Over the past few weeks one of my biggest jobs at work has been cutting grass. It’s amazing to see how quickly it grows at this time of year – the combination of Scottish rain and sunshine certainly works wonders on the lawn.
While cutting is really the key lawn task to be focusing on at this time of year (cutting it short every 10-14 days), I thought I’d write a short article with top tips from the RHS about some of the other things you should be thinking about to ensure your grass maintains its vigour throughout the year.
Moss can a problem in damp, poorly drained lawns. Spring is a good time to remedy moss problems using an electronic or manual scarifier.
Lawns should first be fed in spring. Use a spring or summer lawn fertiliser at the manufacturer’s recommended rates. Feeding the lawn will increase vigour and help prevent weeds and moss from establishing. Apply fertilisers when the soil is moist, or when rain is expected.
If grass loses its vigour and freshness between late spring and late summer (often May to August), repeat the application of spring or summer lawn fertiliser or apply sulphate of ammonia mixed with four times its weight dry soil. Mixing with soil ensures even distribution and avoids scorching the grass. Apply this mixture in cool, moist conditions and lightly water it in.
If organic is more your style, use chicken manure pellets. Repeat fertiliser application a third time if needed six to eight weeks later. Do not apply fertilisers, chicken manure pellets or sulphate of ammonia after August. They contain too much nitrogen for autumn use, encouraging green leafy growth at the wrong time of year, when it could be damaged by winter cold or pests and disease.
After moss or weeds have been removed, or where grass is growing sparsely, over-seeding may be necessary. Early autumn is the best time for this job, but mid-spring is also suitable.
Break up the surface with a fork and rake it to make a reasonably fine surface. If the weather remains dry for two or three days water gently with a sprinkler. Grass should sprout seven to 10 days after sowing.
Even if lawns turn brown and dry over summer, they usually recover well when rains return. Watering is usually not necessary over summer.
If you do have to water the lawn and maintain a green sward, water when the soil becomes dry, but before the grass turns yellow or brown. If the ground is very hard, aerate it by spiking with a garden fork before watering, to aid water penetration.
Looking after new lawns
Lawns from turf should be left completely unused for their first week. Lawns from seed should be left unused until their first mowing. Avoid using new lawns heavily in their first season.
Newly laid lawns can be fed like established lawns. They need watering, but should not be over watered, as this may result in shallow rooting and poor establishment.
Areas of dry shade, such as under trees, become sparse very quickly despite adequate care. Consider over-seeding on an annual basis to maintain a dense sward.
Spring is a good time to repair damage to lawns caused by pests, diseases or mechanical damage as it will have the whole season to fully recover.