Its December, last month of the year and a time for festive fun.
Unless you happen to be outside in the UK where it is wet cold and miserable.
If you have come looking for lawn advice, I am afraid you are out of luck! Have another read of the last bit of advice and pretty much keep re-reading that until spring arrives. It is all hibernating outside until winter is over.
However, Christmas is on the horizon and there is no better time to start thinking about a new mower (if you are like me anyway).
Just like any purchase there are decisions to make long before you start looking at different models and not just “should I but electric or petrol driven?” The answer is petrol by the way, every time.
I could shorten this blog considerably by just telling you to go out and buy a decent petrol driven rotary mower with a rear roller. In most people’s circumstances that is the best buy without question. I will see if I can explain why.
It doesn’t have a lead, this is a bit of a personal choice but the lead just annoys me. Actually they are often a bit more powerful too, so they can give a wider cut. The added weight of the engine also helps to roll the grass when combined with another must have which is the rear roller.
Why a rear roller?
Rolling a lawn is good for keeping it flat and even. It will flatten out any earth disturbed by small burrowing creatures and is also what gives you the nice stripes. Wheels can cause rutting unless you vary the direction of cutting often.
Why a rotary mower?
Because a cylinder is better! Slightly odd answer but I do have my reasons.
A cylinder mower that is sharp and has been set properly will always give a far superior finish than a rotary mower. The downside of this is a lot more care and attention will be required to keep the mower at its best. As a groundsman mowing large cricket outfields and other sports pitches, I used to start the morning adjusting the cylinder to make sure it was correctly set. This is fine when you are getting paid to do it, but a bit of a chore when its in your own time (and money if you mess it up). They are easily damaged as well, and any marks on the cutting surface will show up as you mow.
A rotary mower will take a little bit more punishment from the odd twig or small stone you may encounter without a noticeable effect. They are far easier to look after, as once they are attached there are no adjustments needed and they can also be removed with relative ease. You only need to check it looks sharp before you mow. A small tip is its worth inspecting the grass when you have finished to see what the snipped grass blade tip looks like. A nice clean cut is perfect, a badly cut straggly end tells you the blade needs a sharpen.
Ok so which mower?
Whichever you can afford and suits your size garden. I do have to admit to being completely out of touch with domestic mowers but like all things, the cheaper it is the less robust it will be.
What about a hover mower?
No. Just no.
My garden is huge, what about a ride on?
Lucky you, mostly the same advice as above really. A cylinder will be better but a rotary with rollers is good and considerably cheaper. If you can stretch to a grass collector with a roller attachment, then even better. Without the collector you will be leaving a lot of dead grass on the ground which will soon affect the look and state of your lawn due to it building up as dense thatch.
I hope that helps, so until next time Merry Christmas.
November has arrived so what should we do?
November, officially winter!
Well basically nothing new, carry on from now until spring in pretty much the same manner. Keep it free of debris and top off when conditions allow. But although lawn wise there is a lot less work to do, there are some important tasks that can be carried out.
Time to service the tools, not just engines but blades, hand tools and anything else you may employ to go about garden work.
Let us start simply with hand tools.
For starters do you use shears for edgings or other garden works, get them out and oil up any moving parts, clean the blades up and get them sharpened then oil these too while they are put away. This will stop them corroding while they are sitting unused during damper weather.
We do not need to restrict this to only tools that move or cut, do you have a spade or shovel (yes there is a difference and are different jobs)? Is it still clean and shiny? If not, then I guarantee it is making any task you use it for more difficult. Clean it up with wet and dry (sand paper will work too) and oil that as well.
Moving onto the bigger equipment brings us swiftly to the mower. Is the blade sharp? This is important as we want to be cutting the blades neatly, this will allow the grass to heal quickly. A blunt blade will leave a more ragged edge and will not heal as quickly, putting a further strain on the plant.
Now for the bit a lot of people would shy away from, servicing a petrol engine. This is so much easier than you may think and does not require a lot of kit to carry out. Most of the time the only thing required is a spanner/socket set to remove the spark plugs and in certain cases to undo a sump nut and change the oil. YouTube is full of useful videos on how to do this and quite possibly for exactly the item you own. I would assume a set of feeler gauges may not be in everyone’s tool kit (used for setting the correct gap on a spark plug) but these are a buy it once item which when looked after last a lifetime and more.
So get cleaning, you will be relying on this equipment in spring.
Its October, its England, its wetter…
Late October – officially Autumn
So your lawn should now be green or something is wrong, ok so there may be the occasional mud spot from a squished worm cast but overall it should be looking pretty lush.
