Early spring lawn care essential
Lift and divide snowdrops even if in flower.
Hamamelis x intermedia 'Pallida'-spidery fragrant yellow flowers
I hope you all took my advice from a few weeks ago and got in before the rush by getting your lawn mower serviced. There are few things more frustrating than a mower that dosen't start come spring, particularly a pull start mower which can double for an aerobic workout in some cases.
With the weather having been so wet and mild this winter our lawns have put on an exceptional amount of growth during this time. If like me you need a ride on mower to cut your grass and if like me you haven't had a hope of getting that mower over the bog that used to be your lawn last summer, your grass is probably now quite long. If you can mow with a push mower you may have just about got away with a couple of unseasonal winter cuts. Either way by staying off your grass area as much as possible has in the long term been a good and correct thing to do.
The amount of surface compaction and resulting problems working on a saturated lawn causes can not be overestimated. Poor growth, poor drainage, detrimental wear and the encouragement of weeds and moss. Your grass won't have minded being left to grow long, in fact it has strengthen the root system and anyway after a couple of cuts into spring it will be back as neat and tidy as last year.
My grass is still a dry week away from taking a ride on mower but my plan of action then, if we ever get that week, is to first of all lightly cut the top of the grass. You will know your own cutting heights according to your mower but I summer cut at 2 out of 7 heights available. I will start cutting at 5 or even 6 first cut this year then hopefully give it 5 days rest before dropping down to 3 or 4. I will then leave it to rest again for a week and cut at 3. Only at this stage will I start any remedial works that are required.
My first task will be to re edge,to define, my lawn from my plant beds. Any plants that have flopped over onto the lawn should already have been cut back but if not do so now. As part of this process I may encounter bare patches where the aforementioned plants that fell over the lawn during summer have killed it off. Here I will lift a sod of turf incorporating the bare patch and reverse it so the live grass part of the sod is now the border edge and the bare patch is internal to the rest of the lawn. I will then resow the bare patch.
Within a couple of months this patching up will have become unrecognisable from the rest of the lawn. Regular trimming of these plants in the summer can stop this problem but it is all too tempting to let them tumble colourfully around.
Next I will treat any moss using sulphate of iron. This is available from garden centres and can be applied using gloves by hand at around 10 grams per metre or diluted and sprayed on at 10 grams per 2 litres of water drenching the moss well. Spraying is particularly useful for large lawns. This should turn the moss black within a couple of days. After a week you can use a springbok rake to remove it but on large lawns this is not practical. Machines can sometimes be found from hire shops that will do this on a large scale.
Next, on a still day of 10 degrees or more in temperature, I will go over the lawn with a selective lawn weed killer and spot spray any visible weeds. A selective lawn weed killer kills only broad leaved plants and weeds not grasses so use carefully near plants in borders and be careful for spray drift.
Any areas that appear to be suffering from compaction I will aerated using a garden fork dug into the lawn at six inch intervals a full tine depth. These areas will then be top dressed with coarse washed sand or grit working it into the holes left be the fork tines. This will help with the compaction and any drainage problems.
It is too early in the year to start feeding the grass, this should be left until April, but some early spring lawn care will improve your results later in the year.