While some gardeners with small spaces and little time may have ditched grass for hard landscaping, others will be sowing, scarifying and aerating their green patches this spring, in preparation for the summer season ahead.
If you want a lawn worthy of Wimbledon, it’s time to start work now, says lawn expert Richard Salmon, managing director of ProLawnCare UK (prolawncareuk.com)
It’s not only aesthetics which make growing grass a good choice, he points out.
“Lawns lock in carbon from the atmosphere and therefore play a vital role in cleaning and cooling our environment.”
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Follow these tips to ensure you have a showcase lawn for summer.
1. Service your mower
Global warming is extending our grass growing season so, with only a small window when we cannot mow, get your mower serviced and the blades sharpened, says Salmon.
2. Choose your seed
For a Wimbledon lawn, sow it with hard wearing grass that can tolerate the stress of heavy wear and tear. Choose a mixture with dwarf perennial rye grass in it, Salmon suggests.
3. Treat moss
Get rid of patches of moss now with an iron-based product, he advises, to stop growth immediately, before it competes with the grass. Once treated, the moss will soon turn black as the iron dehydrates it. It can then be scarified (raked out) manually with a spring tine rake, or mechanically raked out.
4. Deal with bare patches
Lightly fork and spike bare areas on the lawn. Scatter grass seed and cover with sieved soil to aid germination, and protect from scavenging birds. The best time to sow is in mid-spring or early autumn, when the soil is warm and there is plenty of moisture, says the RHS.
The Lawn Association (lawnassociation.org.uk) adds: “Seeding success is often down to nature more than us. After all, it’s the warm, moist conditions that make seeds germinate, and this also goes for good seeding in the form of light. Seeding before trees get their leaves will give the new seeds a better chance of success.”
5. Boost growth
In March, apply a balanced spring lawn fertiliser that contains nitrogen, phosphate, potassium and magnesium. Avoid ‘feed, weed and moss-killer’ all-in-one formulations, Salmon advises.
“Treat weeds separately with a liquid spray, as these are products where the herbicide ‘weed killer’ is impregnated on the granules that you scatter over the lawn, and are therefore at risk from being picked up by your pets’ paws or on your shoes, and transferred to the house.
“It is more effective to spray the weeds separately with a liquid spray, because the herbicide is sprayed directly on to the target.”
The Lawn Association adds: “Speak to any expert and they’ll tell you to use feed to feed, and moss deterrent to deter moss. Moss killer does not exist, so we have to carefully look at why it’s thriving in your lawn and change those characteristics.”
6. Let the grass breathe
Aerate the lawn using either a specialist machine or forking over the surface to about 5cm with a garden fork. This allows oxygen down to the roots for a strong and more resilient plant. It aids drainage and provides a perfect home for grass seed, Salmon advises.
The Lawn Association adds: “Remember, grass is a plant, so hollow tine aerating your lawn will be vital in giving your soil more water and air holding space, and also for reducing the need to water.”
7. Rake up debris
In April, lightly scarify to pull out old grass and leaves, remove dead thatch and moss. Use either a specialist machine or garden rake. The collected rubbish makes excellent compost, Salmon advises.
8. Remove bumps
If the lawn is uneven, wait for a dry period and fill in small bumps with sieved topsoil and rake in grass seed, he suggests.
9. Feed again
A liquid feed applied in the drier summer months containing seaweed and other natural foods, is a great way to stimulate the soil and feed the lawn.
10. Shape the edges
Shape or simply tidy up the edges to provide your lawn with a sharp, crisp finish.
11. Watch your mowing height
Mowing height is important. Don’t mow shorter than 15mm (½ inch) to allow the grass to tiller (produce side shoots, which gives the grass its lushness and thickness, Salmon advises.
“If we do get a hot spell and it looks like your lawn will benefit from a drink, water at night, to saturation, once a week, rather than little and often. That way, the water gets down to the roots where it is needed, rather than sitting on the surface only to be lost by evaporation,” he says.
However, as Wimbledon comes to a close, its grass can look in a sorry state. And the promise of your own lawn being able to take excess traffic is a little wishful thinking, the Lawn Association reflects.
More care must be made on spreading the wear and tear, and spending a little more time correcting the soil damage that has been done by the extra footfall, the association advises.
To do this, move and protect wear areas to allow them to recover – yes, you may have to move the goalposts – or rope off a wear area and do some extra renovation.
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