At this point in the year the only task is topping off any growth and keeping it free of any leaves and rubbish.
Soon the temperature will start dropping and the first frosts will come so I thought a quick explanation of why that requires extra care would be a good idea.
Frost is an simply because the blades of grass transport water through them as they go about living and this will freeze if the temperature drops enough, water expands as it freezes which can then damage the cell walls of the grass blade.
With a light frost, this will not have penetrated as far as the ground, so the plant has a chance of healing the damage. However even a light frost over a few nights can lead to noticeable damage.
You can now easily imagine how walking upon the grass is to be avoided, the blades of grass are each completely frozen and as you step upon it the grass is crushed, this causes even more damage to the cells of the blade. It is possible to see footprints of damaged grass once the frost has thawed where it has been walked across.
Prevention is easy, stay off the grass! (Especially while frosty)
Late September – almost the end of summer
Well it is for lawns, however rather than read your lawn a bedtime story (although you can if you like) its more a case of bedtime scarify, repair and seed.
At this time of year, just before the temperature drops and we still have good growth going you can be a bit more aggressive with the scarifying and really rip out the dead matter, also carry out some aeration at the same time and then over seed the area.
You should repair any bald areas now (maybe de-compact if it’s worn from foot traffic) so it has a chance to take before winter. The healthier you can get your lawn now the better it will fare through winter.
Once you have finished these tasks and are prepped for winter you will then keep up with the usual maintenance but on a much reduced frequency.
I would still aim to mow reasonably regularly as even though you will only be topping of the grass (keeps it tidy and even) you will also be giving the lawn a regular roll at the same time (no roller on your mower? Stop reading this and buy one!). You will also be able to spot any weeds or unhealthy patches of lawn before they become a bigger problem.
One recommendation as the temperature falls is to raise the height of cut a little from the summer length. This allows the lawn to adjust to the cooler temperature.
And lastly, we come to leaves. The trees will be dropping and must be cleared from the lawn to enable a good upkeep. Sun and rain are the only things we want on our turf all year round so why would you allow leaves just to lie there. Not only do they look untidy, they block water and nutrients and stop a healthy air flow from getting to the root system (a waste of time aerating the lawn if you let them lie on it). If allowed to lie on the lawn all winter then come spring you will find they may have all matted down and are stopping new blades of grass from emerging.
Well that will do, go on you’ve got work to do!
End July – hope you all have lush lawns
Welcome all, I hope you are all well and your lawns are lush. We still seem to be having some amazing weather at the moment. Proper English weather, if you do not like it do not worry it will change in five minutes.
At this time as the only jobs needed are mowing, watering, weeding and enjoying your space. Plus of course showing off your lush green oasis.
The good news is the growth rate will start to slow down a bit, keeping on top of the lawn growth will be easier to keep up with. This will please the maintenance team (email@example.com) who often take on gardens with new lawns that grow like mad for the first season.
It is time we should start to talk about the autumn tasks, early yes but only so we are ready with the tools and an idea of what we are going to do when the season arrives. Plus some tips for when the weather stays a bit wetter.
Scarification- you may have done this in the spring however this time we can be a bit more aggressive. Done properly thid should look pretty dramatic but you will really only have torn out the rubbish and any grass removed will just be shallow rooted and therefore not to be concerned about. I would always over-seed with something appropriate for the lawn (consider shade and soil types as you can get seed suitable for many settings).
Mowing- Things will slow down as the temperature drops so mowing can be carried out a little less frequently as the year progresses. I usually raise the cutting height one notch and then just keep topping it off as it grows to keep things looking tidy.
Any mud you make once the growing season is over is not likely to come back before next season. So when mowing you need to be careful of repeatedly rolling the same areas again and again. You can end up rolling the blades of grass into the surface of the soil as it gets softer each time you pass over it.
Also when using a mower that propels itself with a rear roller there is a tendency for them to slip when starting to move or going up even a slight slope. Basically you are just doing a wheel spin on an already soft area smearing mud over the blades of grass.
Aerating- I explained the benefits of aeration in the spring in detail so I won’t bore you all again, what I will say is doing it in autumn will relieve the compaction that has built up from using the garden all summer. Mainly frequently walked areas (to the shed/washing line etc).
Over-seeding- mix some seed with some top dressing and work it into the grass.
Topdressing- a suitable soil mix that can be worked into the lawn to fill any dips or bumps. Can be combined with seed if repairing an area or after scarifying.
