation and poor maintenance - stressed grass from the start.
  • Acidic soil – grass prefers a neutral soil whereas moss isn’t too fussed.

What to do:

  • Aerate the lawn by spiking it in spring, summer and autumn.
  • Scarify the lawn to remove and prevent build-up of thatch and moss in spring, summer and autumn.
  • Apply lawn sand to kill moss and re-seed any bare patches in spring.
  • Mow regularly but not too short.
  • For lawn areas in shade, ensure that the seed mix or turf is specified for shady areas.
  • Mow with blades at a height that cuts the top off the grass not the roots as well.
  • New lawns – ensure that good soil preparation is carried out. If using turf, select a good quality turf. If seeding, again good soil prep is required: use fresh seed and ensure that the mix is of fine and broad grasses for hardwearing areas.
  • Do not allow lawns to dry out during drought.
  • Use a chemical moss control in autumn and spring. You will be left with bare patches which will need prepping and re-seeding.
  • Try to prevent dogs and cats using the lawn as their loo as this can kill grass and create patches resulting in moss ingress.

But saying all that, moss is springy to walk on, stays green in drought conditions and, I reckon, acceptable at low levels. Depends on how much of a lawn purist you are! 


Q: Why does my lawn have bare patches?

A: Most of us have at some point experienced the dreaded bald patch in the lawn. That one small bald patch sticks out like a sore thumb and spoils the whole look of a lawn and you can be sure it’ll be the part of the lawn that’s commented on.

So, don’t be too hasty to grab any old lawn product in your enthusiasm to get rid of it.  It is important to determine the exact cause of the problem, because each cause will require a slightly different approach. Possible causes are as follows:

CAUSE

DIAGNOSIS

TREATMENT

Bug infestations

Fresh grass is being eaten, small irregular shaped patches which get bigger every day. Usually a type of caterpillar, grub or worm.

Remove thatch, aerate, irrigate and fertilise the area with a lawn fertiliser.

Seasonal dryness

Winter dryness – too little rain and snow – not very likely.

Summer dryness – too little rain.

You will see ‘hot spots’ of burned yellow turf.

Water with sprinkler but give the lawn a good soaking every few days. Shallow watering does not reach the roots.

Mowing damage

Cutting too short too early in the season. Dull/blunt blades on the mower which rip the grass rather than cut it.

Leaving grass to get too long.

First couple of cuts have blades on a higher setting.

Sharpen blades and keep them sharp.

Mow weekly during peak season.

Pet waste

You either own a pet or see visiting cats.

You will find faeces telling you that your garden is the local loo.

Pick up waste daily.

Flush fouled area with water within 8hrs.

Use pet ‘deterrent’ products.

If it’s your pet then there are products which put into the drinking water neutralise the harmful nitrogen.

Grass diseases

Generally speaking, you will see evidence of sickly grass growth, powdery mildew, discolouration and bare patches.

Good lawn practice is vital - correct cutting, not over fertilising and ensuring the correct amount of water is applied.

Killer weeds

The goal of the weed is to choke out the grass by killing it at the roots. Prevention is better than cure or at least vigilance, so as soon as you see a weed take action.

Either dig weeds out roots and all or use a chemical, preferably eco-friendly spray, making sure that you spray only on the weed.

 


Q: Why does my lawn have weeds and look unhealthy?

A: Grass is a plant like any other and needs regular care and attention to grow healthily. Perhaps even more so if the lawn is a football pitch, putting green or cricket wicket.

This begins with dusting off the lawn rake and giving the lawn a good ‘scarify’ or scrape. This gets all the old thatch and moss out of the surface, lets the lawn breath and makes space around each blade to produce side shoots. This results in a thicker lawn. It’s a really good idea to do this after each mow.

Grab your garden fork and spike all over the lawn. It is hard work - each fork needs to be plunged a few inches into the surface of the lawn, waggled around and pulled out. This makes holes which aerate the lawn allowing air and water to reach the roots. Aerate once in spring and once in autumn ie just before and immediately after the sporty seasons.

If your lawn is large then consider hiring mechanical scarifers and aerators. Otherwise, it’s all down to your muscle power.

Next job is to check your lawn mower and make sure that the blades are sharp and set at the correct height. Make the first cut of spring a high one to encourage the grass to grow, then lower the blades for the rest of the season and don’t mow when the ground is wet. Regular mowing makes for a great lawn. Award winning lawns are sometimes mown every day. Once a week in summer is acceptable for most other lawns. Twice a week is nice though.

Only water a lawn if it’s been absolutely bone dry for weeks and the grass is turning brown. If you do water, it’s far more effective to give your lawn two or three good soakings a week during hot weather as opposed to a light sprinkling every day. But if hosepipes bans are ever in force again, don’t bother watering your lawn. It will spring back after the first few heavy rains. Grass is resilient.

Get rid of any weeds using specific weed killers for lawns or, if you only have a few deep rooted weeds, by digging them out. Ensure you get all the root out or it will simply regrow.

Feeding is vital if you want a bowling green or carpet look. Lots of feeds are available and all are easy to apply. A seaweed feed formulated for lawn is particularly good and used by many professional greenkeepers. In spring and summer, use lawn fertilizers high in nitrogen as it encourages leaf growth. Swap to an autumn feed in September as it is formulated to encourage roots. Don't use spring feeds in autumn as the resultant lush growth is susceptible to winter damage and disease.

Great lawns take a lot of hard work, but they are worth the effort. 


Q: Is turf better than grass seed?

A: 

Turf gives instant results but is more expensive than lawns from seed. Seed is therefore cheaper but takes a bit of time to establish.

However, you can select the mix of seed for your particular situation. Turf is more general.

Both sowing seed and laying turf require essential soil preparation.

What do you want your lawn for?

Ryegrasses are broader and tougher than fine-leafed grasses. If you want a football pitch then choose mixes or turf with plenty of ryegrass. If you are only ever going to walk on your lawn to mow it, a fine leafed mix will be best.


Preparation

Prep is the same in terms of creating a nice tilth of fine soil which is about 3-4” depth, level, no ridges or dips, weed and stone free before laying your turf or sowing with seed. This means plenty of digging, rolling, raking, weeding, de-stoning, raking, more stones, some more weeds - you get the picture. The time spent preparing the soil will really pay off.

Turf

If you want an instant lawn that can be walked on within two to three weeks of laying then turf is the best. But don’t be tempted to cut corners and buy the cheapest – it’s a false economy. The grass will be mostly broad grasses, at worst be weedy and give more of a field grass effect than bowling green. Also, check that the turf roll edges are nice and damp, turf edges knit together to form the lawn and if dry will not grow, so all the joints will show up. Turf can very easily be cut to any shape you want and once laid just requires a roll and regular watering until it’s established.

Seed

Seeding is a lot cheaper. It may be cheaper but takes a lot longer to establish and a lot more time and effort to achieve a lawn that functions well and looks good. There are a variety of seed mixes available, broadly speaking offering the same choices as turf. Timing is crucial, either spring or autumn is best for maximum germination. If you sow in spring, most of the season will have passed by before you can walk on it and if sown in autumn it’s best not to use it before the following June.

Good even germination is dependent upon having the right weather. That means warm and sunny with the occasional light shower. Once sown, you’ll need to devise a system of canes and twine or netting to keep birds and animals off and also, somehow try to stop wind borne weed seeds from flying in to take up residence.

Don’t forget to read through our answer to How do I get a gorgeous green lawn? There are lots more tips there for once your lawn is established.