Gar­den doctor

Gardeners' World - - Contents -

Give lawns some TLC now to get your grass in shape for next year

The trou­ble with turf is that it never tops the list of gar­den­ing tasks. Sure, we man­age a weekly cut, but the TLC lav­ished on our or­na­men­tal plants is rarely repli­cated on the lawn, which is why many are in slow de­cline with bare patches, weeds, yel­low­ing blades and pests. But it is pos­si­ble to re­vive a lack­lus­tre lawn in time for next year. First you must erad­i­cate the weeds com­pet­ing with the grass for light, wa­ter and nu­tri­ents. Rosette-form­ing species, such as dan­de­lions and plan­tains, can be re­moved with a gar­den knife, but those that are more en­meshed, such as but­ter­cups and speed­well, call for chem­i­cal treat­ment. Se­lec­tive her­bi­cides can be ap­plied that will solely tar­get the broad-leaved weeds, leav­ing the grass un­touched. Moss can also be tack­led at this stage. Re­move it with a spring-tined rake and com­post it, or go for an out­right kill with a ‘lawn sand’ or a moss erad­i­ca­tion chem­i­cal. Sev­eral prod­ucts, avail­able at the gar­den cen­tre, can deal with both weeds and moss and feed the lawn too. A scar­i­fier is an­other op­tion for re­mov­ing moss. Th­ese ma­chines can be hired for the day and have sev­eral ben­e­fits. Firstly, they drag moss and thatch (dead grass and de­bris) out of the lawn. Sec­ondly, they cut into the grass rhi­zomes at soil level, caus­ing them to tiller, which means they are trig­gered into pro­duc­ing fur­ther side shoots, thus thick­en­ing the sward. In­sects can do a sur­pris­ing amount of dam­age to turf. Chafer grubs and leather­jack­ets can in­fest a patch, grad­u­ally chomp­ing through the grass roots. It’s of­ten not clear that they’re present un­til dy­ing patches ap­pear, or car­rion birds start peck­ing at the lawn. Pests can be ad­dressed in sum­mer and early au­tumn by wa­ter­ing in ne­ma­todes (mi­cro­scopic par­a­sites, avail­able from ne­ma­todes­di­, which will stop soil-borne grubs eat­ing the roots. If you dis­cover the prob­lem later in the year, lay a black plas­tic sheet across the af­fected area overnight. Lift it in the morn­ing and you’ll find the grubs have come to the sur­face and can be raked off. With the grubs re­moved, it’s time to address com­paction, yel­low grass and bare patches. Com­paction of­ten shows up as a poorly grow­ing, yel­low­ing sward, but this can be reme­died by spik­ing the turf to al­low oxy­gen, wa­ter and nu­tri­ents into the root zone. Use a gar­den fork, in­serted 10-15cm into the soil in rows across the lawn at 20cm in­ter­vals. To speed up the process, it is pos­si­ble to hire a me­chan­i­cal spiker. Give the lawn a good feed By fol­low­ing all th­ese treat­ments your lawn will be on course for re­vival. Rake over any bare patches to open the soil ready for seed­ing. Sow the patches, en­sur­ing some seed spills out onto the sur­round­ing turf, rake in and wa­ter. Wider ar­eas of thin­ning turf can be ‘over­sown’ by scat­ter­ing seed into the ex­ist­ing sward. Keep well wa­tered and it will ger­mi­nate in 2-3 weeks, thick­en­ing up to be win­ter-ready by Novem­ber. The fi­nal process to pre­pare the lawn for au­tumn and win­ter is feed­ing. This is usu­ally ap­plied as a gran­ule and best done by walk­ing be­hind a hop­per to avoid over/ un­der dos­ing. Use a low-ni­tro­gen, au­tumn-spe­cific fer­tiliser to en­cour­age root­ing and sward tough­en­ing, and next spring your lawn will look as loved as the rest of the plot.

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