Spring Lawn Care

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Whilst trees and shrubs form the backdrop to most of our gardens, for most of us, the centrepiece is the lawn. With spring just around the corner, now is the ideal time to get your lawn back into shape for the summer to come. Implementing a simple lawn care programme will give you a lawn to be proud of, keep it in tip-top condition and make friends and neighbours green with envy!

Treating Weeds and Moss plus Lawn Feeding

The key areas to concentrate on are killing the weeds, removing the moss, feeding the lawn and, of course, attention to the mowing. Naturally it's possible to treat problem areas individually with a weed killer, then a moss killer and then a lawn fertiliser. For convenience the majority of gardeners opt for a combination product that will do the job all in one.

Many feed and weed products are available in various formulations. The crucial thing about applying a combination product is that it is applied at the right time, in the correct amount, to the right area. Ideally we are looking for the soil to be moist, the grass dry and, hopefully in a couple of days, a good downpour of rain to wash the product in. Before you do anything else, make sure you read the instructions. Overdosing the lawn can cause scorching of the grass, so make sure you measure out the amount of material you need and apply it to a measured area. Before you get started, it's a good idea to slip on a pair of gardening gloves when dealing with garden chemicals. A simple but effective way of measuring out the lawn is to lay bamboo sticks in square metre plots, but another method is to use string and pegs. When applying, it is important to get an even application of the correct amount for the measured area. It's useful to go at right angles to complete the operation so that even when applying by hand you can achieve a fairly even distribution - you can always agitate the area by hand if you are concerned about a particular area of concentration.

For a larger area, you may wish to consider the hire or purchase of a garden spreader. Don't forget, if there is no rain for two or three days, you will need to water the product in. Within a week or so you are likely to see the grass greening up and, at the same time, you will notice the moss blackening. After around two weeks you will need to use a spring tined rake to gently rake out the moss from amongst the grass stems. In a month's time, you should see the turf itself has greened up nicely and that should give you a good, hard-wearing surface for the summer, as well as an attractive lawn that all the family can enjoy.

Fixing Bare Patches and Overseeding

The long winter months may have left your lawn with bare areas, as may you trusty canine friend, which not only look unsightly, but are also the perfect places for weeds and moss to take hold. Before turf can be treated, you need to determine the cause of the problem. If you eliminate fungi, bugs, grubs or other pests as causes, you may just need some grass seed.

Once the ground temperature warms to about 52 degrees, seeds will grow. Good seed-to-soil contact will get the seeds germinating fast. Using a sharp spade or shovel, cut the area around the dead turf. Then, use the flat part of the spade to lift off the dead turf. Because you are removing at least a couple of inches of thatch and grass, fill in the area with some clean topsoil to keep it level with the rest of the yard.

Rake out the area until it is smooth and there are no big clumps in the soil. Cast a thin layer of seeds on the area, and then gently rake the seeds into the topsoil. Cover it with straw to hold in moisture and protect the seeds from birds.

If your lawn seems thin all over, try overseeding it. The basics are the same as patching. Rake the area well, picking up any leaves and debris in the turf. Cast the seeds over the turf, and then spread about a half an inch of compost or topsoil on the lawn. To get good seed-to-soil contact, gently rake the seeds and soil into the grass.

Water the seeds in the early morning and evening until they germinate. Once they start to sprout, water the lawn every day. It will be ready for a light application of fertilizer before the heat of summer begins.

Lawn Mowing

When it comes to mowing, the crucial factor is getting the height of cut correct. Early in the season, it is advisable to have the height on your lawn mower set high and this can be reduced during the course of the season. You should be gentle on the first few cuts by simply trimming off the top one third of growth then, when the lawn has recovered for a few days you can cut again with the blades on a slightly lower setting. Mowing too short, as a consequence weakening the grass, is the quickest and easiest way of allowing weeds and moss to become established and spoil the lawn. At this time of year the lawn may only need cutting about once or twice a fortnight. If the weather becomes hot and dry, keeping the grass longer will mean it's better equipped with withstand the drought better.

Lawn Scarifying and Aerating

If you have a reasonable sized lawn, it is worth investing in a lawn scarifier to make this essential lawn maintenance task quicker and easier. Failure to annually scarify your lawn could result in weak grass growth and the spread of disease and pests across your lawn.

A lawn that has developed a large amount of thatch or moss needs to be scarified to remove as much of this material as possible, allowing the grass space to grow. An excessive thatch layer (typically more than 12 - 20mm) can restrict the movement of air, water, fertiliser and other materials to the roots of the grass, all of which are necessary for healthy turf growth. Scarifying should be carried out at a time when the grass is growing actively to allow it to recover from this rigorous process. It is advisable; although not essential to carry out scarifying before a fertiliser treatment as this will greatly speed the rate of recovery from the process.

Lawn scarification, also referred to a de-thatching, is best done in late March to early April or in late spring when environmental conditions are optimal for grass growth.

Dealing with Compacted Soil

Compacted lawns can be aerated in spring if the soil is moist. You will know if your lawn is compacted because it will be rock hard, slow to drain after rainfall. Paths across the lawn are often quick to compact as they have had heavy foot traffic. By opening up the structure of the soil, you will improve the drainage around the grass roots, encouraging healthy growth.

Ideally you should remove plugs of soil using a hollow tine aerator.  Alternatively you could use a normal garden fork and push the spikes into the soil to a depth of about 7-10cm (3-4 inches) if possible. If you have a large lawn, a petrol-powered lawn aerator or plugger is the way to go.

Even Out Bumps in your Lawn

Another good way to make your lawn look great after a long winter is to use a lawn rollerr. A roller levels out your lawn, removing all those bumps and depressions that have naturally occurred. A roller is also good for new sod and freshly seeded lawns by flattening the soil to promote stronger root growth.