Waltons ultimate guide to lawn care
A lawn says a lot about how much care and attention you put into your garden. Everyone wants a luscious green lawn - and with our ultimate lawn care guide, we’ll show you how you can achieve one.
Why is it important to mow your lawn?
Regular mowing ensures that your grass grows thicker, encourages roots to spread, which in turn prevents weeds from ruining your perfect lawn. Grass grows at different rates throughout the year; generally slower during the colder winter months, and speeding up once spring is in full swing.
When you notice your grass starting to grow again around springtime, you should aim to cut your grass at least once a week. This will give it the best chance to flourish over the next few months and make you the envy of all your neighbours!
Raise the height of the lawnmower blades when you first start to mow and then gradually lower it over the next few weeks until the height of the cut grass is roughly 2½ cm long. If in doubt, leave it longer rather than shorter.
Remember to heighten the mower blades as winter approaches, as the rate at which your lawn grows will slow down. Towards the tail end of autumn you should be cutting it as little as possible, and try to avoid cutting it during winter. Cutting a frosty lawn will damage the grass blades.
How to make the most of mowing
While it may be tempting to get behind your lawnmower and mow away to your heart’s content, there are a few key things to remember before you start cutting grass at random.
First, check the state of your mower blades. Duller blades will only damage the grass rather than give it a healthy cut - this will give your lawn an overall brownish hue instead of that luscious green that you’re after. When the blades start to show sign of wear, sharpen or replace them. You can tell if the blades need replacing when your lawn looks shredded or frayed after cutting.
Watering your lawn is important, but it’s best to mow when the grass is dry. The wet clippings are harder for the lawnmower to pick up, and you’ll be left with clumps of grass clippings all over your lawn when you’re finished. To perfect the edges of your lawn, go over the grass with a set of gardening shears. To give your lawn more of a defined edge, lawn edging will keep it looking neat and tidy, and prevent the grass from spreading into your flower beds.
Cutting your lawn during hot weather will cause it distress. It’s best to try and leave your grass longer during these hotter spells as it allows it to trap more moisture, and will mean that your lawn is less likely to fall prey to drought. If you’ve noticed your grass doesn’t seem to be growing much during periods of heatwaves, avoid cutting it at all. Shadier lawns will benefit from longer grass - this will make them less susceptible to moss and bare patches.
Replenishing your lawn
If your lawn is looking a bit worse for wear, with bald patches scattered throughout, or just generally looks bare and sad - not to worry. You can rejuvenate your lawn - or even lay a new one - to give you the lawn of your dreams.
There are two main options for growing a lawn from scratch; laying turf, or sowing grass seeds. Turf will be tempting for many, as all you need to do is lay down the rolls and wait for them to take root. While this may be the easier, more hassle-free option, it will also be more expensive than choosing seed.
Patchy lawn? Sowing seed can help build it back up to its former glory. You should aim to plant warm-season grasses during springtime, so as to give seeds a chance to germinate and lay roots before the hotter weather. For cool-season grasses, autumn will be ideal.
It’s also important to know what kind of soil you have in your garden. Loam is ideal, as this retains nutrients better; clay will have some nutrients in it, but the earth may become compacted over time, which will give your lawn drainage issues; sandy soils are quick to drain, but will find it harder to retain the essential nutrients your lawn needs to grow, and will require more fertilisers and watering.
Feeding and watering
Just like any living plant, your lawn will need food and water to grow. To give your grass the best chance of flourishing throughout the year, aim to fertilise it at least twice. Once towards the start of spring, and again around midsummer - a dormant lawn won’t absorb nutrients, so avoid fertilising it during periods of hot weather. Fertilise your lawn before you water it, as this will soak the nutrients down into the roots rather than burn the grass blades.
In terms of watering, aim to water your lawn in the morning; this will give the grass time to dry out throughout the day. If you water in the evening, the moisture will remain for longer during the cooler hours, and could cause unwanted diseases. When watering you should give your lawn a proper soaking, so as to allow the much-needed moisture to permeate the soil.
Aim to water less frequently but for longer periods of time. You’ll know your lawn needs a good drink when the blades begin showing a blue-greyish tint, or the edges start to curl and wilt. If you’ve sown seed for a new lawn or laid turf, it will need watering more regularly until the seeds germinate or until the turf ‘takes’.
Hosepipe ban in your area? No problem. The grass may turn brown during the hotter months, but it will bounce back again once the rain returns. Clay soils will make watering a little tricky, especially if they’ve become compacted from any family games during the summer - in which case, aeration will be key to maintaining good lawn health.
Every now and again, it’s a good idea to give your lawn a good aerating to ensure that it can maintain good drainage. This will especially be the case with clay lawns, as the clay can become compacted after time. Not only will drainage be an issue - the grassroots need air to grow properly. If you leave this untreated, essential nutrients will be washed out of the soil.
You won’t need any fancy tools to aerate your lawn - a good old fashioned pitchfork will do just fine. Plunge the tines into the soil every 10cm or so, and gently wiggle the pitchfork back and forth. If the soil is particularly heavy, fill in the holes left by the fork tines with sand to help aid drainage, and to prevent it from becoming compacted further.
Scarifying and weed control
Sometimes, despite your best efforts, weeds can take root in your lovely lawn. The best way to tackle these is to do so as soon as you spot them; it’s much easier to deal with the smaller weed than when it’s firmly taken root. Most of this weeding can be done by hand - ensure you remove as much of the root as possible so as to prevent the weeds making a return.
Smaller weeds and things like moss can be removed with a scarifier. Scarifying your lawn will prevent a buildup of dead leafy matter and debris, which can deprive it of much-needed space and sunlight if left unchecked. You can do this either by hand with a rake, or a special scarifying machine.
Fallen leaves will trap moisture and encourage disease, so it’s important to remove these from the grass if you want to maintain a healthy lawn; a leafblower or vac will help keep on top of this.
The impact of animals
Any dog lover will know the impact that your beloved pooch has on your lawn. The yellow or bare patches are a result of the high nitrogen content in dogs’ urine; to limit this, encourage your dog to do their business in one particular spot, or create a gravel area for them. If all else fails, water down their urine with the hose to try and give your grass a helping hand.
Some lawn lovers aren’t fans of the muddy wormcasts left behind in their sea of green, but all this means is that your lawn is healthy. Worms are very beneficial for your grass, wriggling between the roots to naturally aerate the soil, and eating away at decaying matter. Simply brush the wormcasts away once dry.
Another nemesis of the lawn is the tunnelling mole. It may not be easy to repel moles from your garden, but sonic mole repellers should help to deter these furry fiends. One of the best ways to deter them naturally is to mow your lawn regularly - other noisy activities such as children playing will also keep them away.
Have you got any lawn care tips that you think we’ve missed? Let us know over on our Facebook page.
Lead image: MariuszBlach via Getty Images.