How to Care for Your Lawn
What You Need to Know
- Keeping your lawn healthy is a year-round job, though fortunately, just a little effort can make a huge difference.
- Step up your lawn maintenance efforts in the springtime, mowing once or twice a week if you can.
- In the autumn and winter, however, you can ease back on your mowing and stop altogether between November and March.
- A good fertilizer can make a big difference. Opt for a specific mix of nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium in the spring.
- Nitrogen-rich fertilizer in the autumn, meanwhile, can promote good growth the following spring.
- During dry, summer spells, a lawn may need watering. Use a hosepipe with an adjustable spray nozzle on a small lawn, and a sprinkler system for a larger area.
- Trim your lawn’s edges during good weather, using long handled shears or a trimmer.
Maintaining an attractive garden can add real value to your property, and even the least green-fingered people can keep a lawn alive, but it takes some care and attention to keep it looking neat and tidy. Fortunately, however, keeping your eye on the grass in summer and winter, and a few jobs in the autumn and spring are all you need to keep your lawn looking healthy.
As the weather improves after the winter, your lawn will start to grow again. Lower the cutting height of your mower and begin cutting the grass when necessary and, as the season continues, step up to once or twice a week.
Apply a spring lawn fertilizer – a specific mix of nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium – to help your lawn regain its glory.
If you have a post-winter moss problem, apply lawn sand or another moss killer before you carry out any other lawn care.
Lightly scarifying your lawn by scratching out dead grass and moss will help you want to keep on top of any moss problem.
Autumn and Winter
As the weather cools after the summer, raise the cutting height of your mower and reduce the frequency of mowing from once a week to only when the grass needs cutting. Unless unseasonably mild weather occurs, you need not mow at all from November to mid or late March.
Replace lost nutrients by applying an autumn lawn fertilizer with a low proportion of nitrogen, to avoid making it produce too much lush, soft growth.
Scarify your lawn to remove the layer of matter that will have built up during the summer, and which can choke new growth in the spring. Use a spring-tined, splayed-head rake, or hire a motorised scarifier if you have a large garden.
If you have a moss problem, use a moss killer before you scarify, so that you don't spread it around. Follow the instructions on the moss-killing product you buy.
Aerate the lawn by making holes in the surface to bring in fresh oxygen, improve drainage and stop compacting. Use a wheeled spiker, hollow-tined fork or an ordinary garden fork plunged about 10cm into the earth.
Autumn is the time to top dress your lawn, once it has been aerated and scarified. Use a mixture made from six parts medium-fine sand, three parts sieved soil and one part peat, peat substitute or leaf mould, using about 3kg per square metre. This will help keep the drainage of the lawn in good condition, create a flatter surface, lead to denser grass growth and stop the holes you've made from closing up.
For most of the year, lawns in Britain do not need watering because the weather is damp enough. But dry spells in spring or summer may mean that the grass needs to be watered to prevent it from dying back and weakening the lawn.
If you tread on the grass and the blades don’t spring back, the lawn needs water. A light, infrequent spraying is the answer; over-frequent watering encourages shallow rooting, and heavy watering promotes moss and disease. Use a hosepipe with an adjustable spray nozzle on a small lawn, and a sprinkler system for a larger area.
If you have a few troublesome weeds, simply pull them out by hand, using an old kitchen knife to dig out long roots. Or you can use a selective weed killer to spot-weed the odd unwanted flora.
A general weed killer applied in the spring will deal with a major infestation. Wheeled applicators are available, distributing the correct dosage. In extremely drastic situations, re-seeding or re-turfing may be necessary as soon as the weeds have been totally eradicated.
Worms and Moles
A big worm population means a healthy soil. But worm casts – the coils of fine, digested soil left on the surface by earthworms – can be unsightly, especially when they are plentiful in warm, moist soil. Wait until they dry in the morning sun, and then use a brush to either gather them up to put on your borders, or spread them lightly across the lawn. A besom broom made of bunched twigs is best for this job.
Worms may be the gardener’s friend, but moles are his enemy. Their hills are ugly and their tunnelling can damage turf and increase the rate at which it dries out. Moles are hard to eradicate, but a severe infestation of moles will require the use of lethal traps – though there are other, more humane methods – most notably mole balls, like mothballs, and devices that can be placed in mole-holes to emit a sonic frequency that will scare the creatures away.
If a patch of lawn becomes worn, the thin patches should be scratched with a rake in autumn and re-sown. Lift the turf from hollows, fill with a little soil and replace the turf before rolling until flat.
To replace a damaged area, dig out a square of turf using a half-moon edging iron. Lightly fork over the soil, level it, firm lightly, and then add a touch of compost. Lay new turf or re-seed the area. Be sure the seed or turf matches the rest of the lawn, or else you could end up with a patch of a different colour or growth rate. If it isn’t possible to make a match, use a piece of turf from a less prominent part of the lawn.
Finally, make sure the finished piece is level with the rest of the lawn. Work fertilizer into the joins and firm with the back of a rake.
As well as undertaking repairs as and when they are needed, it’s also imperative that you mow your lawn on a regular basis. Read up on the ideal length for the type of grass your lawn is made up of and invest in a good-quality mower.
Trim your lawn’s edges during good weather, using long handled shears or a trimmer. Or lay paving slabs along the lawns edges, setting them just below the level of the lawn, and then trim the lawn back with a half-moon edging tool once during each growing season.
- Find more advice on lawn care and general gardening tips from Love the Garden.
- The official Gardeners World website also offers a range of tips on keeping your lawn healthy.
- If you want an all natural garden, you'll need to get to grips with organic gardening - luckily we have lots of tips in our guide here.