Lawn Care Tips and Rules
Your lawn is a living thing and like all living things deteriorates as it gets older. Like a car servicing, you can regularly maintain its condition and avoid big repair bills. Replacing a lawn is expensive; it is cheaper to look after what you have. To help you we have listed the following basic lawn care tips to look after your lawn.
The weather and various other conditions such as quality of soil, shade, mowing height and frequency, type of grass, insect damage and drainage are critical to the health and appearance of any lawn.
Mowing. Grass responds to regular mowing and feeding. Never cut your grass shorter than 1 – 1.1/2 inches and never remove more than 1/3 of its overall length at any one time. Remove clippings. Do not scalp the grass especially in dry weather. If your lawn is not growing quickly just give it a light cut to tidy it up. Let it grow longer in very dry weather – it will become more drought tolerant.
Shade. Lawns under shade and in sheltered positions stay damp longer and dampness encourages moss. Grass also requires a few hours of sun each day to grow correctly. If you can, cut back branches and shrubs to let light and airflow onto the lawn.
Soil. In the Midlands most lawns tend to be on loamy soils, this is ideal soil as it retains nutrients and moisture and doesn’t remain soggy. Lawns that are on clay soils will hold nutrients but will suffer from bad drainage and therefore moss, this can be overcome by top dressing over a period of time. Lawns on sandy soils will struggle to hold nutrients but will be free draining.
Weather. Grass enjoys and thrives in periods of warm wet weather. It can also tolerate cold dry, cold and wet and hot and dry periods. Too much rain creates dampness and encourages moss. Too dry and the grass is stressed through lack of moisture. Too much snow can create problems with diseases. Stay off grass in heavy frosts and very dry weather.
Watering your lawn. All living things require water but grass can tolerate dry weather. However, prolonged periods of dry weather can cause damage so if we have more than 2 weeks of dry weather you need to water. If after walking on your grass it stays flat and does not spring back up then it requires water. To water correctly leave a jar with a line ½ inch from the bottom under your sprinkler when the water reaches the line move the sprinkler and start again. It is better to water heavily once a week than every night! Watering every night will encourage the roots to turn towards the damp surface and encourage moss.
Leaf and other debris. Try to remove leaves as soon as you can. Just leaving them on the grass for a few days can weaken grass. Grass needs to receive sunshine or it will die.
Weeds and moss. Weed seeds and moss spores are carried on the wind, land randomly and quickly establish themselves. Weeds are easier to control. Two applications of a professional herbicide will keep your lawn 90% weed free. Moss is usually the biggest problem on most lawns and must be treated every year to avoid causing serious damage. A good moss control product turns the moss black. Be careful not to apply too much or you may scorch your lawn. Dead moss must be raked out and seed sown in bare patches of your lawn.
If you neglect your lawn it will deteriorate quickly. The basic rules for treating lawns are as follows:
Late winter early spring. Apply a lawn fertiliser high in nitrogen to give the grass the nutrients it requires to grow in the wet warm spring conditions. Combine it with an application of herbicide to control weeds. Do not use a total weed killer on your lawn as they kill grass as well! Use a selective weed killer to just control weeds not grass. Do not apply too much or you could scorch your lawn.
Late spring / summer. Apply a fertiliser with a lower nitrogen content but high in phosphorous and potassium content. These are nutrients critical for root development. Combine the feed with a second application of herbicide to control more difficult clovers and weeds that appear later in the year.
Late summer / early autumn. Apply a fertiliser with a high potassium and phosphorous content combined with a dose of moss control. Moss will turn brown / black and needs to be raked or scarified out for grass to grow. Bare patched will also need to be overseeded to thicken up the grass and to prevent more moss and weeds taking hold.
Late autumn & winter. Apply a very heavy dose of moss control and iron to toughen up the grass over the winter and improve colour. Moss will turn brown / black and needs to be raked out for grass to grow. Consider scarifying and aerating the lawns.
Be careful some lawn care companies use only high nitrogen feeds that will green up your lawn in the short term but will eventually produce too much growth and create an over crowded spongy thatchy lawn. Check what they are using and insist they use the correct range of nutrients – after all it is your lawn not theirs!
Weed killers. Weeds are controlled by herbicides. The weeds need to be growing to die off effectively. Controlling weeds in cold or very hot dry weather tends to be a lot slower as the metabolism of the weeds (and grass) is a lot slower. Weeds are 70 % water and decompose quickly usually wilting 10 – 21 days after treating in normal conditions. They may tale longer in dry or cold conditions.
Moss control. Moss can be controlled at most times of the year but it does not decompose easily and the dead moss carcass may just sit on the soil surface blocking any new grass growth. Dead moss should be raked or scarified out from the lawn. Scarifying is a mechanical process of raking out dead moss and thatch – it is brutal and may leave your lawn looking bare and untidy and requiring top dressing and over seeding to recover. It is sensible to schedule scarifying just before a period of warm wet weather that will help the lawn recover. Do not scarify in extreme temperatures as your lawn may not recover for several months.
Aeration and compaction. With wear soil/lawns become compacted over time meaning that the soil particles are pushed closer together reducing the spaces between them which prevents oxygen etc and moisture moving through the soil. Aeration and spiking punch holes into the soil improving aeration. Cores pulled out of the soil should be collected not left on the surface. Aeration improves surface drainage – it does not improve overall soil drainage.
Disease and pest damage. There are a number of diseases and insects that can damage your lawn. Regularly inspect your lawn and look out for excessive weed and moss growth, discoloured grass or bare patches.
Brown patches. There are a number of different reasons for brown patches on your lawn. Insects – leather jackets can cause serious damage in a few days. Animal urine will create dark green patches will can turn into scorch marks. Petrol or chemical spills also cause scorch marks. Walking on your lawn when it is frozen or covered in snow can cause brown marks to appear later in the year.
Top dressing and over seeding. This is simply spreading a mixture of sand and soil over your lawns surface to improve drainage and irritate / impede moss growth. The principle is to gradually create a layer of sandy well drained soil on the surface and even out any undulations. Seed can be added to thicken up the lawn.
Growing grass from seed. Grass seed requires three things – good soil contact, warmth and moisture to germinate. If it is too dry, too cold or even too hot seed will not germinate. The best time to sow seed is early spring and late summer early autumn.
We hope the above is helpful. If you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact us for a free no obligation lawn surveyor with any questions you may have.