Lawn Care and Lawn Problems

What is the best kind of mower?

Buying mowers is like buying cars – there is a choice of many kinds and many prices. For a domestic lawn of say, 100 m2 (120 sq yd) a good quality 300-350 mm (12-14 in) hand mower of the traditional cylinder type and fitted with grass box is suitable. You may have to shop around for this: the fad nowadays is for powered motors (with petrol or electric engines) and with rotary cutting blades, and among these the hover types have been especially heavily promoted. Some machines, of whatever type, have grass-collecting attachments and some have not.

How is the height of cut measured?

It is not practicable to measure the actual height of the grass because fixed points are difficult to establish. Instead heights are described in terms of the mower setting. With a cylinder mower the height of cut measured is the distance between a straight edge laid from front to back roller and the cutting edge of the bottom blade. With side wheel mowers and some rotary mowers the straight edge is laid from roller to side wheel.

How often should I mow my lawn?

The aim is dense turf with an attractive appearance, so the grass should be cut whenever it visibly exceeds the norm. For very fine lawns this may mean mowing two or three times per week at the height of the growing season, though once per week suffices for the average lawn.

Is there a best height at which to mow a lawn?

For each kind of lawn, the answer is probably yes. The heights of cut suggested are: finest quality (Type 1) lawns, 6-13 mm (1/4-1/2 in); average quality (Type 2). 13-19 mm (1/2-3/4 in); and general purpose (Type 3), 19-25 mm(3/4-l in).

I do not have a grass box on my mower. Should I remove the cuttings from the lawn after mowing?

There are pros and cons to removing cuttings. Leaving them on the lawn means that mineral nutrients are returned to the soil, and the organic matter of which they mainly consist helps drought resistance. However, they release their mineral nutrients only as the organic matter decomposes – and decomposing organic matter is good earthworm food; so leaving the cuttings encourages earthworms with their unpleasant casting. It also helps to spread weeds, and may encourage disease. So, on balance, it is better to remove the cuttings.

It seems to be common practice to put away lawn mowers from October to April. However, since my lawn grows during some parts of this period, should I cut it occasionally?

If the grass gets much beyond its normal height it may be harmed if you do not cut it. Provided the weather is right – look for a mild and preferably dry spell – it is beneficial to mow whenever there is grass to mow; but do not cut it as short as in the summer.

Should I roll my lawn?

If possible, no. Rolling is harmful because it causes soil compaction, which spoils the drainage qualities of the soil, and it restricts aeration, which leads to poor root development and a weaker turf.

Do I need to rake my lawn?

Most lawns benefit from brushing with a stiff broom or raking with a wire rake about once a month to remove debris. In spring and summer, this should be done before mowing. In autumn, scarifying (vigorous raking) is also beneficial.

How do I maintain neat lawn edges?

The main needs are regular trimming with shears or special edge trimmers, avoiding treading on the lawn edge, and siting plants in adjacent beds far enough away to avoid them overhanging the lawn.

Long edges should be given permanent support. Metal-strip edging is cheap and effective; timber and concrete are longer-lasting. The top of such edging should be a little lower than the surface of the lawn so that you can mow right up to the edge. If no edging is used, you can maintain straight edges by trimming with a spade or ‘half-moon’ against the edge of a long plank.

Should I water my lawn?

Watering is beneficial if done properly and not overdone. In really dry weather give the lawn a good soaking and then allow several days partial drying out before repeating.

How often should I apply fertiliser?

Fertiliser requirements vary depending on soil, grasses present, whether cuttings are removed, and so on. Good, fine grasses such as fescues and bents are poverty grasses: in nature they typically occur on areas of low fertility such as moorland. Making the grass grow faster increases the amount of mowing you will have to do. Lawns receiving little wear may require a general lawn fertiliser only once every 5 to 10 years. Heavily worn lower-grade lawns may require feeding with balanced fertiliser at least once a year; so too may fine-grade luxury lawns.

The chief mineral nutrient required by turf is nitrogen. If there is reason to suppose that the other main nutrients (phosphate and potash) are in reasonable supply but that the grass is now growing vigorously enough, especially in the spring, you should give it a dressing of nitrogenous fertiliser, such as sulphate of ammonia at 18g/m2 O/2 oz/sq yd), diluted with a spreading agent.

How can I ensure that the fertiliser is spread evenly?

For many people spreading by hand is simplest and best. The fertiliser should be well mixed with a spreading agent such as compost, allowing about 280 g/2 m2 compost (8 oz/sq yd). If the total amount is halved then one half can be spread lengthways and the other crossways. Alternatively, especially for large lawns, the area can be divided into a number of measured squares and the material rationed out equally for each square.

Fertiliser distributors are of two types: linear distributors, which use rollers to transfer fertiliser from a hopper to a broad band of turf; and spinners, which spread by means of a quickly revolving plate. With either type it may not be necessary to dilute fertiliser with compost.

The quantity marks on my fertiliser distributor do not seem to match the amounts it applies. Why?

Materials vary in density and in ability to flow, so the marks on the distributor aim at an average. The best way to calibrate the distributor for a particular material is to fill the hopper and run the machine at working speed over a measured sheet or tray. The amount distributed can then be weighed and any necessary adjustments made to the machine setting before lawn use.

