Lawns take up a lot of time compared with most aspects of the garden. In spite of the time and care lavished upon lawns, many fail to live up to expectations. Maybe the expectations are too great to start with. Problem being, that next door and surrounding areas seem to have better lawns!
Throwing money at an established lawn or patch of straw is not always the best way forward - neither the most successful in terms of attaining the quality lawn that you want. It is always a good ide to take a step backward, to see what the problem really is with the lawn. More often than not it will be something to do with your lawn care regime.
It is so easy fall into the trap of thinking that more fertiliser feed or weed and kill will give you the desired lawn. Care with a capital C involves much more that feed and weed - yet it need not be complicated or extravagantly time-consuming. In fact, more time is expended upon poor lawns than on good lawns much of the time.
It is all down to the lawn care. Doing the right thing at the right time. No more - no less. It does not mean throwing hard earned cash at the lawn. It simply means caring for your lawn in the right way.
Garden Lawn with trees
In spite of that, there will nearly always be a time in your gardening life, that you have a problem with your lawn. Experienced groundsmen and green keepers have problems - more than their fair share it seems - with their well cared for lawn. But you have an advantage over those professionals. Your lawn will not suffer the foot traffic and constant use that is the bane of the sports lawns.
The lawn probably needs more care and attention than any other part of the garden. For a start, you have to cut it every week or so! Of which, more later. To have a lawn that is the envy of your friends – or enemies – you have to follow a vicious cycle of operations to attain this.
If you think carefully, you will realise that most lawns are subjected to treatment that verges on ‘cruelty’.
You cut off the very part of the plant – and grass is a plant – that is dependent upon providing most of the food requirement for the plant – the leaves! The leaves of a plant are essential for the healthy growth of a plant. For instance, to get rid of certain stubborn weeds in the garden, you simply have to keep cutting off the foliage to weaken the weed so much that it will eventually die.
We cut off the leaves every time we mow, and deprive the plant of it’s main source of energy – photosynthesis – which is vital to the health and growth of the grass plants that make up your lawn. So this is Lawn Care!
Then of course, because we deprive the law of it’s energy (food) source, we have to replace that source of energy by fertilizing the grass, in order to replace all that lost energy that is taken away in the lawnmower box! As if that is not enough, we walk all over the lawn, play games on it, or worse still, let the kids or dogs run riot all over it. It is little wonder that the lawn needs a lot of care and attention!
Feeling guilty yet?
Taking the step backwards - as I suggested above - is not always practicable for your lawn might have been constructed incorrectly several years ago. Or you may have inherited a problem lawn with your newly acquired house. Don't despair! many problems can be overcome with a change of care regime, or a once-off operation to rectify a certain lawn problem.
Most common lawn problems are dealt with in this section of the website, so we will deal with the basics of lawn care here.
New lawns are like babies. They need more care and attention during the first few months and years of life. Many lawn fail because of lack of care in the first few days, weeks or months. New lawns take time to become established. Turfed lawns - whilst they look instant - are not much different to seeded lawns in that respect.
Watering, careful cutting, sparse feeding, and leave off with the lawn weedkiller for the first year or so.
Give the lawn time to become established before inhabiting it with garden furniture, play pools and play equipment.
Many lawns are ruined by incorrect mowing. This can either be wrong choice of mower, wrong cutting height, or wrong frequency of cut for the grass that makes up your lawn. Mowing the lawn takes up most of the time expended in lawn care. Get it right, and you will avoid many of the problems associated with poorly cared for lawns.
Many lawns are cut too often, too short. Your lawn is made up of grasses. Grasses are PLANTS! They need to be cared for. Regular scalping is the short path to degrading your lawn.
After mowing, watering the lawn is by far the most common subject we get asked about in terms of lawn care. All lawns are different. You need to get to know your lawn and maybe even experiment with less water for a period to see just how much or little your lawn actually needs. The main deciding factor is you! Are you prepared to see a little harmless browning in hot summers, or are you determined to have the lush green at whatever cost?
Most lawns are watered needlessly. Some, in some areas, will need an automatic irrigation system!
All lawns will need feeding from time to time - if only to replace the 'energy' of the plants you removed when you mowed your lawn. You will not go far wrong if you use a properly branded and reputable name for this requirement. Just feeding the lawn is still possible with a basic lawn fertiliser feed, but most sold these days also incorporate a weed killer specially formulated for lawn weeds. There is little point in using a combined weed and feed if your lawn is weed-free. Why waste money? Why use chemicals which are unnecessary?