Feeding- a suitable autumn feed can be applied to see the lawn through the winter but be wary of doing this to soon before or after seeding as you can scorch the new growth. Two weeks should be a sufficient gap.
Always worth remembering any work you do in the autumn will pay dividends come the following year.
- Any chairs or tables are likely to sink which creates more damage to repair in the autumn when you do your annual work to put the lawn to bed for winter. Try to move them about, it may look like you are getting some free aeration with every chair leg that sinks in, in reality you are just helping to compact the lawn.
- Vary the route you take up and down the garden as well so as not to ruin the areas on the way to washing lines or sheds/greenhouses.
Here is a general tip for all year round, assuming that you use a mower with a built in rear roller (if you do not, get out now and purchase one) you should have light and dark stripes running up and down your lawn. Always walk up the light stripes, you are then walking with the way the grass is laying, if you go the opposite direction your feet catch the blades and lift them up and this leaves visible marks of where you have been.
Okay so not following the above does no harm and causes no issues, it will just keep things looking tidy for longer.
Lockdown with a lawn
Late June – so how are you all coping with the weather?
I for one, have looked at lockdown with a glass half full, thankful that the current situation didn’t happen in winter while the lawn is asleep. Spring scarification has been carried out to a whole new level, garden centres opened when I needed seed and feeds. Time to tend to each blade of grass individually.
If you are wondering what pests to keep an eye out for then keep a look out for these:
Larvae of crane flies common in poorly drained turf. Turns the infected areas brow
Often the problem is not so much the leatherjackets themselves as the animals that love to feed on them! Badgers in particular can seriously trash a lawn (see below) and I have seen newly laid turf thrown around by the pesky critters as if a bunch of vandals have done it.
Improving drainage is the only real prevention to this.
Red thread disease
This is a fungal disease often found in luxury high grade lawns when underfed. Irregular patches of pink coloured grass up to a metre in diameter. Keeping the lawn fed is the key to keeping this at bay, as well as good aeration and reducing surface moisture- irrigation should be set for a good soak and the lawn allowed to dry out in between at the surface. In most cases it will disappear of its own accord after a few weeks, but if prolonged, we can treat with a systemic fungicide which will protect for around 6-8 weeks. The good news is that red thread does not cause long term damage to your lawn although it can be unsightly and often betrays wider nutrition issues
Dollar spot disease
Same as red thread disease, another fungal disease. But smaller patches of up to about 50mm in diameter. It usually occurs in Summer and Autumn when there is high humidity and little air movement. The prevention is similar to red thread above- it is typically exacerbated by low fertility and excessively low mowing height
Circular brown patches with a ring of deep green grass surrounding each patch. This is caused by the nitrogen in the urine being too concentrated and killing the grass at its centre, and then becoming dilute at the edges to the point at which it acts as a fertiliser. You need to treat with a lot of water which even then only reduces the discolouration. You may end up having to patch repair. There are products that reduce the potential for burn such as Dog rocks although these seem to have mixed results.
General Good Advice
Other things to do if you are in a hot dry spell is keep the grass topped off, stay on top of the broadleaf weeds and water, water, water. The hardest hit are the new lawns that have not got themselves an established root base to get at any moisture that does become available.
A note on watering:
Remember that deep saturation is what you need, more so than regular light watering. If the water can soak deeper into the soil then as the top dries the roots will penetrate deeper to get to the water, if all you manage is to wet the very top the roots will have no reason to establish to a deeper level. Longer but less often is the trick.
Last of all a few tips to remember for while you enjoy the weather.
- Move that garden furniture about so as not to stress one area from walking to and from the same spot, and to allow the grass underneath the furniture to breathe.
- Don’t leave the hosepipe lying on the grass in one place as you will have a yellow line on the grass when you do finally move it.
- If after a barbeque you decide to wash up outside do not tip the left over hot water on the lawn as this will kill the grass if hot enough.
Always look on the bright side…..
How to take care of your lawn
Late April-Early May-pretty strange weather, time for a quick lawn blog.
Hail lawn lovers,
At this time of year we are often asked about watering and feeding regimes. The most important thing to do is to water when needed, mow when needed and feed when needed. This sounds unhelpful in some ways, but never believe anyone telling you that they can put together an exact plan for when they will mow, weed, feed etc- it all depends on the weather, your lawn and site (including drainage, shade, irrigation, lawn type and wear), and your cutting and maintenance regime.
Even in hot dry times a lawn will almost always eventually recover without watering (unlike many plants), but if you want a green lawn you will need to water it. Try to water weekly rather than daily, and if you can do this when it is cool you will lose less water to evaporation. New turf is a different kettle of fish and will die without regular watering (it takes a while for the roots to grow into the ground and be resilient enough to survive a drought). You may wish to refer to our general watering guide here.