What are the advantages of applying fertiliser in solution?

Except for convenience, very few. The need for solubility restricts the kind of fertilisers which can be used. And those which are compatible and suitably soluble are not necessarily the best for turf. A solution has to be applied very carefully to avoid the grass being scorched. If it is watered in. the dilute solution tends to find the lower and softer spots least in need of fertiliser.

I have been advised to apply lawn sand to my turf. What is it?

Lawn sand is a mixture of chemicals and sand used to promote grass growth and burn out weeds, including moss. A typical formula is 3 parts sulphate of ammonia, 1 part calcined sulphate of iron, and 20 parts fine sand. This mixture would be used at a rate 140 g/m2 (4 oz/ sq yd). Proprietary lawn sands are very useful, although the advent of selective weedkillers and the new mosskillers has much reduced their popularity. Unfortunately the term ‘lawn sand’ is used to describe the sand used (without chemical admixture) as a top-dressing to smooth out the surface of the lawn. Top-dressings are used at heavy rates – 2 kg/m2 (4 lb/sq yd) is typical – and the use of a true lawn sand at this concentration would ruin the lawn.

Where the chalk lines are marked out on my lawn tennis court the turf seems much greener and more vigorous than the rest of the lawn. Does this mean that my lawn needs lime?

It does not follow at all. If you have a good lawn it is probably wise to leave well alone since lime encourages coarse grass, weeds, worms, and disease! You may see evidence of this near the chalk lines if you examine those areas carefully. It is possible that your lawn needs lime, but a laboratory soil test is the best basis on which to form an opinion. Most good lawns are on slightly acid soil.

There is a bewildering range of selective weedkillers available for treating lawns. Is any one type better than the other, or are they all effectively the same?

They are all useful if used strictly in accordance with the instructions on the labels; but they are by no means all the same. There are at least four chemicals used in these weedkillers either singly or in combinations (usually of two). Each of the chemicals is effective against some weeds but not others, so that combinations deal with a broader range of weeds than do single-chemical formulations. Different combinations deal with different ranges of weeds, so read the labels carefully to make sure which weedkiller most nearly answers your needs.

What is the best way to apply selective weedkillers to a lawn?

For a typical small suburban lawn apply the prepared solution by means of a watering can fitted with a fine rose or with a dribble bar. For large lawns you could try a roller-type applicator, which feeds the diluted weedkiller from a tank mounted on the frame so as to wet the special roller which in turn wets the foliage as it passes over the turf. Spraying is not recommended because of the risk of spray drifting onto the rest of the garden (and even into your neighbour’s).

Combined fertiliser/weedkiller powders or granules used carefully are often useful – they produce two effects from one effort!

My large lawn has only a few scattered weeds. How can I get rid of these without treating the whole lawn with selective weedkiller?

There are various ways of doing this – including hand weeding! The safest chemical way is probably to make up a correctly mixed watering-canful of a broad-spectrum selective weedkiller and. Using the rose, to sprinkle each weed lightly, trying to avoid excess. You can always repeat the treatment a week or two later, whereas grass damaged by excess weedkiller may take many weeks to recover.

So-called touch-weeders are useful against many lawn weeds – they consist of weedkilling chemicals in a piece of softish wax with which the weeds are touched quite lightly; rubbing them hard results in very brown or dead grass. Small pressurised containers of selective weed-killer are also available -but again it is very easy to apply an overdose. Spot treatment involves only small patches, so that excessive applications do not kill off the whole lawn; but there is less danger of excess if the correct amounts of weedkiller are measured out and applied to the whole area.

What is meant by the term top-dressing and what is the best way to apply it?

In horticulture top-dressing usually means applying a fertiliser, particularly a nitrogenous one, to the surface of soil bearing a crop, usually in concentrations of about 18g/m2 (1/2 oz/sq yd). In lawn management top-dressing means the application of suitable bulky material to the surface of the lawn at the rate of 1 – 3-1/2kg/m (2-7lb/sq yd). The material should then be well worked in by means of suitable equipment such as a drag brush to make the surface smooth.

What kind of material should I use for top-dressing my lawn?

Although some gardeners use them. Pure sand and peat are both unsatisfactory because they produce layers which form moisture and root breaks. Make up a synthetic compost if you are unable to buy suitable stuff read-made. For this the sand should be of medium grade, with a particle size range of 0.5-0.125 mm, it must be stable (not break down into smaller particles, for example) and it should be lime-free. A suitable mixture would be 6 parts of this sand, 1 part granulated peat, and 3 parts topsoil.

From my garden waste I have made a heap of compost resembling well-rotted farmyard manure. Would a top-dressing of this be good for the lawn?

No: it would be far better used for vegetables and flowers because it would encourage worms and weeds in the lawn.

How often should a lawn be aerated?

Regular aeration is usually essential for sports turf since the top soil becomes compacted by heavy use and possibly by rolling. Many lawns receive very little treading and no rolling so that they seldom need any mechanical aeration at all. If a particular lawn or part of a lawn does get well trodden, spiking by hand or machine could be beneficial two or three times a year. For such areas hollow-tine forking, which is very efficient at relieving top-soil compaction, could be done at a frequency of once in three years -over-frequent hollow tining leads to excessive softness and to weed invasion.

01. October 2013 by admin
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