Maintaining the Perfect Lawn
A few simple steps can help towards achieving and maintaining trouble free turf.
Late spring and early summer are often when our lawns look at their best. Plentiful rainfall and rising temperatures often promote vigorous new grass growth. Maintaining an established garden lawn should be easy. Here is a summary of the most important features of lawn care and how to get the best from your outdoor living carpet.
Cut the grass when it is actively growing and this can sometimes be all year round. There are two main types of lawnmower available being cylinder and rotary. Cylinder mowers for general garden use usually have 5 or 6 blades in a cylinder formation that spin at high speed. Professional cylinder machines may have 10 or 12 blades and are used on areas such as putting greens, cricket pitches and bowling greens.
Rotary mowers have improved significantly in recent years, they operate with a single metal or plastic blade that rotates at very high speed often up to 4,000 rpm. Many rotary mowers now come complete with a rear roller for that classic striped finish. I predominantly use rotary mowers, I find them to be very versatile and they are also capable of cutting a lawn satisfactorily when the turf is still damp after a period of rain or morning dew.
Frequency of cut is dependent on speed of growth and nourishment of the lawn. A combination of warm temperatures, moist soil and well nourished grass can mean that some lawns need cutting twice per week.
Spring and Summer Feeding
Feed your lawn twice per year, once either during mid-late spring or early summer and once in the autumn. The spring/summer feed should be done using a specialist fertiliser for the season that has a high Nitrogen content for strong, healthy foliage growth.
All fertilisers should be applied at the rate recommended by the manufacturer using a purpose built spreader that gives even application and avoids patches or stripes where some parts of the lawn receive more or less fertiliser than others.
With most products you must avoid applying the fertiliser for a few days before or after mowing but some products are now coming on to the market that can be applied directly after mowing.
Specialist lawn feeds for the autumn season have a different NPK ratio to those designed for the spring/summer application. So it is important not to use the same product for the different times of year. Autumn lawn fertilisers should have higher ratios of Potassium and Phosphorus in them, which are to encourage stronger, more robust leaf growth and stronger roots respectively.
Application of a spring/summer feed at this time of year would encourage lush growth which would be susceptible to cold weather and winter fungal diseases.
Modern lawn fertilises usually contain a weed killer and/or moss killer for all-round lawn care. The most successful lawn weeds thrive because they are very low growing and can establish colonies below the lawnmower blade. I think it is best to attack weeds using both the weedkiller in the fertilisers and by hand weeding the biggest weeds, with a long, narrow trowel.
I find most lawns have a remarkable power of recovery and although in a very long hot summer the grass can appear quite lifeless, when rain arrives it is amazing how quickly it greens up. I also like to limit water use in the garden and object to it being used on a lawn.
Aeration is the process by which small plugs are removed from the turf and filled in with sand. This process is usually reserved for lawns where poor drainage is an issue but it is good practice on all lawns for healthy grass growth because it enables more air to get into the root environment. Usually carried out using a special tool or machine, aeration can be done during spring or autumn. I brush sand into the holes using a broom. Donít be tempted to use a garden fork for aerating a lawn, this will simply add to any compaction of the turf, pushing the soil down rather than creating space by plug removal.
Scarification (pictured above) involves removing moss and any thatch (dead grass) from the turf. Whilst it takes a long time scarification using a lawn rake is excellent exercise but specialist lawn scarification machines can be purchased or hired if you are feeling less energetic.
These are the main, most vital areas of lawn maintenance that should result in a healthy lawn for all to enjoy and admire.