Basics of Lawn Care
Doctors tell us that good eating habits and regular exercise is practising preventive medicine because these habits keep us healthy. The same is true for your lawn because by keeping it healthy you eliminate conditions that are favourable for weeds to grow and for disease to develop. And if your lawn grows thick and healthy there is no space for weeds.
Take a walk around your lawn and notice its overall appearance. Are some areas doing better than others? For example you might find patches of thick turf in the front yard that runs into less healthy or weed-filled areas along the side of the house. Perhaps there is one area where grass never grows no matter how much fertilizer you apply. Or you might find moss where grass never seems to grow on the south side of the house in a damp area shaded by a large tree. Part of your lawn that is choked with weeds might be downwind of a vacant block that is filled with weeds etc. The point of all this is there is a reason for the success and failure of your lawn in these areas. Much of its success depends on type of soil (where the lawn is), how much sun it gets, and the amount of water and nutrients it receives.
- Try to avoid mowing your lawn when it is wet as this can result in an uneven cut.
- Try to avoid mowing your lawn when it is very hot.
- It is a good idea to mow in different directions as it prevents the grass curving in the same way after a number of cuts.
- Do not cut grass too short otherwise your lawn may get burnt by the sun near the roots.
- Aim to cut no more than 1/3 of the length of the grass in each cut
- Mow your lawn frequently to reduce clippings, make it easier on yourself and improve the appearance of your lawn.
- Keep your lawnmower and other moving equipment clean and well maintained. Sharpen the blades of your mower once a month, especially if you hit unseen small objects or rocks. Dull blades will cost you more fuel. Or in the winter is a great time to get your mower tuned and blades sharpened or replaced before the demands of summer.
Never remove more than 1/3 of the leaf surface each time you mow. Cutting below the optimum height impedes root development, which is the key to having a dense stand of grass. If you follow the “one Third rule” you don’t have to collect grass clippings. Provided that the lawn receives sufficient moisture, the clippings decompose quickly and put nutrients back into the soil. It’s a built-in fertilization program every time you mow and it keeps them out of landfill: another environmental benefit.
Increase the mowing height by 1 – 2 centmetres for shady areas, immediately following, or when the lawn has been weakened by insect or disease injury or heavy traffic. Mow when the turf is dry and ensure your mower blades are sharp.
The goal of irrigation of your lawn is very simple: to replace the moisture that is being lost due to evaporation. Any more or any less will cause the lawn to suffer in times of stress. Water your lawn when the least amount of water will be lost to evaporation.
Watering early in the morning before the heat of the day will make sure your water goes down to the roots instead of going up in vapour. Avoid watering during the middle of the day when the heat is highest. Frequent, but shallow watering causes the grass to send roots up to the surface looking for water, where they will suffer more during hot spells. It is better to water heavily and less often. Heavy, infrequent watering encourages deep rooting of grasses that are better able to withstand drought.
Do Not Over Water. This promotes excessive growth encouraging thatch build-up and fungal attack. A common misconception is watering a little, often, especially in summer. This results in keeping a shallow root structure that can not tolerate the heated top layer of soil. Even watering can encourage fungal growth by keeping the turf damp. Watering during the day can result in over 50% loss of water through evaporation and wind drift.
Many lawn problems are caused by soil compaction, as people and vehicles repeatedly move over the lawn. Wet soils are especially prone to compaction. If your lawn is not healthy and green and is full of weeds, the whole lawn may need treating for soil compaction. Test for compaction by thrusting a garden fork into the ground. If the fork won’t go in at least half way down the tines then the lawn is compact.
To relieve compaction for small lawns a simple garden fork can be used to aerate the soil. Work the fork backwards and forwards at approximately 10 cm intervals to open up the soil. On larger lawns it may be worthwhile using a coring or aeration machine.
Acidic or Alkaline? Soil pH is a measure of its acidity and alkalinity. On a scale of 1 – 14, 1 is the most acidic and 14 is the most alkaline: 7 is neutral, neither acidic nor alkaline. The best pH for grass is between 6 (a little acidic) and 7.2 (very slightly alkaline).
What we add to soil, notably fertiliser, can change its pH. Lime raises the ph of soil, making it more alkaline, but other fertilisers tend to be acidic. Sulphate of ammonia, a fast- acting fertiliser for lawns is highly acidic and its habitual use will lower soil pH over time.
Why pH matters: When soil pH drops below or rises above its ideal for lawns certain nutrients in the soil become harder for the grass plants to extract the lawn may start to go yellow with thinner growth and no matter how much fertiliser you apply it has no effect on the grass.
How to correct: If the soil is too acidic, (that is, below pH of 6) dust the lawn with agricultural lime and water it in. If the soil is too alkaline (above pH 7.2) use the powdered sulphur or pr sulphate of ammonia dissolved in water. Don’t be too enthusiastic in your application. It is much better to raise or lower pH in small steps about a month apart than in one, big concentrated hit. After application, water the lawn well and continue to do so weekly. Test the soil again a month later when the material has had time 2 work.
Lawn Care by Season
Thatch is the layer of dead stem roots and clippings between the soil surface and green vegetation that will deprive your lawn of vital nutrients. De-thatching is a process that mechanically removes accumulated thatch using steel wire tines to lift the thatch to the surface for removal.
Fertilising should be carried out after de-thatching using a quality fertiliser.
Low spots should now be filled with washed river sand, that should be spread with a top soil spreader or timer screen at 10” in depth. At this time a quality fertiliser should also be applied to speed up the growth.
Some fungus disease may be around at this time of the year due to the warmer weather and increased humidity. Be vigilant and eradicate the fungus as soon as possible to stop the disease from spreading.
Now is the time where weeds will germinate in your lawn. Weeds should be eradicated using a chemical weed control product making sure the correct chemical is used for the specific turf variety.
Lawn Grub Control:
Lawn grubs in some areas will have started to become active, treat with quality lawn grub spray with 2 applications 7 – 10 days apart.
Some fungus disease may be around at this time of the year due to the warmer weather and increased humidity. Be vigilant and eradicate as soon as possible.
Fertilising during this period will help provide need nutrients to help your lawn during the dormant winter period ahead.
As per summer and spring, keep the weeds in check – using a quality weed control product.
Keep an eye out for any lawn disease.
Raise the mowing height at this time of the year. It is vital to raise the height of your lawn mower to aid against frost in winter because the taller growth of the lawn will help keep the ground warmer.
Fertilising and watering during winter will help to minimise the effect of browning during winter and help with early greening in spring.