A smooth, rich green lawn can lift the look of the entire garden and it’s a surefire way to improve the value of your property. After a long hot summer many lawns are far from green. But with autumn on our side its amazing how quickly a parched wasteland can be transformed into a lush emerald carpet.
|Autumn is the very best time to sow a brand new lawn or renovate a patchy pasture into a luscious green carpet that will lift the entire garden. March provides ideal conditions for lawn seed because warm soils combine with autumn showers and, unlike springtime, there are relatively few weeds sprouting.
|Broadleaf weeds create unsightly blemishes in your smooth green carpet, but they can be easily eradicated using a selective herbicide, which kills the weeds without harming the grass. Ideally spray when the weeds are small to avoid creating bare patches. For those who would rather not use chemicals, special ‘grubber’ tools are available.
|Choose a lawn seed to suit your lifestyle. Most lawn seed brands contain a mix of grass types. Some are slow growing, requiring less mowing. Some are super tough for high traffic areas, and some are better suited than others for heavy soils, dry or shady areas. Select the best product for your soil, climate and use, while giving the look you want.
|Drainage is essential for a thick green lawn. If your site is poorly drianed it is worth installing drainage tiles before laying a new lawn. Otherwise it may always be weedy and thin.
|Edges are important. Simple lawn shapes with well-defined edges are both easy on the eye and easy to maintain. A garden with crisp clean edges always looks tidy, but edge maintenance is one of the more time consuming jobs. The more complicated and curvy your garden beds, the more edging you will have.
|Feed your lawn in autumn and spring to support the flush of growth. For a new lawn, apply a lawn fertiliser to the area and rake it into the top 2cm of soil just prior to sowing. Make sure you choose a product suitable for new lawns and apply it at the recommended rate. Too much can burn the young grass. After the first three or four cuts, make another light application.
|Ground preparation prior to sowing makes all the difference. First spray the entire lawn area with glysophate (Roundup). It takes up to two weeks for the weeds and old grasses to die completely. Next dig or cultivate to a depth of 10-15cm, rake and level. A roller helps to create a firm even seed bed. If there is time, wait another two weeks to allow any weed seeds to germinate and then spray again two weeks before sowing. Topsoil may be a worthwhile investment, especially on new building sites. Make sure any topsoil you buy is weed free. The seed bed for a new lawn should ideally have a good 10-15cm of topsoil.
|Hollows and sunken areas that have a good cover of turf may be remedied without sowing any seed: Cut and peel back a section of turf and fill underneath with topsoil or lawn mix. Carefully replace the turf and water thoroughly.
|Irrigation is essential to keep a newly sown lawn constantly damp. Water regularly using a fine mist spray, daily in the absence of rain or up to several times a day in hot or windy conditions. Avoid over watering as this can lead to problems such as ‘damping-off’ disease, which kills tiny grass seedlings as they emerge from their seeds. Established lawns need regular moisture in order to stay green. In dry climates with summer water restrictions, choose a drought tolerant lawn variety.
|June and July are easy months as growth slows and lawns need less mowing. Lift the mower blades for winter mowing, and avoid mowing wet ground. However, winter can be a great time for lawn maintenace while the rest of the garden sleeps - remove weeds, reduce compaction and apply lime if your soil is acidic (below pH6). In warmer climates the lawn continues to slowly grow, enabling overseeding of bare patches.
|Kikuyu grass is considered a weed in many situations, but it makes an excellent lawn for dry seaside gardens. It is extremely drought tolerant but killed by frost.
|Large areas of new lawn are easier to prepare with the help of a rotary hoe. Cultivate to a depth of 8-10cm, then tread across the area with your boots to eliminate any soft spots (potential hollows) and rake to create a smooth flat surface. Don’t cultivate the soil when it is wet.
|Mow regularly to encourage thick growth, discouraging weeds. For a new lawn, wait until it is 5cm high before the first cut. For the first three of four cuts, set the mower at its highest level to remove only the top 1cm of grass, then gradually lower the level over the next few months. Make sure the lawnmower blades are sharp.
