Maintain lawn and grasses

After what felt like one of the longest, toughest, wettest, coldest, windiest winters in years, it’s fair to say that spring – yahay! – has finally sprung.

Yet the scars left behind by all of that harsh weather are still painfully clear to see in the nation’s lawns, many of which are muddy, bare-patched, weed-infested ghosts of their former selves. So how to get them ship-shape again for summer?

The good news is that this is an excellent time of year to do just that, using a variety of nature-friendly ways to successfully repair the damage without resorting to the sorts of nasty garden chemicals – selective weed-killers, moss killers, intensive artificial fertilisers – that are bad for the environment and for us.

A perfect patch of lawn..
A perfect patch of lawn

The time-honoured and most cost-effective method of lawn repair is, of course, to re-sow any bare patches with a generous scattering of fresh lawn seed sourced from your local garden centre. Various mixes are available, designed for a range of growing conditions and intensity of use. The most hard-wearing (best for gardens regularly used by children or pets) contain a high percentage of dwarf perennial ryegrass, prized for its vigour, resilience and ease of establishment; while for a very manicured lawn the mix will typically contain a high percentage of finer fescue-type grasses. Other slower-growing mixes are specifically designed for hard-to-reach areas such as steep banks (thus minimising the need for regular mowing) while there are even some designed to cope with shade. But for the average family lawn, the traditional choice is what’s commonly known as the “Number 2” – a versatile, relatively hard-wearing blend of species suitable for most situations.

Be warned that your lawn will look even more woebegone after scarifying

Whichever you plump for, it’s crucial to create the best soil conditions for it to successfully establish, as otherwise your efforts will all have been in vain. Start the process off by giving your woebegone lawn a very light trim, making sure that the lawnmower’s blades are set to their highest cutting height. Any lower and it will further weaken growth and allow opportunistic weeds to get a foothold. Don’t leave the fresh cuttings on the lawn on this occasion either but collect them to use as a shallow mulch around the roots of established trees and shrubs.

Scarify your lawn

Next, you’ll need to “scarify” your lawn, an odd horticultural term which sounds as if you’re required to terrify the living daylights out of it but actually means using a spring-tined rake or a hired mechanical “scarifier” (best for large lawns,) to remove any moss or “thatch” – yet another strange horticultural term meaning any dead or decaying grass lying close to the roots of the lawn.

If moss and thatch are plentiful in a lawn, they prevent light, air, water and nutrients from reaching its roots, increasing the risk of certain diseases and reducing the production of healthy new grass growth necessary for creating the sort of thick, soft, velvety sward that the best summer picnics are made of. Be warned that your lawn will look even more woebegone after scarifying but don’t panic – it’s just a temporary effect of the tough love it’s received.

Next, you’ll need to use a garden fork to aerate the lawn – especially any bare or poorly-drained areas – by repeatedly pushing the sharp tines of the fork into the ground to a depth of 8-15cm while rocking the handle very gently back and forth. Tedious as it sounds (and if I’m being honest, it is), this will help hugely as regards repairing the damaged soil structure and improving drainage, especially if you finish it off by brushing some sharp sand over the freshly aerated surface. Again, if your lawn is on the large side, it’s best to hire a mechanical aerator to do this.

Don’t panic

By now your poor, winter-battered, freshly scarified, aerated lawn will be looking extremely sorry for itself.  But again, don’t panic.  All of this important preparatory work will help it to flourish. The very last thing to do before sowing that fresh lawn seed (and it does need to be fresh) is to fill in any holes and hollows with a gentle top-dressing of John Innes-based seed compost, a good-quality top soil, or a mix specially created for exactly this purpose (examples include Westland’s Lawn & Turf Dressing). Finish off by giving it a gentle watering (not a heavy drenching) before generously and evenly sprinkling lawn seed over any bare or balding areas, lightly raking it in and then gently watering again. To thicken up the entire lawn and improve its general appearance as well as to blend any freshly-sown areas into the established grass, it’s also a good idea to lightly sprinkle seed over the entire lawn, a method called “overseeding”. Just make sure to avoid accidentally sprinkling it over nearby flower-beds or paths as well.

Read all article in Irish Times

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