Packed with hundreds of gardening projects, from planting herbs in pots to creating a vegetable garden to feed the family, How to Grow Practically Everything (DK, 2010) gives complete beginners the confidence and know-how to grow almost anything. Each project is a complete package, with step-by-step photographic details and sumptuous end shots to ensure great results. In this excerpt, find a guide to taking care of your lawn — top lawn care tips such as mowing, watering, feeding, weeding and fall lawn care.
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A verdant lawn makes a wonderful foil for flower borders and creates an emerald focal point in winter when color is in short supply. There are different types of turf for different situations but all lawns benefit from regular mowing and care and attention in the spring and autumn.
Mowing and Watering
Mow grass whenever it is growing, providing the ground isn’t too wet or icy to walk on. In spring, mow once a week with the blades at their highest setting, and gradually lower them as growth accelerates. Use a box to collect the clippings, which can be composted, or use a “mulching mower” which doesn’t remove the grass but chops it into fine pieces, returning nutrients to the lawn. Rake thick patches of clippings, which will damage the turf. In summer, a high-quality lawn may need cutting three times a week, but in autumn, as growth slows, once or twice a week should suffice. In dry periods, water newly laid turf, freshly sown areas, and high-quality laws. Leave established lawns unwatered, but stop mowing, as longer grass helps protect the roots. The grass may turn brown, but will recover once rain returns.
When to Water the Lawn
Water a new lawn every week in dry spells, until it is established. You can tell when fine lawns need watering as they lose their spring when walked on. Reduce water evaporation by using sprinklers early in the morning or at night. Move seep hoses by 20 cm (8in) every half an hour.
The amount of fertilizer you need to maintain lush green depends on how rich the underlying soil is, and if you occasionally leave the clippings on the lawn, which help top up the soil nutrients. Apply granular or liquid lawn fertilizer at least once a year. Spring and early summer feeds are high in nitrogen to boost leaf growth; products for use in early autumn are low in nitrogen but high in potassium to aid grass roots in winter. Do not overfeed as this can result in weak growth and fungal problems.
Divide the lawn into a grid of meter squares using canes. Apply fertilizer at a rate according to the pack. Hire a calibrated spreader for large lawns, and water if it doesn’t rain within three days after feeding.
Home-Made Top Dressing
Applying a sandy top dressing helps to rejuvenate lawns, especially those grown on heavy soils, by increasing drainage and encouraging strong root growth. Mix your own dressing by spreading out a sheet of plastic close to the lawn. Then, using a bucket as a single measure, combine three parts good-quality top soil or sandy loam with six parts horticultural sand and one part peat substitute, such as coir or ground composted bark. Let the mixture dry slightly so you can spread it more easily, and then work it thoroughly into the surface of the lawn.
Fall Lawn Treatment
After a summer of heavy use many lawns start showing signs of wear and tear by the end of the season. Early autumn is a great time to repair the damage and to ensure that your turf is in good condition for the year ahead.
1. Rake out moss
Kill off any moss with a lawn moss herbicide before vigorously scratching out dead material (thatch) from the lawn with a spring-tined rake; hire a motorized scarifier for large lawns. Raking improves the look and health of the turf.
2. Aerate the soil
Open up air channels in a compacted lawn by pushing a border fork into the soil, or use a hollow tiner, which pulls out plugs of soil. Work across the lawn at 10cm (4in) intervals. Repeat this process every two years.
3. Apply top dressing
After raking and aerating the lawn, work a top dressing into the holes. You can buy this premixed from garden centers and DIY stores, but it’s easy and cost effective on large lawns to make your own.
4. Brush in dressing
Work in the top dressing thoroughly using a stiff brush or besom, lightly filling the new aeration channels, and covering the ground to encourage strong rooting. Apply it evenly and make sure the grass isn’t smothered.
5. Feed and sow
Wearing gloves, apply a granular autumn lawn fertilizer evenly over marked out squares. Water in if no rain falls within three days of applying it. In early autumn, the soil is sufficiently warm and moist to sow grass seed too. Sprinkle seed to match your lawn type at half the recommended rate for new lawns to help thicken up any bald spots.
Acidic lawns are prone to mess and weed growth. Check soil pH in winter and raise it by applying ground chalk or limestone at a rate of 50g per sq metre (2 oz per 10 sq ft). Apply a lawn weedkiller in spring or summer, and repeat in early autumn to remove any remaining weeds. Organize gardeners can grub out creeping buttercups, daises, and tap-rooted weeds, like dandelions, using an old knife.
This excerpt has been reprinted with permission from How to Grow Practically Everything by Zia Allaway and Lia Leendertz and published by DK, 2010. Buy this book from our store: How to Grow Practically Everything.