|Nitrogen is what a lawn needs most to support lush green growth, but a good lawn fertiliser contains the correct proportions of nitrogen and other essential nutrients. Phosphorus is essential for healthy root growth, the foundation of your lawn. Most lawn fertilisers also contain a little iron sulphate to reduce moss, and potassium for disease resistance. Use lighter applications of fertiliser for new lawns. Some lawn fertilisers are for established lawns only.
|Over-seeding is a technique often used by professional contractors to renovate a worn-out lawn without replacing it completely. For the home gardener, repairing and patching small areas by overseeding is easily done without any special equipment. Autumn is an ideal time. Before sowing you must prepare the ground so that the seed can make good contact with the soil. Mow the lawn short and then remove debris and weeds. Use a hard steel rake to remove thatch and create shallow grooves in the soil. For extra assurance, sprinkle over some weed-free topsoil or lawn mix, then scatter the seed, and water gently with a sprinkler or watering can. Water to keep the seed bed moist and feed as you would a new lawn.
|Pests that chew on our lawn roots include grass grubs, black beetle grubs, porina caterpillars. These pests can kill the grass leading to unsightly brown patches. Yates Soil Insect Killer is an easy to use treatment for these pests. Take care to keep children and pets away from any chemicals applied to lawns. Pay attention to safety information given on the packaging.
Fungus diseases that affect lawns include brown patch, dollar spot, fairy rings, fusarium patch, and red thread. Maintaining a well drained, well fed lawn plus regular removing and removal of lawn clippings are the best ways to prevent these diseases, which are most prevalent in warm humid conditions. Yates Greenguard offers effective treatment.
|Question how much lawn you really need. Big is not always better. Rationalise your space and allocate lawns the sunniest, flattest areas with the best drainage. Why not convert shady, sloping or fiddly little areas of lawn into areas of mass planting, paving or steps. Make lawn mowing easier by minimising the number of trees that need mowing around.
Reduce compaction and improve water absorption by aerating the lawn allowing more air and water to get to the roots. Using a garden fork to punch holes can be very effective, but for very compact lawns, core aeration is an even better way to relieve compaction. This process uses an ‘aerator’ machine to remove small plugs of grass and soil.
|Sow seed on a fine day, ideally when a rain shower is imminent. A good way to ensure an even distribution is to measure out the recommended quanity for your area divide it into two lots. Scatter half in a north-south direction then the other half at right angles, in an east-west direction. Lightly rake, or use a roller to ensure seed is in good contact with the soil. Germination takes one to two weeks depending on seed variety. Wear gloves when handling seed and wash your hands after use.
|Thatch is a build up of dead grass and other organic debris which blocks water and light and can lead to disease problems. An annual ‘dethatching’, using a metal rake to remove the build up helps keeps lawns healthy. For large areas, de-thatching machines can be hired.
|Unused areas of lawn, especially if they are in shade or on steep sloping ground will look better and be easier to care for if mass planted in low maintenance ground cover.
|Velvet textured lawns made of very fine grasses look and feel divine, but they take the most work keep them looking good and are not as hard wearing as other lawn types. However you may consider it well worth the effort for your showpiece area of lawn.
|Weeds love poorly drained, dry or hungry lawns. They’re best avoided by keeping your lawn healthy. Moss appears in shady, poorly drained or poorly fed lawns. Moss killers can sprayed in spring or autumn but the moss will reappear if conditions remain the same. However, spraying a young lawn with a selective herbicide prevents spring weeds and prickles getting hold before the lawn has a chance to fully mature. Don’t spray with weedkiller for at least two months after sowing.
|X is for X-factor. According to research, a beautiful lawn is the best thing you can give your garden in order to improve the value of your property.
|Yellow patches can be due to pet urine, other forms of chemical burn such as herbicide or excessive fertiliser. It may also be caused by insect or fungus disease.
|Zap those prickles with Prickle Weed Killer. Apply it in October when the prickle weeds are growing but before they set their vicious seeds.
For a thick weed free lawn, frequent light (once a week to remove about a third of the growth) mowing is best.
Mower blades should remain raised while the weather is hot and dry. As autumn growth picks up they can be lowered.
When growth slows down in winter, reduce mowing until spring growth kicks in.
Don’t mow when the lawn is frosty or wet.