The average gardening enthusiast will often focus on weeding and tidying up their garden in the early spring. They may also rush to buy new plant varieties in between cutting the grass at the first sunny and dry opportunity. But their lawn care efforts usually end with that, and thus, they obviously neglect important aspects of lawn maintenance.
With this post, we want to bring to your attention everything you need to know about maintaining the lushness of your green plot in the spring and summer months. Bear in mind you will find a lot of resources on the Internet advising on different tactics.
The Benefits of Having a Healthy Lawn
A real lawn comes with a myriad of benefits that will only work if you maintain it regularly. Here’s what you can expect from a well-sustained lawn:
- Real lawns make the air around your house cleaner. They trap smoke and dust particles in between the grass. What’s more, real grass absorbs carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide.
- A lawn as big as 50’ x 50’ can produce enough oxygen for a family of four.
- Real turf absorbs noise, which is a great benefit for high-traffic urban areas.
- In hot summer days, your real lawn cools down the temperature.
- Lawns can be a good physical exercise in weekends, if your daily routine is still during the week.
- In general, lawns turfed with real grass are a perfect environment for families with children.
Now that the benefit awareness is taken care of, let’s proceed on how to maintain the lushness of your lawn for as long as possible during the year.
Lawn feeding tips
A lot of homeowners wonder whether they take away the lawn’s main source of nutrients by removing the fallen leaves in autumn. That’s one of the debatable topics but in reality, you should take the effort to rake your leaves before going on for winter season for a number of reasons.
First, extra leaf mass will quash the grass. It will also prevent or slow down growth if you don’t remove the leaf matter very early in spring. Furthermore, excessive amount of leaves is a formidable environment for developing snow mould diseases. Last but not least, leaf mass promotes various pests such as mice or moles and their presence in springtime.
However, if you do want to save some leaves you can cover between 10 and 20% of your green carpet, but try to keep it under that for the above reasons.
When to feed your lawn
Depending on the weather, you can consider giving your lawn its first feed anytime from late March throughout April. Get a spring or summer fertiliser to strengthen grass growth and boost the vitality of your lawn. If you use a granulated product, it’s a good idea to mix it with soil for a more balanced distribution. You can repeat the application, if necessary in about 6 to 8 weeks. It is important to fertilise your lawn in cool moist conditions, before it’s about to rain, for instance. Or water lightly the lawn after applying the fertiliser.
Avoid fertilising during July and August, when there’s more chance of dry and hot weather. Feeding your grassed garden space when temperatures are high, may do more damage than good, with your efforts resulting in scorched grass patches. If you must feed your lawn in the summer, you use a liquid fertiliser, however, that doesn’t exclude irrigation. In September, apply a specially formulated autumn fertiliser, which will normally contain more potassium and phosphorus. The product has less nitrogen to slow down grass growth just before the cold winter weather sets in. You can also have a go at grasscycling. It’s is a good practice that promotes using grass clippings to naturally nourish the lawn by raking them after chopping. The latter is important, because the clippings will decompose faster and the risk of growing thatch is smaller.
Spreader or sprayer?
Both dry and liquid fertilisers are suitable for small and large sized lawn areas. What type you decide to use will depend on what device you have. If you own a lawn that is over an acre in size, a tow-behind rotary lawn spreader or a motorised push-along sprayer would be equally a good choice. Smaller grassed spaces can be easily managed if you have a backpack sprayer, a versatile and easy-to-navigate shoulder lawn feed spreader or a drop lawn fertiliser spreader. For really tiny lawns, you don’t need to invest in anything too fancy but do the feeding job with a handheld spreader or sprayer.
Kill two birds with one stone
A drop fertiliser spreader is your best bet if you want to accomplish more than one result with half the effort. You can mix a weed control or a moss killing product with a granulated fertiliser in it and spread them at the same time over your lawn. The multi-purpose drop spreader can be also used for overseeding bare areas with sparse grass. On that note, the market offers various other 3 in 1 types of lawn equipment, such as the tow-behind aerator-spreader that can aerate, drop seed and fertilise your lawn simultaneously.
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Lawn scarification tips
Most grass types will require scarifying now and again, especially if the lawn area is shady and the soil is rather moist – the “perfect” conditions for moss build-up. Scarification or dethatching is the process of removing thatch and moss from the lawn to prevent grass from yellowing and dying.