Well cared for lawns, may have the odd weed or small patch of weeds that can be dealt with independently - with a ready to use LAWN weed gun.
If you want the 'ultimate' lawn, then just follow these lawn care tips. More details are to be found on other area of the site.
Mowing Tip. Do NOT NOT NOT cut your grass too short. If you cut it so short that the brown bases are showing through, instead of foliage, then you are cutting it too short. Little and often is the best advice. Leave some grass foliage on the plants to allow them to regenerate.
Feeding Tip. Because you are regularly cutting off the food supply of the grass plants - the leaves - then you have to help it by supplementary feeding. Spring and early summer are important - much more than autumn/fall feeding.
Watering Tip. Only water your lawn when the lawn really needs it - not as a routine. It does little harm for the plant to suffer a little bit of drought. It will soon recover from a little bit of browning. However, don't let it dry out too much and for long periods. Grasses are surface rooting plants, and if the soil in the top few inches dries right out, then some grasses can die - leaving the way clear for drought tolerant weeds to grow.
Weed Control Tip. Do it before it is too late! If you use a combined weed and feed in the spring and early summer, that should take care of most weeds. Use a small spray gun to control other local outbreaks - as soon as you see them. If you 'scalp' the lawn when mowing, and weaken the grasses, then weeds will soon invade.
General Cultivation Tip for Lawns. Bear in mind that our 'normal' use of a lawn, leads to surface compaction. Even consistent heavy watering can cause compaction. The areas at the edge of tree foliage canopies are specially prone to compaction, as the rain fall off hits the ground quite heavily. Aeration, combined with top-dressing is the answer, and is vital for the first class lawn.
Follow these lawn care tips and you are well on the way to having as near a perfect lawn as is possible!
The spring season is an important time for getting your lawn into top shape for the following months. What you do now in the spring by way of lawn care, will determine how well your lawn will cope with the wear and tear of day to day use, and also its ability to withstand drought or even water-logging during the summer months.
The First Cut
If you are just starting out with your lawn, then have a look also at our Autumn lawn care page.
When the spring season actually starts is more a combination of climatic conditions and general 'feel' about things than an actual date on the calendar! This is certainly true of lawns and lawn care maintenance.
If the grass is sodden or frosted - and it is certainly the former as I look outside at the moment (March 28 - 2008) - then stay off the lawn, don't cut the grass, and just read a few more pages of the web site.
The grass can often be a little on the ling side after a mild, wet winter, so the first task is to lightly mow off the top growth. DO NOT cut the grass too short. Most of the 'hard' work should have been carried out with the Autumn Lawn Care and maintenance tasks. Spring is NOT a good time for scarifying the lawn - as has been explained in the Autumn page.
Likewise, most books will tell you to start the spring lawn maintenance schedule by giving the lawn a good raking over. Not so. See below.
If the lawn is dry enough, then it would be good to start the spring maintenance with a light roll. All sorts of things happen to the lawn and the soil under it in winter months - often resulting in some of the grass being actually lifted slightly. A light roll, either with the roller on a mower or a purpose made roller will settle the grass down again. Not a heavy roller! Do not expect to be able to roll an uneven and bumpy lawn flat. It does not work.
The first task in the spring garden - once the lawn soil conditions allow - is to carry out the first cut. However long the grass has grown throughout the winter months - either by neglect or as a result of mild wet conditions - do not be tempted to mow the lawn too close. Set your mower to cut off about an inch (25mm) of grass. No more. Then exception for this would be if your lawn grasses have grown over 6in (15cm). This is normally neglect. In this case then rather more drastic action is required.
Subsequent cuts can be carried out from April onwards - preferably on a weekly basis, and lowering the cutting height of the lawn mower at every cut, until the desired height of grass is attained. Aim for grass around 1in (2.5cm) in height with normal use lawns. Leave a little longer under trees.
Once cutting is carried out on a regular basis, you will be able to ascertain whether or not you have a moss or a weed problem that needs to be treated. April is a good month in which to carry out treatment - just as everything starts into vigorous growth. If you don't have weeds or moss in your lawn, then DON'T use a weedkiller or Mosskiller!
Any areas of rough grass can be dug out at this time of year - before they take hold. If your lawn is basically all rough grass, then read Lawn Renovation.
Bare patches in the lawn can now be over-sown - providing the cause is firstly diagnosed. Use a general grass seed, unless you have a lawn that was sown with a fine mix.
