Keeping a fresh, healthy looking lawn that you can enjoy year round doesn't have to be back breaking. Here are some tips to keep your grass in shape.
- In early spring gently rake the grass with a lawn rake, taking care not to tear it. This will remove all the winter debris and lift the grass and weed foliage to prepare it for cutting.
- If the soil below the lawn is under pH5.5 (acidic), you need apply ground limestone or dolomite during wet weather in autumn. This prevents a build-up of thatch and encourages worms, which promotes good soil structure.
- When you cut the grass during the spring and summer, leave the clippings on the lawn. As they decompose, they release up to 30 per cent of the lawn's required nutrients. Only remove the clippings from the lawn at the beginning and end of the growing season when decomposition is slow.
- Bare patches attract weeds, so re-sow them in spring. Fork the soil to break it up, then firm and level it before applying grass seed. Cover with polythene to keep the birds off and water regularly, if necessary.
- Mow grass when it's just over 1cm (0.5in) higher than you want it. These mowing heights apply to the following types of lawn: general purpose lawn in spring, autumn or drought, 3cm (1.25in); general purpose lawn in summer, 2.5cm (1in); fine lawn in spring, autumn or drought, 2cm (0.75in); and fine lawn in summer, 1.5cm (0.5in).
- If necessary, feed the lawn in spring or summer with slow-release organic fertilisers. Avoid overfeeding as this causes lush growth that's prone to disease.
- Be sure to keep off the lawn in winter when it is wet and frosty.
- Compaction, poor drainage, over-acidity, shade, too close mowing, underfeeding and drought can all encourage moss to take over. Identifying and treating the problem will allow the grass to take the place of moss. Chemical moss killers won't cure the problem long-term.
- To remove thatch from a lawn, use a spring-tined rake. The process of scarifying will stimulate the grass to produce runners and side shoots, thickening up the lawn.
- Aerate the soil at least once every three years, especially in September when the soil is moist. Do this by making holes in the soil, either with a fork or a hollow-tined fork, which removes a plug of soil.
- After scarifying and aerating, spread a thin top-dressing of bulky organic material over the lawn. This gradually improves soil structure. The top-dressing mixture for a heavy soil comprises one part leaf-mould or coir, two parts loam and four parts sand. For a medium soil the ratio is 1:4:2 and a sandy soil, 2:4:1. Evenly spread the mixture at around 1.6kg per square metre and work it well into the surface with a broom or rake.
- An alternative to top-dressing is to spread a thin layer of autumn leaves over the lawn and mow them well, with the grass box off the lawnmower. Two cuts may be needed.