When to scarify
Take a walk on your lawn and if it feels bouncy in places, most certainly you are dealing with spongy patches of moss and thatch, which stop nutrients and sunlight from reaching the roots of the grass. The best time to scarify is in the autumn – to prepare it for winter. However, the lawn needs boosting in early to mid-spring as well, but we recommend light raking instead of scarification, because the lawn may have problems recovering for the summer season. Don’t panic if your lawn looks unattractively brown for about 10 days after scarification. This is how long it will take for fresh grass to grow back.
How to scarify
You can scarify manually a small-sized grassed area with a rake. Wear gloves to avoid getting blisters on your hands.
For a much easier time, invest in a mechanical scarifier and leave its blades to do the hard work for you. Don’t go too deep by using the correct settings and work your lawn progressively by adjusting the height if necessary. Scarification stresses the grass and the last thing you would want is to dig out big chunks of soil due to using the wrong settings. Scarify only in dry weather but ensure that the soil is slightly moist. Scarification is often followed by overseeding.
Lawn aeration tips
Aeration is another necessary lawn maintenance job when the soil and grass become too compact. It improves water and air penetration through the soil to the roots which is important for correct grass development and for the overall health of your lawn. Areas, which get water-logged should be levelled properly to allow drainage in the right direction of the garden. However, if the customer cannot afford to get the lawn levelled and re-turfed, he should aerate the soil with a hollow-tine aerator. There is no guarantee, that such aeration would improve drainage and prevent waterlogging. There will be some improvement in the drainage, as the soil won’t be so stiff, but the issue with waterlogging might still remain. If you need tips for a waterlogged garden, check our article on how to install a garden drainage system and when.
When to aerate
Again, spring and autumn are the seasons when lawn aeration should take place. In the spring, the process will ensure that enough water reaches the grassroots and that air circulation is sufficient. In the autumn, it will help your lawn get ready for the winter. Don’t skip this task, because the already compact soil will harden up even more during the cold months. You shouldn’t leave the job for late autumn, either, as frost will have a damaging effect on your lawn. Don’t aerate after heavy rains, either.
How to aerate
Aerate your small lawn with a fork or a hollow tine hand soil aerator. You can also use lawn aerator sandals or a rolling aerator with fixed spikes. For larger grassed spaces, it makes sense to use a motorised aerator. Don’t forget to give your lawn a trim before aeration!
The professionals’ advice is to use the hollow tine method later in the year – in the autumn months. It relieves the compaction from the summer months better and will allow more water and air to penetrate the lawn in the rainy and winter season. Moreover, if you hollow-tine aerate in spring, when sunrays already start getting stronger, the latter might dry grassroots. Leave the soil “plugs” or cores to dry and use the mower to disperse them back into the soil. You can also collect them, break them down and mix them into your top dressing.
Overseeding your lawn not only makes it healthier looking but also prevents in a way moss build-up and weeds from taking over the grass. The procedure is done after aeration and is often vital after scarification. You can either mix the grass seeds with compost by following the manufacturer’s ratio instructions or use a combo product that contains seeds, lawn feed and coconut fibre (coir). Below are the steps to follow for achieving best results:
- Trim the grass and remove all clippings.
- Rake areas with moss and thatch.
- Use a fork to break up soil surface in the area you want to overseed. Then rake the soil to break lumps and to level the area.
- Use a handheld or a drop lawn spreader to distribute evenly the grass seeds. You shouldn’t need to use more than 15g per sq.m.. You can do this by hand, too.
- Give your lawn another gentle rake to disperse the seed material into the ground.
- Water regularly with a thin sprayer on dry days to facilitate germination and growth. And in about 8-10 days from sowing, you should be able to see young grass coming up. Don’t let the area dry for more than 2-3 days.
A piece of grassland becomes the perfect looking lawn if it is mowed regularly. Here, we’ll skip going through the vast variety of lawn mowers that you could choose from but focus on some mowing tips of when and how to cut the grass.
When to mow
Most people in the UK will mow their lawn mainly between March and October.
In spring and autumn, cut the grass every seven days. Bear in mind that in spring it may get rainy for a couple of consecutive days. In this case, it is advisable that you mow your grass as soon the rain stops. Mowing the grass when wet is considered taboo, but leaving it to become overgrown will be even worse for your lawn in the long run.
In the summer months, depending on the weather, mow twice a week, and as low as once per week if there’s a long drought spell.
