The Turfonline team are hoping for better weather so that we can all get started on some essential lawn care jobs.
So far, March 2018 has been a damp squib when it comes to lawn care jobs. We started the month with snow and now it’s raining – at least it is in Norfolk. The first jobs I’m going to be attending to when the weather improves are aeration, moss control and lawn feeding….in that order.
My lawn is a horrid yellow colour at the moment. That’s caused by too much water. The plant roots are not getting enough air because all the air spaces in the soil are filled with water.
Aeration is a technique used by greenkeepers to help water drain from the surface of the lawn (or playing surface) and to get more oxygen down to the plants’ roots so that the cells can do everything they should be doing.
A simple lawn aerator like this one is cheap to buy and does the job well. Although it may take quite a long while to aerate a large lawn. The holes need to be about 10cm apart across the whole lawn.
In very simple terms, aeration is about piercing holes through the grass layer and into the soil. It’s best done in spring and autumn when the soil is neither saturated nor dry.
You may have seen aeration done with a garden fork. That’s not something I’d advise. Yes, most of us do have a garden fork in the shed already and yes, it doesn’t require any technical expertise to stick a fork in the ground and wiggle it about a bit. BUT by doing that you are actually compacting the sides of the “hole” even more than they were already. What you really should be doing is taking out a thin core of soil so that you can relieve compaction.
Help with aeration
Greenkeepers use a machine called a hollow tine aerator. If you only have a small lawn, you can buy a manual version of the same thing. Or, you could hire an aerator from your local tool hire shop. Better still, if you’re pressed for time, hire a lawn care professional to do the work for you. They have all the right equipment and because they know how to operate it, they work fast and efficiently.
If you are on heavy clay soil, you could follow hollow-tine aeration with topdressing. That’s brushing a mix of 70% sand and 30% quality topsoil into the holes. It helps improve soil quality in the longer term.
Ugh! Parts of my lawn look horrid right now. This long wet winter has been just what the moss needed to really thrive.
- Poorly drained soil
- Minimal competition from other plant species
To combat moss, you need to fix those 3 things.
By aerating (see above) and topdressing you will improve lawn drainage and make it harder for moss to reproduce. Moss needs a thin layer of surface water to breed. I’ll not turn this blog into a biology lesson but basically, moss is a primitive plant that behaves very differently to grass and flowers.
Reducing shade on a lawn
Shade is hard to combat sometimes. I’m lucky enough to have a grown up Son who is competent with the chainsaw. This winter he has helped me lop some branches off the mature trees in my garden and reduce the height of the hedges. Hopefully, that will let more light into the more deeply shaded areas of my lawn. More light = stronger grass plants.
You can help keep moss under control by feeding the grass. Some proprietary lawn feeds also contain a moss killer. They’re worth looking out for if the moss has invaded your whole lawn.
Moss really does spoil the appearance of a lawn. It also makes it spongy to walk on and no good at all for ball games.
For shaded areas, overseed with a more shade tolerant grass variety. This will help the grass out-compete the moss. I recommend Shadesman grass seed.
Harrowden Turf’s Vivid Green Spring/Summer Lawn Fertiliser will give your lawn a pop of nutrition to help it outgrow and out-compete a light infestation of moss. Feed in March/April and follow up with another feed after 8 weeks. It’s easy to apply, cost effective and it does the job well.
As soon as your lawn starts growing, you can start mowing. Make sure the mower blades are really sharp. In fact, that’s something you could be doing while you wait for this spell of wet weather to pass. If you haven’t already serviced the mower, you could get that sorted this weekend.
For the first mow of the season, keep the blades high. It’s not too late in the year for a frost and you don’t want to stress the plants too much. Your aim should be to tickle the tops of the grass blades to help stimulate the grass to “tiller out” and grow thicker. “Tillering” is the term that farmers and gardeners use to describe how grasses grow extra blades to make the whole plant more robust.
I prefer to remove all of the clippings at this time of year. My rule of thumb for grass clippings is “when it’s dry, let them fly”. I’m happy to return clippings to the sward, but not if they are going to sit on top of the lawn in big ugly clumps.
March through to May are also good months to repair any thinning or bare patches with grass seed. More on that in this blog from February 2017 https://news.turfonline.co.uk/repairing-lawn-grass-seed/
Is your lawn so awful that you feel like ripping it up and starting again? Read this blog before you decide.