It is very important in early spring that you set the mowing height quite high, taking no more than one third of the length of the plant off at a time; otherwise the lawn will become stressed.
A ‘little and often’ mowing approach is best in spring. As we move further into spring and the grass grows faster, increase the mowing frequency and gradually reduce the height of cut to give the desired finish.
It is essential that you feed your lawn during spring. The grass plants are growing rapidly at this time and, like any living thing, need the correct nutrients in the correct quantities in order to grow strong and healthy. Healthy plants mean a thicker, denser, greener sward. A combined fertiliser, weed & moss-killer will also ensure your lawn stays weed and moss free. Apply when the soil is moist and the grass leaves are dry, watering in well after a few days if necessary.
If moss is a problem on your lawn you will need to scarify it out. You may also consider applying a moss-killer product before scarifying, in which case you should allow it to turn brown/black before scarifying. Scarification reduces the build-up of dead grass matter, roots and moss which can cause increased stress to the grass plants.
Undesirable weed grasses can appear in a lawn. They will be obvious as they will appear to be different to the rest of the grass sward. Grasses such as Poa Annua (Annual Meadow Grass) are endemic in the northern hemisphere; if you notice seed heads forming from pale 'stalky' plants then these are likely to be Poa Annua. If required these can be removed by cutting the plant out and removing the roots. Fill in the area with a mix of topdressing and lawn seed as any bare patches are likely to encourage the growth of more Poa plants.
Topdressing is vital to retain a level surface, improve drainage and control the build up of thatch. Apply up to 3 litres (4kg) per m2 and work in to the sward with the back of a rake or brush.
Depending upon the wear and tear that the lawn has received over the previous months you may want to overseed the lawn in early spring to help fill any sparse areas. Topdressing and seed can be combined together to save time and effort.
Badly worn areas can also be patched in with a few rolls of turf from your local garden centre.
As temperatures hot up and we move into summer the growth of your lawn may actually start to slow down. Mow as and when necessary, never taking more than one third of the length off in any one cut. During dry conditions, lift the mowing height to encourage deeper roots and reduce evaporation to improve drought tolerance.
The need to feed your lawn during summer will be dependent on weather and growth patterns. A late spring application of fertiliser should provide sufficient nutrients to see your lawn through to autumn. A cooler, wet summer can result in nutrient drain and as a result additional fertiliser applications may be required to maintain lawn health.
If you can water it is best to do this at the first signs of drought, when the grass is still green but starting to show signs of stress (little growth and a dulling of the normal bright green coloration). If you can water try to do this evenly. Also irrigate at times when the water is more likely to soak in. The general rule here is early morning or in the evening. If your lawn does suffer from drought then mow as little as possible; the lawn won’t be growing rapidly and mowing will stress the lawn unnecessarily.
Summer is the time when drought can occur and a lawn can turn brown and straw coloured. Good maintenance at other times of the year, aeration and appropriate feeding will help rooting and the lawn’s ability to withstand and recover from periods of drought. If possible, avoidance is better than cure and the only way to prevent drought is to water the lawn.
Broadleaf weeds should be treated using a suitable selective herbicide or an all-in-one treatment in the form of a lawn fertiliser, weed amp; moss-killer. Alternatively, weed them out by hand or using a knife/mechanical weeder (remembering to get the root of the weed out).
The most common lawn pests, Chafer Grubs and Leatherjackets, can cause significant damage to lawns. If you notice patches of poorly growing, yellowing grass check for signs of grubs feeding on the grass roots. Birds or badgers digging for grubs is often an indication that grubs are present. These pests can be easily and safely controlled by applying a suitable nematode-based product.
As leaves start to fall from the trees use a light rake or brush to keep the lawn free of leaves and debris.
As turf is a green plant organism, it relies on light as well as the correct balance of heat, water, air and food. Foliage and surrounding shrubs and trees around the lawn should be cut back where possible to reduce competition for essential nutrients and water and to avoid leaving parts of the turf in constant shade.
As the days grow shorter and the temperatures begin to fall the rate at which the grass grows will slow, meaning that the lawn will need mowing less frequently. It is also a good idea to raise the height of cut as winter approaches.
If moss is a problem on your lawn you will need to scarify it out. You may also consider applying a moss-killer product before scarifying. This will help to kill and remove more of the moss (remember to allow the moss to turn brown/black before scarifying).
Scarification reduces the build-up of dead grass matter, roots and moss which can cause increased stress to the grass plants. Scarification can be done using a spring-tine rake by vigorously pulling the rake through the grass sward. Electric or petrol scarifiers are also available for hire from local garden centres or DIY stores.
An autumn feed will supply your lawn with the essential nutrients it needs to strengthen itself for winter. As autumn progresses, damp conditions can lead to diseases such as fusarium patch. Applying an autumn lawn food in early autumn will help combat these by strengthening the grass plants as well as giving your lawn an attractive green colour.
Aerate consolidated areas of the lawn to relieve compaction, improve drainage and allow more air into the root system. Use a fork to spike the lawn 25 to 50mm apart. For larger lawns aerating machines can be hired from local garden centres or DIY stores.
Try to rest the lawn as much as possible during winter. If practical keep off when wet or frosty, as the grass plants are not actively growing and will not repair themselves until the spring if they become damaged.
Only mow the lawn if necessary; this will depend upon weather conditions and temperatures at the time. Do not mow if heavy frosts are expected or if the ground is very wet.
Remember worms improve the nutrient content of a soil and are beneficial to the soil structure. Worm casts are best left to dry and then swept away with a stiff brush.
Service your mower to ensure it is in good working order and the blades are in good condition and sharp ready for the first cut of the year. Now’s also an ideal time to tidy out the shed, sharpen edging shears and get things organised for spring.