The arrival of summer heralds a time of increased wear and tear for the average garden lawn. Children's yard games, barbecue parties, outdoor sports and generally more activity in the garden means your lawn is set to come in for something of a beating and without a little TLC is likely to start showing more than a little worse for wear. Stomp all over any living thing and it doesn't respond too kindly but with a little help, your lawn can remain looking great all through summer and beyond!
For a lusher, healthier, faster-growing lawn you can't beat a bit of fertilizer. Test your soil type and choose a fertilizer to compliment this for best results. Most lawns will benefit from around three to four fertilizer applications through the year, with the first around a month before the start of the growinf season to give your grass a kickstart and then up to three more with approximately a two month gap in between applications can give good results. You can either spread the fertilizer by hand if you have a smaller lawn area to cover or use a specialist spreader tool for more even coverage, using a drop spreader for small lawns or a rotary/broadcase spreader for bigger areas.
After fertilizing it is generally a good idea to water-in the fertilizer or plan on adding fertilizer before an expected rainfall unless otherwise stated in the usage instructions. The important thing with fertiliser is to follow the manufacturer guidelines and not be tempted to over-do it. An excessive application of fertiliser is not a good thing and can lead to fungus, over-growth and weakness. Keep to the guidelines and you'll get that lush, thick green grass you wanted.
If you live in a hot climate or dry region, and particularly during the summer months then regular watering of your lawn is important. The best time to water a lawn is early in the morning or late in the afternoon to achieve the best results. Avoiding evening watering is advised as soaking grass over night can increase the risk of lawn diseases and mid-day watering when the sun is hottest increases evaporation and water wastage. Excessive watering is also something to avoid and ensure if you use a sprinkler you do actually get out there and move it around rather than allowing large puddles to form whilst other regions of the lawn area remain dry. Too much surface lying water can starve the roots of oxygen and lead to the same symptoms (leaf rolling) as lack of water.
It is important to know when to water rather than just watering because you think a lawn needs watering. There are a few basic tests you can do to know if your lawn needs irrigation. Look for leaf rolling and curling and the slightly blue/purple tinge which comes when grass is being starved of moisture. Also, try the foot print test. Stepping on a healthy lawn should see it spring back into position quickly but if your lawn is slow to react then it's time to add more water.
The key thing to remember here is that the object of mowing a lawn is lawn "mowing" not lawn "scalping"! To take good care of your lawn you need to make sure you are mowing with sharp lawn mower blades so you cut rather than rip at the grass and ensure you do not set the blades at too low a level as you do not want to cut it back lower than is recommended for your particular species of grass. Cutting too low on a regular basis is the easiest way to do lasting damage to your lawn.
If your lawn has become too overgrown then do two or more passes with your mower rather than trying to take it right down to a desirable length straight away and never cut grass when it is wet. Grass clippings may be left or raked as you please if you do not have a lawn mower with a grass collector. Left clippings do not automatically lead to thatch, this is only occurs when there is too much dead organic matter to be broken down and a few clippings actually add nutrients back into the soil.
Edges are something lawn mowers can not handle but a simple pair of long handled shears will make short work of tidying them up. Strimmers are a simple solution for cutting around obstacles such as trees and immovable garden structures.
Aerating Your Lawn
Grass is a living thing and like all living things it flourishes better when it is able to breath easy and get easy access to food and water. Aeration of your lawn is important as it allows water, oxygen and fertilizer to penetrate more easily through to the roots and improves drainage. If your garden is being regularly used then the ground will begin to suffer from soil compaction. When this happens, drainage is reduced and it becomes more difficult for roots to dig down deeper into the soil. The natural activities of earthworms and other subterranean insects and wildlife help break up the soil but compacted earth can always do with a helping hand.
Basic lawn aeration is very simple to achieve with the help of a simple garden fork. Just drive the fork into the earth at regular intervals to do the job. For bigger garden areas or for more effective aeration you can buy or hire specialised lawn aeration tools which are basically spiked or bladed rollers either motorised or hand driven.
An aerator should be used in the autumn months to loosen compact soil after its summer beating.
Dethatching and Scarification
Scarifying or raking your lawn to remove dead and decaying matter which may choke and hinder water and nutrients reaching the soil is an essential part of a good spring and autumn lawn maintenance routine. Raking removes thatch, the accumulation of dead and decaying organic matter like leaves and old grass clippings from around the base of the grass stems. This scarification improves drainage and enables increased amounts of water and air to penetrate down to the roots as well as reducing the chances of lawn disease occuring. Before detatching a lawn you should ensure there is no moss growing there as this process will only help spread the moss around. Kill the moss first with a specialised moss killer found at good garden centers and then scarify the lawn. Scarifying a lawn may be performed manually by raking whilst for larger lawns it might be recommended to use a power lawn scarifier machine which can be hired or bought for the purpose.
Removing Worm Casts
Worms are the gardener's best friend...unless your lawn is your pride and joy. Worm casts are those unsightly piles of mud which appear on the surface of your lawn and left to their own devices may encourage moss and weed growth. Removal is simple during dry weather, just wait until they are dry and brush or rake them away but during prolonged wet periods you may just have to put up with them. Use of acidic fertilizers may discourage worms from coming to the surface but for most gardeners just consider worms are your friend, they help aerate the soil and drag organic matter from the soil surface into their burrows thus making the soil a richer growing environment.
Article copyright Mark Falco, webmaster of ukgardeningsupplies.co.uk where you can find lawn care and gardening equipment including lawn mowers, lawn scarifiers, garden tools and lawn care accessories available for UK delivery.
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