It is the same with feeding- whilst there are common times to feed and weed, you are best to do so when it needs it. Weed when there are weeds! For feeding, mid Spring is a pretty good bet, using a proprietary feed, applied when the ground is moist or when rain is expected.
If you have bare patches after removing moss or weeds or just sparse areas then overseeding now is a good time… (you can also do in mid Autumn)
- Break up the surface with a fork and rake it to make a reasonably fine surface.
- Sow grass seed at half the recommended rate or, where there are no recommendations, at 10-15g per sq m
- Lightly rake to incorporate the seed into the surface.
- Where birds are a problem, net the area.
- If the weather remains dry for two or three days water gently with a sprinkler.
- Grass should sprout seven to 10 days after sowing.
In heavily used areas, choose a hardwearing utility mix containing ryegrass. Most lawn grasses do not thrive in shade, so for these areas choose a shade-tolerant mix.
If you have questions about your lawn do feel free to contact us here
We will aim to get back to you within 24 hours and will share questions of general appeal on this blog
While we are talking about general questions, I thought I would just run over some tips to remember as you are perhaps at home and giving your lawn a bit more attention than normal!
These are in no particular order but are just the little things that help.
- Never re-fuel anything while still on the lawn, any spillage will kill the grass and undo your hard work.
- When applying any fertiliser or other treatment, doing two applications at ninety degrees to each other at half strength is better than one application at full strength if you make a mistake.
- Always walk on the light stripes, stops your footprints being visible.
- Regularly walk your lawn, this way you can keep an eye out for damage, weeds etc. Don’t rely on mowing for this as you should be concentrating on straight lines.
- Regular brushing is good for covering the point above and grooming your lawn as you go
- Try to cut out weeds with a knife as you find them making sure to get the root out.
- Regular mowing is important, once a week in spring and autumn. In the summer its best not to let the grass get more than half an inch above the desired height so you may find yourself mowing twice a week if necessary.
- Under no circumstances allow anyone to set foot upon your lawn. It is for admiring and no more (!)
- I mean it, absolutely no one who isn’t on gardening business, point out the rule about walking on the light stripes if it can’t be avoided.
- Keep the blades on you mower sharp as a clean cut is best.
- Regular maintenance is better than fixing problems.
That’s all I am going to say for now, I can only show you the door you’re the one that has to walk through it.
April – Spring is in the air, time for a quick lawn blog.
After what has seemed like months of rain or at least every weekend, we have finally had a few days of sunshine. So this got me thinking, why don’t I resurrect my ‘year in the life of your lawn blog’, it’s all good stuff to know as you tend to your lawn and will take you away from the trials of the outside world while you enjoy the peace of your garden.
I’ll start by talking about what you need to be doing now the sun is coming out…
Hail to the turf baby
Here begins our journey, hope your all keeping well and trying to enjoy the forced time in your homes and gardens. With the weather improving I hope you have been getting up to speed on the spring jobs. It’s all gone green and is pushing upwards so that mower should be coming out once a week now and we should be aiming to get the grass height to that desired height of about 20-25mm (3/4 to 1 inch for the old school).
You will also have noticed it’s not just the grass that is growing but those pesky weeds too. Keeping on top of these is a must and with regular mowing and good grass coverage new weeds should struggle to get a foothold.
Something else to keep an eye on is how well your soil retains moisture. A thin layer of thatch will help the soil retain moisture but too much (1 inch/25mm) will reduce water penetration when needed and will then become a thick wet blanket in the autumn. If you think you have too much then aeration will help your lawn until autumn when some heavier scarifying can be done to remove it. Be wary if anyone suggests aerating with hollow tines and thence leaving all the cores from the tines to break down as a top dressing, it will take a long long time for these to break down and when they have, they will leave old seeds from weeds and all manner of rubbish on top of the grass ready to germinate. Anyone suggesting this is an enemy of your lawn and should not be trusted near your hallowed turf. Honestly I bet they’d walk the wrong way up the mowing too.
Ok I’m done for this edition, I hope you all enjoy my warbling and if anyone has a question then by all means send them in.
Till next time, keep it groovy and give me some sugar, baby.
And finally aerate and top dress if needed mixing a little grass seed with the dressing as well. Then once you get round to spring again just continue with routine spring maintenance.
So even though you don’t get the great lawn this year if you do what is needed then next year things should look a lot better than they do now.
That’s it for this week, I’ll be back.