Overhaul your lawn – by Pippa Greenwood
It has rained so much in recent months and the ground has become so wet that there have been times when I’ve thought that my garden might be about to turn into a paddy-field! The flower and vegetable beds are starting to pick up remarkably well, but it is the lawn that seems to have taken the most obvious battering. Over-wet conditions can cause roots to die off and will reduce the oxygen in the soil. Worse still, any areas of the lawn that you’ve had to walk on, albeit infrequently, or over which you’ve had to move a wheelbarrow or other fairly weighty bit of equipment, will have become compacted or squashed. It may not be obvious but the air spaces that should be plentiful in the soil will have been dramatically reduced, and the heavier your soil is, the worse the problem is likely to be. So if you want your grass to be as green as it should be and ready for the summer use it’s likely to get, it’s time to get to work now.
Check over your lawn mower and see to anything that needs sorting. If it’s too much to take on yourself, take it to a reputable outlet for a service as soon as possible – you’ll need it even more in a few weeks’ time! Once it is working well again, you’ll be surprised at how much quicker and easier each mowing session becomes.
In most areas of the country grass will have started to grow quite a bit faster recently and so may need cutting. Make sure that you don’t set the blades too low for the first few cuts, as this will weaken the growth and make it more likely that weeds will start to invade.
You can relieve some of the soil compaction to allow air down to the roots, making for better growth and healthier grass. Do this after you’ve mown the lawn. If only small areas are compacted, use a garden fork and drive it into the lawn every 4-6 inches or so, trying to get the tines of the fork to a depth of 4-6 inches as well. Once the tines are in the soil, gently ease the handle of the fork back and forth to enlarge each hole. You now have some drainage holes.
If you mix up some sieved garden soil or loam with horticultural sand (about one part soil/loam to nine parts sand) you can brush this mixture across the lawn and into the holes you’ve made. The result is a drainage system over those compacted areas.
If the soil in the garden is quite heavy or contains a lot of clay, the chances are that these last few months will have done a lot of damage and the whole lawn will benefit from aerating. For an enduring and even more useful effect, buy, borrow or hire a ‘hollow-time aerator’, either as a hand operated one, a machine or a mower attachment. This will actually cut cylinders of soil out of your lawn, and when filled with the ‘top-dressing’ mix above will result in much longer-lasting drainage channels.
Moss might look good and green right now, but it tends to look miserable later in the year as it dries out and becomes brown. So apply some moss killer and then rake it all out after the time specified on the pack. It will make your lawn look worse initially, but allows more air to the roots of the grass plants and gives them more space to grow and spread too.
Lawns that have suffered from serious waterlogging will really benefit from a suitable feeding regime. Poor growth and over-wet conditions will have put these plants under a lot of stress. Whether you choose a granular or liquid feed, make sure that it is a spring lawn food, as this will be formulated specially to give the balance of nutrients lawns need now. If you do use a granular feed, ensure that you water it in unless it rains shortly after you’ve applied it.
Walking on a very wet lawn soon wears it out and kills off grasses. Get these bare or bald areas sorted now and by the time the summer comes it won’t look like a patchwork. Roughen up the bare or thin areas using a rake and then sprinkle a suitable seed mix on to match in with the existing grasses. If you’ve not got many patches to sow, you can buy small patch repair packs to keep the cost down.
Once all the work is done, and it may well take several hours in total (depending on the size of the lawn and exactly how damaged and waterlogged it was), try your best to keep off it for a few weeks to allow it to bask in all that pampering and take advantage of all the TLC and grow away really well.
Visit Pippa’s website www.pippagreenwood.com and you’ll find some great gardening things: ‘Grow Your Own with Pippa Greenwood’ (where you receive your chosen garden-ready vegetable plants in May accompanied by weekly advice and tips from Pippa) plus Nemaslug, bio-controls, gardening tools, raised bed kits, Grower Frames, signed books and more!