Tips on how to keep your lawn in perfect condition
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Unpredictable weather means many lawns are in need of a bit of late summer TLC. (Tips on how to keep your lawn in perfect condition)
By Liz Dobbs
A well-used lawn can be a sign of a happy staycation but the grass needs a break too. A bit of summer TLC, adjusted to suit the weather conditions, can work wonders on a stressed lawn.
So what sort of year has it been for British lawns so far? Ruth Mann, the head of research at Sports Turf Research Institute, says: “2013 has been a year of both wet and dry cycles so there are lawns in some parts of the country that have suffered from drought while others have problems associated with heavy rain.”
The woes of a soggy lawn are many, as Dr Mann observes: “I have never seen as many fairy rings as there are this year. This fungi thrives during wet cycles and while the fruiting bodies can simply be swept off with a broom, if the problem persists, eventually it is a case of digging down, replacing the soil and resowing the area with grass seed.
“Red thread is another problem that has flared up after heavy spells of rain. Gardeners can help protect their lawns by feeding grass to keep it in tip-top condition, as this is a disease that thrives in low fertility.”
Tips on how to keep your lawn in perfect condition – Late summer remedies
Fairy rings are easy to spot. Even if you don’t see the mushrooms there will be rings of grass that look stronger or weaker than the rest of the lawn. Before going down the drastic route of digging out 1ft (30cm) of soil, try all-over spiking and feeding the lawn to see if extra nitrogen will even out the growth.
Late summer is also the time to check for red thread. Inspect any irregular patches of dying grass for small pink or red strands.
Applying a feed is an easy way
to tip the balance in favour of the grass. Spring/summer feeds are fine to use this month but if you wait until September to October, switch to an autumn lawn feed.
Tips on how to keep your lawn in perfect condition – Dry but is it dead?
Lawns look terrible after a prolonged dry spell but thankfully an established lawn will green up once the rain returns, so long as the roots are in good health. If the grass is still growing but has slowed because of dry conditions, raise the cutting height of the mower so the grass is left about 1in long (2.5cm). This reduces the stress on the roots.
Clover often spreads at the expense of grass in dry conditions. Dr Mann has had reports this year that clover is harder to control with weed killers. “I put this down to the clover not taking up the active ingredient over the drier periods,” she says. If this has happened to you, check the packet as there may still be time for another application once the dry cycle has ended.
Tips on how to keep your lawn in perfect condition – Weeds and thatch
Even when grass is green, weeds can take hold before you spot them. The sooner they are dealt with the less threat they are to the grass and the smaller the area to fill. Mowing helps as grass copes better with its leaves being cut than weeds do.
Dealing with lawn weeds need not mean an all-over “weed and feed”. Long-handled tools such as the Fiskars Weed Puller and new Wolf-Garten Garden Weeder (or the Wolf Multi-change weed extractor) are useful for removing dandelion roots without leaving too large a hole. For weed patches, try a suitable spot weeder spray.
A thin layer of dead grass (thatch) on the soil’s surface can protect roots in dry spells but a thick layer prevents water and feed from reaching the roots. It also easily becomes waterlogged and spongy, weakening the grass. A spring-tine rake, used every other month, will clear thatch little and often from a small lawn. Or use a wheeled raker/scarifier once in autumn.
An uneven surface of bumps and humps is awkward to mow and weakens the grass but this can be fixed.
Tips on how to keep your lawn in perfect condition – Seeding success
The end of August is the ideal time to sow grass seed: “The seed will germinate in the warm soil and in September natural nitrogen in the soil moves around and gives a boost to the young grass growth.
If, after sowing, the weather turns unseasonably hot, the seed will just sit there until the temperature is right,” explains Dr Mann.
To improve an existing lawn, try a combined weed & feed treatment. Own-brand products by Wilko or Evergreen are recommended by Gardening Which?