How to care for your lawn

A large expanse of lawn can create a wonderful feeling of space in any garden and blends perfectly with colourful flower beds as well as allowing space to play and relax.

Once it’s sown or laid it only needs watering and cutting during the summer months.

Preparing for your new lawn

  • Timing: the best time to create new lawns is spring or early autumn.
  • Sizing: measure the area before buying seeds or turf taking into account any borders and paths.
  • Preparation: the soil preparation is important so prepare a few weeks in advance by clearing any weeds, rubbish and large stones. Dig or rotovate and level the top 15-25 cm. If the soil is wet, clay or prone to water logging, drainage may be needed.
  • Measurements: mark out the area you want preparing an area that’s 15-25cm larger so that the grass or turf can be cut to a firm edge when fully established.
  • Out with the old: kill of any old grass and weeds using a general weed killer.
  • Fertilise: sprinkle a balanced fertiliser over the area such as bone meal.
  • Compost: if possible, dig in compost or well-rotted manure and leave the ground to settle for a fortnight.
  • Level: rake over the ground to make it level.
  • Flatten: tread the ground flat by moving across the area or use a roller on larger areas if the ground is dry.

Sowing a lawn from seed

  • When to sow: for best results sow late March to May, sowing is also possible late September or October if autumn rains have started.
  • Waiting time: seeds are a cheap option for a new lawn but you will have to wait at least three months to use it and nine months before it can withstand wear and tear.
  • Pre-prepared seed: You can buy packets of grass seed, lawn seed or garden grass already prepared for a family lawn, shady lawn or a fine lawn.
  • Sow evenly: start at the furthest point and sow evenly at 50g per square metre; a hand-held spreader will allow you to sow evenly or fill a plastic flowerpot with seed and shake the seeds out of the holes in the base.
  • Avoid dust: use a mask when sowing to avoid breathing in the dust that comes out the seeds.
  • Nourish seeds: rake a thin layer of soil over the seed and keep well watered.
  • Protect the area: to deter birds and cats place canes around the area strung with black cotton.

Laying a lawn with turf

  • Invest wisely: if you want an immediate lawn buy good quality lawn turf as cheap turf options may contain weeds, pests and diseases.
  • Get the timing right: turf is best laid in late summer or early spring but avoid very wet days or when the ground is frozen.
  • Use straightaway: make sure they are delivered on the day you intend to lay them although they will keep for 3-5 days.
  • Lay in rows: lay the first row along a straight edge then place a plank on them to spread your weight while you lay the second row.
  • Stagger the squares: this will make the lawn look even.
  • Hydration: water well or the edge of each turf will curl up.
  • Stay away: avoid walking on your new lawn for 6 weeks.

Watering your lawn

  • Lawns are thirsty: newly planted lawns need plenty of water. A garden hose is essential but a spinning sprinkler that spreads water over a rectangular area makes life easy.
  • Keep an eye on costs: Lawn irrigation will cost more if your water is metered.
  • When to water: it is better to water thoroughly from time to time rather than little, and often and avoid watering in the heat of the day or during a drought.

Mowing your lawn

When your lawn is around 8cm long, start mowing regularly.

  • Blade height: For the first mow of spring and for new grass, keep the blades as high as possible; then gradually lower the blades.
  • Do not mow: when grass is wet or during a drought.
  • Safety first: for electric lawnmowers you should use a circuit breaker for your own safety.
  • On the edges: use a half moon tool for cutting the edges of newly laid turf and existing lawns. Hold it vertically against the side of a flat board. Long-handled edging shears can also be used to neaten borders.
  • Hot weather conditions: raise the blades when mowing in very hot weather.
  • Frost report: stop mowing once frost starts.

Feeding your lawn

Feed your lawn twice a year in spring and autumn to keep it looking dense and lush.

  • Dry conditions: use a liquid lawn fertiliser to minimise grass scorching in very dry weather.
  • In autumn: use a garden fork to create a series of holes to aerate the lawn then sprinkle sand to create lasting drainage channels.

Feeding your lawn

Keep weeds at bay by either hand weeding or applying a selective weed killer that kills the weeds but not the grass.

  • Moss: kill moss with a moss killer, then rake it out.
  • Repair bare patches: either with lawn turf or re-seeding with grass seed.

Caring for your lawn in winter

  • Don’t walk: never walk on frozen or frost-covered grass as it causes damage and can make the grass susceptible to disease.
  • Clear debris: to avoid disease keep the grass clear of leaves and debris with a springy rake.

Year-round care

  • January: Never walk on the lawn when it’s frosty as the grass will be damaged or killed and when the surface is soft or wet this can lead to compaction and therefore root damage.
  • February: Have your lawnmower serviced to avoid the rush.
  • March: Spike badly drained lawns using a fork or aerator and brush in a mixture of sand and peat or peat substitute. Mossy lawns can be treated with granular or liquid moss killer. Rake or scarify the lawn to remove the moss once it has died (it should turn black).
  • April: Feed with a lawn fertiliser or a combined fertiliser/weed killer. Do not apply a selective weed killer until two or three weeks after feeding.
    Mow established lawns with blades of your lawnmower set not too low at first. On lawns where moss or weeds have been removed, cut grass as low as possible, rake the soil surface and then sow a good quality grass seed at 50g per square metre and rake in. The new grass will fill in the gaps, preventing further weed or moss growth and will generally improve the appearance of the lawn.
  • May: Mow at least once a week. Continue to spike and feed if not already done in April.
  • June: It may be necessary to mow at least once a week. Further applications of a selective weed killer may be required to kill persistent weeds such as clover.
  • July: Continue to mow but not too low in very dry conditions. Water in dry spells unless there is a water shortage. For small weeds use a spot lawn weed killer or remove physically with a daisy grubber.
  • August: Mow your lawn as required and do not allow to dry out.
  • September: Apply autumn lawn fertiliser. Re-sow worn patches and start to raise the lawnmower blades when mowing. Apply a selective weed killer if necessary. Repeat moss treatment and remove dead moss by raking or scarifying and re-sow in April.
  • October: In mild weather the lawn may still require regular mowing.
  • November: Sweep up any leaves as they fall as they may kill the grass if left. Make final mowing early in the month if required.
  • December: Clean your lawnmower, lubricate moving parts and lightly cover with oil any parts that may rust. Mark the lawnmower with your postcode and lock it away in a garage or shed.
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