In order to achieve a dense lawn of deep green grass, like the rich sward above, you will need to embark on a planned and regular maintenance regime . Spring and summer are the busiest seasons in the lawn care programme when you must mow, feed, weed, rake and water.
Regular mowing not only maintains the appearance of the lawn, but also helps to get rid of weeds. Feeding puts back into the soil the nutrients that the closely packed roots use up. Weeding is necessary to eliminate moss, clover and other plants that may take over the lawn, and raking clears and cleans the surface.
Watering is essential in hot and dry periods before the shallow roots suffer lasting damage.
How to mow
Start to mow as soon as the grass begins to grow vigorously, which can be mid to late spring (March to April), depending on the weather and the geographical location of your garden. Continue mowing throughout spring and summer, finishing in late autumn (October) when growth stops. Once a week should be sufficient in spring and autumn and during very dry summer spells, but when the grass is growing fast - in late spring and summer - you will need to mow twice a week for a good result.
If the lawn is cut less than once a week during the growing season you will find that, when you mow it, the grass will suffer the sudden loss of a large quantity of leaf, and this can very much reduce its vigour. Also, if you mow infrequently and then shave the lawn too closely, you will quickly ruin it because the fine grasses will be weakened, resulting in a thin, patchy lawn which will rapidly be invaded by weeds such as annual meadow grass, pearlwort, daisies and yarrow.
Remember that mowing does not just ensure a neat lawn, but also encourages dense, healthy growth and helps to reduce weeds and worms. So mow often, but not too closely.
For a utility lawn do not cut the grass any shorter than 3cm (1 1/2 in) during spring, autumn or in drought conditions. In summer, provided the grass is growing well, cut to 2-5cm (1-2 in). Fine, luxury lawns can, and should, be mown closer - to 20mm (3/4 in) in spring, autumn or during a drought, and to 13mm (1/2 in) in summer if growth is vigorous.
Mow only when the grass is dry; cutting in wet conditions can pull and bruise the grass and cause mud patches. Scatter worm-casts with a broom or besom before mowing, otherwise the mower will flatten them and produce unsightly patches of mud, inhibit growth and encourage grass seeds to settle. Use a grass-box on the mower so that the cuttings do not build up on the lawn and hamper growth. During droughts, however, a little grass left on the lawn will help keep the roots moist.
If you like a striped lawn mow in parallel (mower-width) strips, slightly overlapping them so that no grass is left uncut. Mow each strip only once, turn, and mow the next in the opposite direction. Next time you cut the grass mow at right angles to the previous cut. This controls the strong shoots of ryegrass that tend to form on the surface and also keeps down weed grasses.
Use of lawn fertilizers
Start feeding once the grass is growing well, which is generally from late spring to mid summer (April to June). The fertilizer you apply puts back into the soil important plant foods such as nitrogen, phosphorus and potash, which have been used up by the grass. You can apply another dressing of fertilizer in the autumn, but in this case use one of the special autumn lawn fertilizers.
For lush, green grass feed annually - the denser the grass the less trouble you will have from lawn weeds. The best time to apply fertilizer is when the soil is moist; if it is dry you must water the fertilizer well in after application.
There are many excellent lawn fertilizers on the market and all should be used according to the maker’s instructions. Apply them evenly and at the correct rate of application. Either scatter by hand or use a fertilizer distributor (a worthwhile implement to buy), being sure to check that the controls are set correctly.
Weeding and raking
Even in the best-kept lawns weeds are bound to appear, generally the rosette- forming, perennial kinds. Unless you can control them they will compete with the grass for food and water. Some, particularly plantains, daisies and dandelions, may also smother the grass.
You can control the majority of weeds with lawn weedkillers that contain the chemicals 2,4-D and clopyralid, or 2,4-D and mecoprop. You must use them strictly according to the manufacturers’ instructions, otherwise you may severely damage the grass or even kill it. Apply them with a watering can kept especially for the job and fitted with a dribble bar. An inexpensive plastic dribble bar can be obtained from any good gardening shop or centre. The best time to apply weedkillers is from late spring to mid summer (April to June), preferably after an application of fertilizer when the grass is growing well. Never apply them during a drought. For persistent weeds you may need a second application about six weeks later.
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If there are only a few weeds apply a spot weedkiller, or weed by hand. The best way is to dig them out using a narrow bladed trowel or knife. Try to remove the roots of the weeds without disturbing the soil too much. Fill the holes with a fine soil, firm and sow with the appropriate seed mixture.
Very coarse weed grasses (that have »survived mowing) can be controlled by dashing them in various directions with an old knife; weedkillers have no effect on them.
Moss, also, cannot be destroyed by the usual preparations, but should be treated with lawn sand according to the manufacturer’s instructions. (Use the same treatment for lichens and algae and also for pearlwort and clover.) Apply it in late spring (April) before you feed the lawn. When the moss has become blackened, rake it off, preferably with a spring- tine lawn rake.
While on the subject of raking, this needs to be done during spring and summer to remove dead, matted grass and other debris which otherwise could choke the grass.
When to water
Water the lawn during dry spells in spring and summer. You will often need to start watering regularly in early summer (May) to keep the grass green and help it to absorb essential plant foods from the fertilizer dressing. Water before the effects of drought are obvious - before the grass starts to turn brown - as it takes a long time to recover and regain its deep green hue.
If the lawn surface has become hard or compacted spike it before watering so that the water is able to penetrate to a good depth. Simply go over the lawn with a fork, pushing it into the soil at 15cm (6 in) intervals to a depth of about 10cm (4 in), or use mechanical spikes.
Watering once a week should be sufficient for most lawns. Increase it to twice a week during very hot, dry weather. It is no use just moistening the surface of the soil, so apply a really good quantity each time using a sprinkler on the end of a hosepipe. The ground must be soaked to a depth of at least 10cm (4 in). This means applying a minimum of 2-5cm (1 in) of water, or 251it per sq m (4| gal per sq yd.).
You can test the volume of water coming from your sprinkler by placing a number of containers on your lawn then measuring the water they collect.
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Watering can be carried out at any time of day, but if you leave it until the late afternoon or evening, then far less water will evaporate in the sun.
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