Early lawn care is the key
As a timely reminder that the growing season has begun I saw the first dandelion flower in my lawn this week. Nothing stands out more in the garden than its bright yellow flower heads against the green the lawn. While it is not a welcome sight I do thank the dandelion for being so blatant and not camouflaging its self in the way many other lawn weeds do. They certainly announce their arrival.
I've heard the distant buzz of mowers too. Having been dusted off they are now giving the first cut in what we hope will be a fantastic growing year. All this has focused my attention on my own lawn. It's a good time to evaluate your lawns condition just now. Take a few minutes to walk over it looking out for moss, weeds, and any bare or wet spots. All in all my own lawn is not in bad shape mainly thanks to the reasonably dry winter I think. Strangely though there does seem to be quite a lot of moss despite this.
It is still a little early to apply a granular weed and feed to your lawn, I feel mid April is a better time. By then the lawn will have had a couple of cuts, the soil temperatures will be higher and the days longer. Waiting a few weeks will give you the maximum results from your application.
There is remedial work you can be getting on with that will pay great dividends later. Firstly attack that moss. Moss in lawns usually appears in areas that are wet, shaded or compacted. In Ireland the grass tends to be damp everyday whether because of rain or heavy dews. This often leads to moss appearing just about anywhere.
This perpetual dampness is a reason I prefer to always catch my grass clippings rather than using a mulcher mower. Mulcher mowers have special blade that chop grass cuttings very fine and spreads them back over the lawn. The idea is that these find cuttings will shrivel and dry out in the sun and add nutrients back into the soil. In our damp climate they never have the chance to dry out properly and this fact is compounded each week as new clipping fall on top of those already there. In the long term this builds up and creates 'thatch' . a name used to describe dead and decaying plant matter in lawns. This is a haven for moss and weed growth.
Moss treating can be done now by applying sulphate of iron at a rate of thirty grams per square metre, that's about a handful. Always use gloves when handling and spreading and take care not to get it on patios as it may stain. Try to apply in warm weather but when rain is forecast within a few days. Over the next week or two the moss will go an unsightly black, don't panic this is to be expected. After three weeks take a springbox rake or scarifying machine, these can be hired, and rake out all the blackened moss. This will allow air back around the grass roots and encourage strong new growth.
Another job that can be done is to spot spray any tough perennial weeds with a selective lawn weed killer. Selective weed killers kill only broadleaf plants like dandelions, daisies and docks while leaving the grass alone. Do this a few days after mowing. This will get you ahead of the game before you apply your granular weed and feed later.
Keep an eye on those dandelion as you don't want those bright yellow flowers developing into fluffy seed heads that will disperse throughout the garden. If you see them pick the flowers off even if you have sprayed them as in a last desperate attempt to propagate they will still run to seed.
In wet areas try to improve the drainage. You can do this by using a hollow tine aerating machine, these too can be hired, or hollow tine fork. This is a method that removes a small plug of soil from your lawn leaving a hole into which you brush a coarse sand. Alternatively you can use a garden fork and push this well into the ground and wiggly it a little. Do this every six inches or so and again brush in sand. A word of warning, using a solid tine like a garden fork can increase compaction around the created holes. It is still very useful for surface compaction caused by footfall and mowers.
If you have lawn edges that were overgrown with plants during the summer that have left bare patches you can solve this now. Take an edging iron or spade and cut two inches deep square around the problem area. Lift these sod of grass and reverse them so that the bare patch is now internal to the lawn and the side that was lawn is now your new edge. Lightly cultivate the bare patch and resow with grass seed. Be careful when applying weed and feed or spraying that you stay clear of the newly seeded area.
If you intend to cut for the first time this week don't go at it too hard. Allow three cuts over the next few weeks to get the grass down to the level you normally achieve. Not only is this better for the grass but it will save you a lot of heartache with blocked mowers.