Spring lawn TLC
A cool, shady winter can take quite a toll on even well-maintained lawns so, if yours is still suffering from a case of the post-winter blues, don’t feel that you’ve dropped the ball.
If you understand the underlying problems and apply the right remedies, your lawn will thank you for it.
A little work now will see your patch of grass looking fabulous in next to no time and will set it up well for the warmer months ahead.
Here’s our easy guide to getting it lush, green and healthy.
For soil to support quality plant growth, it needs to have spaces that air, water and nutrients can be transferred through.
This can be hard to achieve in lawns, as the soil is constantly being compacted, so the simple way to fix this is through aeration.
SPIKED LAWN ROLLERS are an easy and efficient way to aerate large lawns. Pick up a roller from your local hire shop, fill it with water, then pull it around the lawn.
GARDEN FORKS are ideal for small areas. Drive the fork about 50mm into the soil and gently rock it back and forth.
Repeat every 50mm across the compacted area.
Work backwards to avoid walking on the aerated parts.
Compacted soil reduces the movement of water, air and nutrients to the grass roots, leading to tired-looking turf and worn or dead patches. Here’s how to aerate it.
It wasn’t that long ago that the must-do spring chore for the lawn lover was topdressing.
Today, topdressing is really just done to fix lumps and bumps.
But that’s not to say that giving your lawn a full topdress isn’t an option, as the results are well worth the effort.
If you do decide to topdress, feed the lawn about a week beforehand and only use a specialist mix, which is available in bags from your local landscape supplier.
This mix is generally made up of 70-80% very fine organic matter with river sand.
Apply only a light covering and don’t water in the mix until the new growth punches through, as a hard crust may form.
Leaf mould produces a wonderful end product that can be dug in to improve any soil, used as mulch or incorporated into potting mix.
It’s easy to overlook weeds, but they can cause the biggest problems with your lawn by creating dead patches when they suck out nutrients and overshadow your grass.
Many weeds can be adequately controlled through feeding your lawn and regular mowing, but sometimes you need a more direct approach.
This is still the most reliable way to weed the lawn. A variety of modern tools are available to help you weed, or you can use an old-fashioned daisy grubber.
WEAR gloves while weeding, as some have prickles and others have mildly caustic sap.
PULL up the weeds, roots and all, to prevent them growing back.
AVOID shaking the weeds to prevent the spread of seeds.
KEEP a bucket on hand to toss the weeds into, then dispose of them in your green waste. Spot-weeding You can use selective weedkillers to spot-spray lawn weeds or use diluted all-purpose herbicide.
The important thing to remember is that non-selective herbicides will kill or damage all plants, so any overspray onto the lawn will cause harm.
If not using a ready-to-use pack, then there are two easy ways of applying herbicide to the lawn when spot-weeding.
BRUSH on using an old paintbrush or a special-purpose device such as the Yates Zero Weeding Brush.
SPRAY on to spot-treat the weeds. There are hooded spray heads available for many spray units, but remember that you’re still likely to get a certain amount of overspray.
Any weed takes nutrients away from the grass. With lawns, prevention is key, as healthy grass will out-compete most weeds. But if they’ve taken hold, there are ways to deal with them.
The most popular way to deal with weeds in the lawn is by using selective herbicide products, particularly the weed-and-feed type.
ENSURE they are applied at the correct rate or you will damage the lawn.
CHECK the product is rated as buffalo-safe if you have a buffalo lawn such as Sir Walter or Palmetto.
Here are four common weeds and how to eliminate them from the lawn.
Want to take the easiest option for caring for your lawn?
Simply fertilise with a quality lawn food.
A healthy lawn can often out-compete weeds, killing them naturally, and is more able to repair its own scrappy patches.
If you use a fertiliser with an organic component, you’ll also be feeding the soil, not just the grass.
This gradually improves the quality of the soil, which will aid aeration and drainage.
If you’re finding dead areas in your lawn for no reason, then curl grubs could be the culprits.
These are the larvae of a small black beetle that lives and grows in the soil, feeding on the roots and leaves of the grass.
The giveaway that you have curl grubs is when you can grab the dead-looking grass and it comes away from the soil easily.
Use environmentally friendly Eco-Neem to solve the problem.
Dog urine is a great spot-killer of lawns.
Urine is high in nutrients, but as it is delivered in a concentrated form, it will scorch the grass and cause dead spots.
This can be avoided by training your dog to keep off the grass altogether or to only use one or two spots in the garden.
There are three main points to consider when replacing a lawn.
If the lawn is in a sunny position, the soft-leafed buffalo Sir Walter is ideal. If the area is shady, you will need grass that has a higher shade tolerance. This is sold under codes, such as ST91, which means it has 91% tolerance.
Take into account the local climate. Fescue grasses are very tolerant of hot, dry conditions, while Velvetene is ideal in warm, coastal situations.
Select a variety to suit your level of wear and tear. Running grasses such as buffalo or kikuyu self-repair to cover bare patches much faster than clumping grasses like fescues.
Did you know?
Here are a few facts and figures that might just make you love your lawn even more.
- Well-managed turf works effectively as a carbon sink, capturing carbon emissions.
- A healthy 450sqm lawn can absorb more than 11,000L or 25mm of rain without significant runoff. This reduces erosion and the burden on stormwater systems.
- The root mass of a lawn acts like a filtration system, trapping excess nutrients and other substances, and stops them reaching waterways.
- Lawns absorb CO2 and generate oxygen.
- A standard 15 x 15m lawn will produce enough oxygen to sustain a family of four.
- In summer, a healthy lawn will maintain a surface temperature at least 10°C lower than bare soil and other hard surfaces.
For large jobs, you’ll need bulk materials.
Talk to your local landscape supplier and explain that you need a turf underlay soil mix.
To calculate the volume you need, measure length by breadth and then the desired depth.
Assuming your area is level, about 20-40mm of new soil is adequate.
So an area of 5 x 5m to a depth of 20mm would need half a cubic metre of soil.
Your supplier can convert this into tonnage for you.
You’ll need turf delivered in bulk, so check with your supplier about what access they need for delivery, as they often use an all-terrain mini forklift to move the turf to your site.
Also, ensure you have a spot cleared for the delivery.
Sometimes a lawn reaches a tipping point where it has become too badly worn and you need to do some serious work to get it looking good again.
You can try to refresh a seriously degraded lawn, but you’ll likely end up investing more time and money without ever getting a quality result.
The simple fact is that if your lawn has more weeds and bare patches than grass, then it’s time to lay new turf to restore it to health.