When it comes to winter, if you live in a milder climate – in the south-west country, for instance, you may find that your lawn could do with the occasional trim, too. However, set your lawn mower on a high-cut mode and inspect the ground and weather conditions beforehand. If the soil is soft or frozen, or if cold dry wind blazes outside, don’t mow the lawn.
Note that shady lawns may not require frequent trimming. Ensure that the grass is defrosted and dry if you must lawn on a winter day.
How to mow
As a general rule of thumb, you should not remove more than a third of the grass leaf when mowing your lawn. When the grass is cut too close, this may weaken the roots and encourage weed and moss growth. In dry summers, your close-mown lawn (below 2 cm) will need more watering, as well.
Doing the opposite will also cause problems to your turf. Grass that is cut too high on a regular basis also creates a weak looking lawn with loose long grass shoots. So, it is best if you always adjust the lawn mower to the right height settings. Start with the highest when trimming the grass for the first time in the spring and go lower with each cut until you get to the correct height, depending on the time of the year. This way, you will avoid problems such as scalping your lawn and having unsightly bald patches on the grass surface. Also, always ensure that the blades are regularly sharpened and change directions every time you mow.
Weed control tips
Weed control is another important lawn maintenance job. It takes care of any unwanted plants growing in the grass, such as moss, mushrooms, dandelions and more.
Here’s how to recognise weed problems in your lawn in their early stages:
- The grass seems patchy, grows unevenly and has different coloured areas.
- Flowers grow in the lawn. It happens usually when the grass grows longer, but can be observed in a closely clipped turf, too.
Although you can use chemical products to remove weeds, it is always better to try to prevent the issue through regular lawn care. By maintaining your lawn properly, meaning, following the above said techniques, it will grow stronger than weeds.
You can treat your lawn against moss in the spring and autumn by mixing a fertiliser with a moss killer. Once the moss is dead, remove it manually with a rake or scarify the lawn. Aerate the area. Top-dress and overseed if necessary. Avoid using ferrous sulphate as a moss killing agent on your lawn as it may damage the grass along with the moss. You can also apply an organic bacteria-based moss killing product on a close-mown, moist lawn. It will break up the moss within 10 days and save you the effort of scarifying the unwanted plant.
To prevent moss from coming back, reduce shade, overseed with specially mixed seeds for shady areas, aerate when necessary and avoid cutting the grass too short. Also, moss thrives in acidic soils, so if that’s the case, treat your lawn with garden lime to raise the soil’s pH and deny moss the conditions to grow. However, the best way to prevent moss is to keep the vigour of the grass in a tip-top condition.
Mushrooms on your lawn?
Treating lawn mushrooms with a fungicidal product will not necessarily neutralise the cause of the problem. So, investigate and evaluate the conditions of your grassed area. Are there any patches that are always damp due to a drainage issue? Mushrooms also love shady wet places that are abundant of organic material. Thus, to stop the fungi grow on your lawn, reduce shade and moisture levels by trimming tree branches and addressing drainage problems. Eliminate the risk of waterlogging by aerating compact areas of your lawn. Clear organic decomposing matter, such as leaves, grass trimmings, animal waste and decaying old mulch. Rake out thatch and moss, as well.
As for other weed plants that spoil the uniform texture of your lawn, you can use, in moderation, specially formulated herbicides, which target weeds and not the grass. But don’t invest too much faith in chemical weed killers as they are not always the best solution for your lawn.
Instead, fork weeds out manually before mowing or use other natural weed killing methods, which will not harm the soil and the grass. Also, to reduce weeds, apply the same regular lawn care tips as you would do to control moss.
Lawn irrigation tips
In Britain, rain is usually a sufficient source of water for your garden needs. The average household in the UK rarely needs to invest in an irrigation system. Still, if it does happen that the summer is on the dry side with prolonged periods of not raining, water the lawn every 10 days.
Aerate the soil if compact and solid dry before you water to achieve the desired result and make watering more efficient. To ensure that moisture stays in the grassroots and soil for longer, keep the grass slightly longer. Don’t worry if in places, the grass turns yellow or brown! Your lawn will recover with time, once the weather cools down.
And if the proper maintenance of your garden grass area sounds like too much work or you simply don’t have the time, the skills and all the fancy tools, you can always take advantage of our lawn care expertise and get a professional gardener to tend regularly to your lawn’s needs.
Did you find this post helpful? Do you have some other useful lawn care tips for this spring and summer? We’ll be glad if you share them in the comment box below!