Lawn Care Tips – Part 1
The opening bar of the Wimbledon theme music, if you were wondering.
The perfectly manicured turf at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club often stirs up desires to have a better sward at home.
Lawn envy is never an attractive trait, so it seems like a good time to share some lessons we’ve learned over the years to help you get closer to lawn of your dreams.
It’s amazing what a difference some basic lawn care can make. April, May and September are months when much of the lawn care ground work is done and it makes sense to think ahead and plan your activities; mowing (of course), scarifying, aerating, top dressing, weed and moss control and turf laying. Below are our top lawn care tips to help you look after your lawn with ease.
Turf Tip No. 1
Watering – with the superb summer we’ve been having, watering is a big issue. Grass, like most plants, needs plenty of water to be at its healthiest. With good watering practices the grass will develop a deep and extensive root system that eventually leads to it being very drought resistant and allow it to recover rapidly from wear and keep a good colour all year long.
However, to conserve water supplies it’s best to leave the lawn alone rather than water sporadically. The grass will go brown, but that’s OK, it’s simply gone into shout down mode or summer dormancy. Turf will cope for 3-4 weeks in this state before the grass actually starts dying.
If drought goes beyond the 4 weeks, apply enough water to re-hydrate the grass slightly and wet the soil down to a 5-inch (12.5 cm) depth. This will not green up the turf grass in most cases, but will keep the plant alive.
The aim is to encourage deep roots, so light, frequent watering is not a good idea.
How much? Imagine steady rain and set up a sprinkler that you move every half hour or so.
Alternatives – use what specialists call a “wetting agent”. Basically these treatments can help maintain turf quality through periods of dry weather by maximizing the effectiveness of irrigation or rainfall. But please note, they tend to be used as part of a broader turf management programme.
Pitchcare, a supplier we used to get all out turf care products from, can supply a number of products but the best one for lawns is probably AquaSmart:
- Your turf will be drought resistant
- The grass will retain better colour
- The grass will recover from wear faster
- The turf will be more resistant to pests and diseases
- A strong, healthy turf discourages the growth of many weeds, out competing them.
Turf Tip No. 2
Scarification or vertical mowing – the aim is to remove any organic material between the grass leaves and the soil. It will remove moss and thatch and will promote and thick, lush grass surface.
This can be done using a scarifying rake on small lawns or a mechanical scarifier on larger areas. Petrol driven scarifiers can be hired for very reasonable rates and are worth the investment (Camon scarifiers are a good option). Lightweight, electrical scarifiers are generally not up to the job.
Be aware that you’ll have a LOT of debris to remove after scarifying. Scarifiers come with collection boxes but they fill up so quickly that you’re better off leaving them off and just giving you’re a core a good work out raking up afterwards. A good, spring tine rake is an essential piece of kit.
- Reduces the amount of moss in the turf
- Increases the density of turf grasses
- Removes thatch layers
- Allows water, nutrients, air and light to the soil layers promoting a healthier more drough resistant turf
- Reduces water run-off.
Sounds too much like hard work? Well it is hard work but the results are great. However there’s an alternative, which can deliver amazing results.
There’s an organic product on the market called BioNik. It’s a granular product that should be applied with a spreader just before rain is due and well-watered in if no rain falls the same day.
We’ve used this many times for clients. The most remarkable result came when we used it on a neglected lawn where the grass/moss (it was VERY mossy) was 4” deep and couldn’t be mown any lower. Our client, Lady K, was sceptical in the extreme. Two months later she described the results as “miraculous”, and they were – the moss and thatch had gone and the grass was lush and green.
Again, available from Pitchcare:
How does it work? It’s all down to the right mix of organic fertilisers balanced with bacteria that digest the moss and thatch.
It’s not cheap, but actually compared to scarifying and clearing up coupled with a follow up moss treatment it’s really good value. And you don’t get any of the blackening you get with iron based moss control products. A genuine “win win”.
Turf Tip No. 3
Mowing – the sound and the smell of the summer. I could write volumes about mowing but I’ll keep it brief.
Mowing can either be a pleasure or a chore. None of us likes chores, so how best to ensure it’s a pleasure?
Mow frequently – it’s the only way to guarantee good results. Reduce cutting height gradually (removing a third of the leaf growth only) with an ultimate aim of achieving:
- 5-10mm for a fine, ornamental lawn – mow every 2-3 days depending on growth
- 15-20mm for a leisure/family lawn – mow every 3-4 days
- 25mm for a utility lawn – mow every week.
Mowers – as with most things in life, it’s worth investing in decent kit and the same goes for mowers. My father has a rotary mower called “old faithful” still cutting well in its 40th year. A similar mower today would probably cost £900 so his works out at £22.50 a year – that’s good value.
For most people a decent rotary mower is the most versatile option as it’ll be able to deal with a variety of lawn types – choose one which has a mulching option. But if you want your Wimbledon turf then a cylinder mower is essential. And here the best option is to buy a vintage mower.
New cylinder mowers tend to have plastic components in their gearings, which just isn’t a good idea. On the other hand vintage mowers were built to last and very good examples can be picked up at great prices. We have a Webb (the Rolls Royce of mowers) and a little Suffolk Punch (for small ornamental lawns). Both give me real pleasure in use and stunning results.
The Old Lawn Mower Company - a father and son business dedicated to keeping these classics available and working. Worth every penny.
As with all bladed things, the trick is to keep them clean, sharp and in good order but, please ALWAYS disconnect the spark plug before doing anything.
If your mower isn’t purring along then it’s an indication it needs some TLC – often as simple as cleaning the air filter – so refer to the manual or drop it off for a service.
And a final bit of advice, patronising maybe but none the less valid:
- Wear ear defenders
- Wear anti-vibration gloves
Hopefully our lawn care tips have provided you with enough info to help you improve the look of your garden. If you're looking for advice, you can check it out here. Browse our collection of garden tools and accessories from our store. If you are located in the Castle Cary area, why not pay us a visit? We are situated on the high street and would love for you to pop in!