Friday 23 August 2019

Don't give up on your lawn yet

By Andrew Collyer - Practical Gardening

We have hit the holiday season and you may think you have ticked off all the boxes in the gardening jobs column. Pots planted with summer colour, vegetables happily growing away, borders weeded, hedges trimmed and the grass weeded, fed and regularly mown. But be wary - lurking out there in your lawn a second wave of weeds are coming. In fact, they never went away: they were always there. Incognito. Now is the time to give your lawn the once over again.

The spring weed killer and regular mowing may have taken care of many of your lawns weed problems but there are some slowly creeping pernicious weeds still at large. To the lazy eye these looked green and part of the grass in spring so tightly matted to the grass sward were they. Now there are flowering, no longer hiding their presence. Brazen. Its time to act. These are the tough guys that one application of weed and feed won't kill.

Clover, speedwell, helxine or baby's tears and lesser trefoil are the main culprits. All are resistant to most selective lawn weedkillers and even when they are suseptible they will require repeat applications just to control them. They are all prolific spreaders and can dominate a lawn in a couple of years. Mowing doesn't effect them as they grow so closely to the ground the mower cuts over them.

Lesser trefoil and speedwell are annuals but they tend to be a permanent fixture in your grass whatever the season. They will over winter as seeds, seedlings or young plants. Lesser trefoil has a very tiny clover type leaf and spheres of tiny yellow flowers at various times during the year. Speedwell has a tiny nettle like leaves and tiny violet type blue flowers. Both are prolific seeders and spread rapidly in growth.

Clover is the bane of most lawns, along with moss, in Ireland. Clover is perennial and is very obvious in grass in the summer when it tends to be darker green than your lawn. It is less obvious in spring and winter. Come June it announces itself in a fine carpet of white flowers. It is notoriously tough to get out of lawns and often control is the only option. You probably won't eradicate it completely.

Helxine, aka Baby's Tears, aka Mind your own Business is another perennial spreader that has tiny round leaves. It gives the impression of moss from a distance. Like moss it is particularly fond of damp shade. It is also often seen growing in shady paving crack or on damp stone wall.

So what to do about these creeping horrors. Firstly you could just ignore them. Driving around the country at the moment most lawns I see appear to be made up of mostly clover anyway. And that's fine 'at least it's green' as they say - and, if it doesn't bother you, great. But if you want to combat and control these weeds take a trip to your garden centre or farmers' co-op and ask for a selective lawn weedkiller that is effective on clover. If it works on clover it will work on anything.

I spot spray the infested areas rather than blanket spraying the whole lawn. You will also need to be committed as two or three treatment will be required. And here's the bad news, chances are you will doing the same again next year but you will have a lawn to be proud of.

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