Now's the time people start to look at the sorry state of their lawns and wonder what to do about it. Of course, there are many professional companies who will come and sort out major problems, but for those who just want general advice, I've had a leaflet which I've given to clients over the years. I'll share it with everyone here:
Newly Turfed Lawns - DOs and DON’Ts
· DO keep it watered in dry periods until it is established - especially the first 6-8 weeks BUT don't make it waterlogged!
· DO allow a few weeks for roots to establish before allowing "traffic" on the lawn
· DON’T mow for at least 3-4 weeks, until growth of about 2 inches (50mm) has been made;
· DO take care with first few mowings not to lift the turf, especially at the edges
· DON’T use feed or weed products for the first 6 months (i.e. if lawn was laid in autumn, OK to weed & feed the following spring & vice-versa)
· DON’T scarify or wire-rake the lawn for at least 12 months
A Calendar of Lawncare
· Jan-Feb.: Leave it alone! Try not to walk on it, especially if it's frosted
· Mar.: First mowing, with blades set to high cut. Feed with high nitrogen lawn fertilizer
· Apr.: Gradually lower height of cut
· May: Apply weedkiller if needed. Lower cut to summer levels (3/4" = 20mm)
· June: Feed & weed treatment - approximately 6 weeks after May weedkill
· Jul-Aug.: Mow 2-3 times per month
· Sept.: Mow 3-4 times. Feed with LOW Nitrogen (N) high Potassium (K), high Phosphorous (P) lawn fertilizer to condition it for winter. Turfing and/or re-seeding if necessary
· Oct.: Raise height of cut. Autumn maintenance, as described overleaf
· Nov.-Dec.: Last (high) cut, then leave it alone. Sweep off fallen leaves
This is best carried out in late September to October - though it can be done at other times providing the grass is growing strongly (i.e. warm & moist conditions - not hot & dry or cold & wet). The procedure is:
· Scarify the lawn
· Mow in same direction as scarification
· Leave it 3-7 days to recover
· Scarify, then mow, again - but in direction of 60-90 degrees to the first sequence. This will probably take out as much rubbish as the first time
· Spike the lawn to aerate it
· Brush in (using a besom) a top dressing of autumn lawn fertilizer (i.e. low nitrogen) plus compost & horticultural grade washed sharp sand mix
*Scarification: This is raking out (using a spring-tine rake or machine) the accumulated "thatch". The thatch must be collected and removed to allow light and air to the grass blades. It also helps the weeds stand up, and hence get cut by mowing.
*Mowing: Don't cut too short - not more than 1/3 off the height at one time. Mowing is best done regularly rather than left to get long and then blitzed. Remember that mowing is taking nutrients out of the grass (like collecting a crop), so you must feed the lawn to replace the nutrients. Use a mower that collects the cuttings (either rotary or cylinder) unless a mulch-mower is used which re-distributes the clippings as a fine mulch.
*Spiking: This lets air into the soil, and allows waste gases out, it removes compaction, and improves drainage. Spiking needs the soil to be moist, and is best done with a hollow-tined aerator, but can be done with an ordinary garden fork. Ideally follow spiking with a top dressing, using horticultural sharp sand & compost to prevent the spike holes closing up again. It gives real benefit, but it takes several months for this to show!
Remember: Grass won't grow well if in the shade or on poorly-drained ground. If you have a lot of shade, or water-logged soil, call us for specialist advice.
Remember too that some herbicides can be harmful to wildlife, especially aquatic creatures - always follow the manufacturer's directions, and if in doubt keep well away from ponds, streams, ditches, etc.
"Lawn sand" is the cheapest ready-mixed product which will "instantly" kill moss - though it has no effect on other weeds. It contains sulphate of ammonia (feeds the grass) and sulphate of iron (kills the moss and greens up the grass) in a sharp sand carrier. Be careful to apply it to correct dosage and evenly spread - it will leave blackened, scorched grass if excessively applied. It's best applied in the early morning, whilst dew is on the ground, in Spring. Don't use in Autumn, as it will soften up the grass. The lawn should be watered if there's no rain after 2 days. Note that it works by "burning off" surface moss, but the roots are not touched, so it is NOT a permanent solution.
Look in garden centres for other lawn weedkillers. Some are specifically for treating moss and/or clover. They will generally take 1-2 weeks to work and may need a second application 4-6 weeks later. The effects generally last up to 6 months. Moss is often regarded as a separate problem (the cause of it should be dealt with) and therefore "weed & feed" products often don't deal with moss - though some "triple action" ones do!
Don't mow for 3 days before/after applying weedkiller. Ideally, apply a high nitrogen lawn feed 10-14 days before a "straight" weedkiller. This gets both the weeds & grass actively growing. The weeds are more susceptible then to destruction, and the grass is better placed to grow into vacated biospace. Most products will require watering in if there has not been rain within 2-3 days of treatment. After about 2-3 weeks rake out the dead moss/weed using an electric lawn rake or (with some effort!) by hand, using a spring-tine rake, otherwise it will not allow the grass to grow properly.