Caring for your lawn is easy if you follow these ten simple steps to success, click on any link for more detailed information.
- Make sure you prepare the seed bed well.
- Sow your lawn using high quality lawn seed best suited to your specific lifestyle and requirements. Re-seed annually and repair bare patches as soon as they appear. Shake the box well to ensure your seeds are well mixed.
- Mow your lawn regularly and avoid cutting too low.
- Water your lawn frequently in dry conditions.
- Feed with nitrogen rich fertiliser in Spring/Summer and a balanced fertiliser in Autumn
- Rake out old grass during the Spring and again in the Autumn
- Scatter worm casts with a brush before mowing and remove the clippings.
- On heavy soil, aerate your lawn in the Spring and Autumn.
- Control any weeds and moss – don’t wait till the lawn is infested.
- Trim the edges for a truly finished effect.
Grass Seeding Lawns
When it comes to grass seeding lawns, good preparation is usually the key to success and before you sow the seeds it is important to prepare the soil adequately.
- Clear the area to be cultivated of growing weeds, grass, nettles or whatever! If necessary treat with a non-residual herbicide to kill off all growth.
- Dig or fork over the soil to a depth of about 15cm (approx.6″) removing any stones or weeds.
- Roughly level out the soil with a rake after digging and allow this to settle for a week.
- Rake the site again to remove any new weeds and form a fine seed bed creating soil particles the size of biscuit crumbs. ‘Heel down’ or firm the soil down by treading the site evenly and then rake until level.
- Select a grass seed to suit your lifestyle – are you looking for an ornamental lawn or a practical one? There are a variety of seed mixtures available that offers year-round greenness and a lawn that will wear well.
- Sow the seed (either in Spring or early Autumn) by shaking the box to ensure seeds are well mixed – a guideline is one good handful of seed per square metre or yard. If you use less it will take longer for your lawn to establish.
- Scatter evenly moving left to right, top to bottom and then lightly rake the seeded area to partially cover the seed (to a depth of 0.5cm – approx. 1/4″ – is fine). Most of the seed left on top will still germinate.
- New grass seedlings will appear over the next 7- 21 days depending on the weather. Remember to water the seeds if it is dry with a ‘fine rose’ watering can or sprinkler to keep them moist.
- It’s a good idea to protect your seeds from birds dust-bathing. Stretch some string across the area, tied with lengths of silver foil – standing on a plank as you go to prevent disturbing your newly sown seeds.
- When the grass has reached a height of about an inch, give the area a gentle roll. Use the back roller of your mower (with the cutter head held high) or if you prefer, walk over a large piece of wood or plank.
- Hold off mowing your new lawn until it has reached about 8cm (approx 3″) high and then only take off about 1.5cm (approx. 1/2″). On subsequent cuts you can gradually lower the blades, but don’t go lower than an inch. Click here for more details on good lawn mowing practices.
It is a very popular misconception that lawn mowing should ‘shave’ the grass very short in order to save yourself time and effort in the long run.
The truth is that lawn mowing done too short does you no favours at all! A shaved lawn encourages weeds and moss, and puts the grass under stress so it takes more time and energy to maintain. For lawn mower options, take a look at our helpful guide which has a BBC buying guide.
- The cutting height for an average lawn should be about a couple of centimetres (approx 3/4″). Most lawns have some unevenness and keeping the blades at this height will ensure that the lawn mowing does not scalp any undulations or bumps.
- If you can possibly give your lawn a couple of mows each week you will be rewarded by a thicker, denser looking grass – this is your lawn’s way of showing its appreciation!
- A good mower is a valuable investment – preferably one with a grass cutting collecting box. Contrary to some schools of thought, grass cuttings left on a lawn only encourage worms and fungus.
- A cylinder mower achieves the best lawn mowing results. Hover types of mowers do an adequate job, but don’t cut the grass as cleanly
- Zebra stripes – those alternate light and dark bands often seen on mowed lawns – are an attractive technique of masking any minor imperfections and will give the lawn a real quality look.
- Lawn mowing can and should be, a real pleasure – even described by many as therapeutic. Enjoy it!
Feeding Your Lawn
Like all other plants, lawns thrive on a good and balanced diet! We often lavish attention and fertiliser on our roses, but forget that there are thousands of plants making up even a small area of lawn – all just as responsive to fertilisers too.
Phosphorous (P) affects all grass plant growth and is particularly helpful in the germination of seeds.
Potassium (K) is also an essential element, although its function in grass is rather complex. Basically all we need to know is that it is linked to the general good health of the grass, helping it to resist diseases.
These three minerals (N,P and K) are the basis of most brands of lawn fertilisers although there are other nutrients the grass plant needs, but often only in minute quantities.
- Nitrogenous lawn fertilisers are Spring/Summer fertilisers and should be used only during the growing season – look on the pack to see the percentages of nutrients and a typical spring/summer one will look like this – 9%N, 7%P and 7%K.
- Autumn/winter fertilisers will contain only small amounts of nitrogen eg. 3%N, 10%P and 10%K
- If you are looking for a pre-seeding fertiliser (if you are starting from scratch and seeding a new lawn) it should be in the region of 6%N, 9%P and 6%K
- When applying lawn fertilisers, try to make the spread as even as possible to ensure even growth and colour and follow the manufacturers instructions carefully.
- If you are on clay, sandy or chalk soil you may get a better result from a foliar feed – just as it sounds, this feed is absorbed through the leaf of the grass rather than its roots.
Controlling Weeds and Moss
The official definition of a weed is a plant growing in the wrong place! We are all familiar with common weeds such as the dandelion, buttercup, daisy, and clover, or common grass weeds such as Yorkshire fog, but where do they come from?
Weeds can be wind borne, bird borne, even boot-borne and found in lawn clippings or as invasions from surrounding areas. What we all know is that they shade out fine grass, compete with the lawn for nutrients and spoil its appearance.
When it comes to weeds – prevention is better than cure and the advice later in this guide will minimise the onset of weeds. However, if weeds do occur there are mechanical and chemical methods of controlling them.
- Good old hand weeding for the occasional plant or two is only practical for small areas and raking and slashing through them with a knife can limit growth.
- For widespread control, the right chemical weedkiller will ensure success although it is vital that you match a specific weedkilling product for the particular task – if in doubt ask for advice at the garden centre.
- Moss is a real tell-tale plant – telling you that there is a problem on your lawn!
- The main reason for moss is surface compaction, with the moss thriving on the layer of moisture unable to drain away on the surface of the lawn.
- The keys to avoiding a moss invasion on the lawn are good aeration, drainage and soil fertility, and avoiding scalping the lawn when mowing.
- To chemically rid your lawn of moss there are moss killers available in liquid or dry granular form.
- Moss killers must be carefully applied following product instructions and once the moss has turned black or brown, then it can be scarified and disposed of – it makes excellent mulch to smother weeds under shrubs.