April is a good time to start feeding your lawn in the lawn maintenance and care programme. A fine day, with damp soil under the lawn will be ideal. Read our tips on Lawn Feeding. Feeding - if necessary - can then be carried on right through until the hot weather (Please) starts. You might also consider a dressing of Lawn Sand - which is chemically treated to kill off moss. This is not the sand that is normally used for top dressing your lawn.
If your lawn has not been spiked and has hard compacted areas through regular use, children, or dogs, it would be a good time to carry out a little spiking of the lawn whilst still damp from the winter rains. This will help the drainage and allow air to get down to the roots of the grass to help vigorous growth. You should also put in the diary for possible aeration of your lawn in the Autumn.
Bumps in the Lawn
Ok! Let's get one thing right, straight away. You do not get a level lawn by using a roller. Using a roller, simply gives you hard bumps and hard hollows - and all the bits in between.
In fact, unless you are going to carry out all of the other operations necessary for a first class lawn, you can get rid of the roller altogether - although I might concede that it is useful for a light run over before the first cut after the winter.
Brown Patches in Lawns
There are several causes of brown patches on lawns and other bare areas on the lawn, some are outlined below... Broadly, lawn brown patches can be split into three categories - depending upon the size of the patch. Recognising the size and shape of the patch - simple you might think - can go a long way in identifying the cause of the brown patch. I have had mails in the past where the write has claimed to have brown patches on the lawn, when in fact the entire lawn was brown - killed off by the wrong use of a certain weedkiller!
Lawn Moss Killer
If you really want to eradicate moss from your lawn, then you have to find out the actual problem that is causing it, rather than just treating it. The reasons are various, but not too difficult to isolate.
They can be one or several of the causes outlined below.
The latter is also available as a ready to use 'Moss Gun' for small patches. Neither do anything by way of treating the basic problem of moss in lawns. They simply are simply Lawn Moss Treatments - killing the moss which is there. It will return. You can alsouse lawn sand
Moles in your Lawn
Moles are one of the most frustrating of all garden and lawn pests! They are rarely seen, but can cause absolute mayhem. The damage they do to plants is minimal, but if you are unfortunate enough to have moles in your garden, they will cause you more angst than an infestation of aphids! The main problem being, that they are so difficult to get rid of, and you normally see the damage they do, before you realize that you have a mole or so!
Cute little things they might be, but if your lawn is your pride an joy, or if it is just a nice lawn to sit and relax, the molehill trademark will soon turn you against them! One mole can wreak havoc in the garden, but a few and you have a potential disaster.
Fairy Rings in Lawns and Turf
Fairy rings in lawns normally start to show up in late spring or mid-summer. They then carry on growing right through until the autumn and usually into subsequent years. They are easily recognised by either of two or both trademarks. Once they have started, they will be visible throughout the year.
They are most commonly seen as dark green circles of lush grass in the lawn usually after they are a half a metre or so across, though they are visible at first as a tuft of dark green grass.
The Fairy rings may also be first noticed as a group of toadstools manifest in mid-summer. (Sometimes without the dark green grass!) Not all toadstools in the lawn are as a result of Fairy Rings.
Dogs Fouling Lawns | General problems
The main problem with dogs on lawns is that of the brown patches caused by bitches urinating. Male dogs are not such a problem in this respect, for they do it differently..
The brown patches tend to be a circular patch with bright green grass growing around the perimeter as the bitches urine eventually breaks down to Nitrogen, which then feeds the area outside the actual damage. The brown patch is basically scorching - similar to that caused by applying too much fertilizer - especially in dry conditions.
Treatment by soaking the area with water - immediately after the bitch has done the deed! Soaking the brown patches after they have formed will be absolutely essential if you are going to over-seed the patches.
Lawn and Garden Edging
Garden lawns have to stop at some point, often causing a minor problem as to how to end or edge your garden with your lawn. Much will depend upon the style of your garden, but you will also have to take into account basic things like, the type of lawn mower you want to use, and even the basics of, how much time do you want to spend giving your lawn a neat finish!
It is not normally a good idea to simply end your lawn at the boundary of your garden edge; against a wall or fence. This will inevitably lead to either additional maintenance work - or an untidy finish, where the mower blade cannot quite get to the edges of the turf at the garden border edge.
Feeding a lawn is a relatively simple operation, but so many get it wrong, or do it when it it not necessary! Here's how and when to do it; and what to use.
Each of the aspects are important. Do it at the wrong time and you could end up with a weakened lawn. Use the wrong feed and scorching or unhealthy grass can result.
The process that causes most problems, is simply that of putting your fertiliser on the grass! Uneven application leads to a patch lawn at best, and a ruined lawn at worst!