A description of the maintenance required for ornamental and utility lawns.
March is the start of Spring, and the month when we should start mowing our garden lawns. Cutting the grass from now until November will keep your lawn looking good – which will set off your garden nicely! There are also a variety of additional maintenance tasks to carry out to give you the best looking grass ever.
Below, I am going to list the jobs to do to take care of your grass including when and how to do them. Scroll right to the bottom for my cheat-list Lawn Maintenance Calendar, or read on for more details.
This information can be used to help you to tend to fine, ornamental lawns, and hard-wearing, family or utility lawns.
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This is the main task to do in regards to caring for your turf. The maiden (first) cut should be carried out in March, in dry weather.
- Start with your lawnmower set in a high position the first time you cut the grass.
- Reduce the height of the mower blades by a third each time you do the mowing, until the desired height is achieved.
- Cut regularly, once a week in spring, increasing to two times a week through the summer. Reduce the frequency of cutting in the autumn.
- Ornamental lawns will require more cutting to keep them looking neat.
- Always remove clippings from the grass’ surface. Put them in your garden-waste bin or add to your compost heap. (Never add grass clippings to your compost if you have used a weed killer).
- Finish it off by trimming around the edges of borders, using a pair of long-handled edging shears.
Scarifying refers to raking a lawn. It keeps thatch (debris, old grass and moss) to a minimum. Too much thatch can reduce the amount water and feed that can penetrate to get to grass’ roots – so it’s good to remove it regularly.
- Scarify in autumn (Sep-Oct).
- Use a fine spring rake to rake vigorously through the grass. If raking on turf, be careful not to rake too hard as this can damage it.
- In spring (March-April), keep scarifying to a minimum and rake lightly. Don’t scarify in summer or winter.
Using additional feeds can help give your grass the added nutrients it required to keep it looking green and growing strongly.
- From March to August feed with a fertiliser that is high in nitrogen (N) to promote green growth.
- In March and September an additional balanced feed of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium (NPK) will benefit it. The phosphorus will help with root development and the potassium helps with plant processes including photosynthesis, respiration and water absorption.
Aerating is also known as spiking. It helps to promote air and water movement around the roots, and is especially beneficial on compacted lawns. This will be beneficial through the dry, summer months as well as very wet seasons when the lawn could otherwise become water-logged. Generally if you aerate your lawn once every two to three years, this will be sufficient.
- Spike your lawn between April and June or September to October.
- Use a fork for smaller areas of lawn, or a hollow-tine aerator (motorised or hand-held).
- Follow hollow-tining by sweeping up the plugs of soil you have removed and raking in a top-dressing.
This refers to applying a mixture of soil, organic matter and sand to the surface of the lawn. This corrects lumps and bumps and helps to level the lawn. It will also help to improve the structure and drainage on very heavy, clay soils. Top-dressing follows aerating as it fills the holes you make during this process.
- Apply after aerating your lawn. Do this in April or September to October.
- You can buy pre-mixed top dressing or make your own.
- Work into the aeration holes in your lawn using the back of a rake. Work it until is mostly disappears into the holes, and you can just see it at the surface at top of them.
Take care of weeds in your lawn between March and April as weeds start to grow or September to October as things quieten down. Removing weeds by hand, as and when you see them, is the best method. This way you won’t remove all the “weeds” and will leave a biodiverse patch of grass which will be beneficial to many types of wildlife. Many plants that are thought of as weeds can be left where they are to create a flower-rich lawn. It helps to consider it as a wildflower meadow instead! Chemical, selective weedkillers should be used as a last resort.
- Regular lawn maintenance (scarifying, aerating and feeding) will encourage strong vigorous grass growth. This will help to reduce the amount of weeds that grow.
- Use a small fork to remove larger plants such as dandelions and daisies, by hand. Do this mainly in the autumn and replace the turf or re-seed, if required.
- Regular mowing minimises the chance of creeping weeds from establishing (e.g. clover).
- Apply weed-killers in the spring - choose a selective weedkiller, designed for lawns and follow the instructions.
The best time to try to control moles in your lawn is between February and June. Find out more about mole control here.
Lawns can also suffer from other pests such as leatherjackets (crane fly larvae) which should be controlled between September and November with the use of nematodes. Fungal problems such as Fusariam Patch can be controlled by improving the drainage and aeration as detailed above. Pest and disease control in general is best carried out in the autumn.
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Lawn Maintenance Calendar