When life is just one big lawn ...

Belfast Telegraph - Weekend - - GARDENING - BY DIARMUID GAVIN

We have all watched our lawns take a fair amount of bat­ter­ing dur­ing this seem­ingly un­end­ing win­ter, soak­ing up re­lent­less rain like a sponge. The snow melts slowly re­leased even more wa­ter which com­pounded wa­ter­log­ging is­sues. Ven­tur­ing across my own lawn, I sank into the soft green with a muddy squelch un­der­foot.

It’s only now in mid-April that the ground is be­gin­ning to dry out in many places. But lawns are fa­mously re­silient and no mat­ter what the el­e­ments throw at them through win­ter or sum­mer, they will re­cover.

We ask a lot of our lawns. We love the idea of a green ground cover (it acts as a foil to our ta­pes­try of gar­den plant­ing) as a place to lie on, to pic­nic on, to roll down and to mow. And so, the an­nual ri­tual be­gins again.

We’ll start with cut­ting. You may have al­ready given the lawn its first trim, so it’s a good time to ex­am­ine the state of play. Keep in mind that the first mow of the sea­son is done with the blades high, then grad­u­ally lower them as the year pro­gresses.

Rake off win­ter de­bris with a spring-tine rake — the one with wire prongs which fan out from the cen­tre. This is called ‘scar­i­fy­ing’ and should be done with vigour. Re­move all the re­sult­ing de­cay­ing or­ganic mat­ter — which is known as thatch — to the com­post heap. If the ground is com­pacted you may be ad­vised to aer­ate us­ing a hired hol­low core de­vice which will take out reg­u­lar plugs of soil. Brush­ing in some sil­ver sand after this pro­ce­dure will greatly as­sist with drainage and the nat­u­ral ex­change of gasses.

Moss is a com­mon prob­lem after wet win­ters and many peo­ple ob­sess about their de­sires for a moss-free lawn. There are a num­ber of prod­ucts on the mar­ket that can get rid of the cur­rent crop. How­ever, if your lawn is in a damp or shady area it will prob­a­bly re­turn next win­ter un­less you sort the source of the is­sue — if that’s pos­si­ble.

Vi­vaGreen’s MossOff (avail­able at gar­den cen­tres and hard­ware stores, see vi­va­green­group.com) is an Ir­ish-made chem­i­cal-free prod­uct that will kill moss in a lawn or on path­ways, decks or tar­mac drive­ways and car parks. It’s safe to use around an­i­mals and won’t harm wildlife.

John­son’s After Moss Lawn Seed (avail­able at gar­den cen­tres, see john­son­slawnseed. com) is a good way to fill in the gaps once you have re­moved dead moss. This lawn seed is coated with cal­cium car­bon­ate which helps raise the pH of the lawn, help­ing to de­ter moss in the long term. To fill in bare patches, rake the bare soil to a fine tilth, sprin­kle seed, lightly cover with com­post and wa­ter in.

Reg­u­lar mow­ing is your best bet to keep many weeds, such as dan­de­lions, at bay as the flower heads can be cut off be­fore they ma­ture and spread their seeds. Don’t mow too low as you don’t want to scalp the grass, just the weeds. Some peren­nial weeds are best dug out and the re­main­ing patch filled with grass seed. If, how­ever, you feel your lawn is re­ally past it, con­sider start­ing over with a nice new roll-out lawn. The key thing here is to keep it well wa­tered while it es­tab­lishes it­self. This is a good time of year to lay a new lawn as the earth is heat­ing up, but there’s still plenty of mois­ture avail­able.

April is also the time to give your lawn its spring feed. Look for a high ni­tro­gen fer­tiliser which will help green up the lawn. Some of these come in handy packs which al­low you to sprin­kle them evenly as you pace up and down the lawn, and there are also “weed and feed” com­bos. Do this be­fore rain is fore­cast, oth­er­wise your so­lu­tion may burn the lawn. If it doesn’t rain, wa­ter the lawn to ac­ti­vate the prod­uct.

Dur­ing the grow­ing sea­son, if you don’t have time to mow the grass, cre­ate an il­lu­sion of neat­ness by clip­ping the edges with an edg­ing shears. If your edges around the gar­den bor­ders have be­come a bit blurred, use a half moon gar­den­ing tool to cut a new edge — it will give an in­stant fresh look.

You might con­sider putting a new brick bor­der around the lawn and do away al­to­gether with the need for clip­ping the edges.

Cre­at­ing new lawn shapes is a great way of adding move­ment and in­ter­est to your gar­den: is it time to change that square patch out the back into a cir­cle or oval?

A cir­cu­lar lawn works well in small spaces or ir­reg­u­lar shaped gar­dens as it takes your eye away from awk­ward fea­tures and keeps your at­ten­tion with the space.

FIRST CUT: now’s the time to start mow­ing the lawn after a pro­tracted win­ter sea­son

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