Four Key Essentials For Effective Lawn Care
The four key essentials for effective lawn care include weed control, lawn mowing, fertilising and watering. Here are some practical tips on each of these common lawn care activities to make your lawn survive and thrive.
1. Weed Control
Weeds are impossible to avoid in a lawn, let alone a garden. Seeds are dropped by birds and are borne by the wind from neighbouring houses and tracts of land.
Around 98% of my clients, this year, had Winter Grass (Poa annua). (I mention Winter Grass because it was the only weed in the lawn that was seeding and too late to control.) Winter Grass stands about 100mm high and begins to seed in late August. Yates makes a chemical called ‘Winter Grass Killer’ and will kill both seeds and juvenile plants. This is best applied in early Autumn (March) and an eye should be kept out on individual plants that might be growing throughout the winter as, ideally, we want to remove it from the lawns.
Most other weeds are easier to control. Most of these are considered ‘broad-leafed weeds’ and are more easily removed by a wider range of herbicides. The harder to remove weeds include Basket grass, Creeping oxalis, Onion weed, Pennywort and Guildford grass which may require chemicals not normally stocked by the likes of hardware stores or nurseries.
Pre-emergent herbicides kill weeds before they germinate- killing the seeds rather than the plant. These should be used in July for the Spring-flowering weeds. Liquid chemicals (sprays) can be diluted and applied directly onto the growing plant. Always take care, though, on the type of chemical, what it will control, its application rates, etc.
2. Lawn Mowing
I have found that most problems associated with lawns stem from the mowing habits of individuals. As most people work during the week, they find that mowing the grass is more like a chore and is best left to grow for a week or three! The problem is, that they have a tendency to shave their lawns, placing them under immediate stress.
Lawns are plants and must go through the process of photosynthesis to survive. By cutting the grass short, you remove the surface area of the leaf, cutting the amount of light being gathered and, ultimately, slowing the production of sugars in the lawn. If you cut too much surface area off the leaf blade, the lawn will become stressed and, in a weakened state, may recede in shaded areas and also succumb to the invasion of weeds. While on the subject of shade- mow your lawn a little higher in shaded areas. Remember- your lawn will require more ‘leaf surface area’ in a shaded area than an area exposed to more light.
As I’ve explained to many of you… your lawn is a groundcover hedge; and like a hedge, with regular clipping, becomes thicker. The grass is always looking for the light and growing upwards. If you’re cutting it on a weekly basis and it can’t grow up, it will grow sideways- filling up bare patches in your lawn and choking weeds.
The more often you cut your lawn, the thicker it will get.
In other words, mow your lawn regularly. The more often you mow, the thicker and healthier your lawn will become.
Over the winter, we experience later sunrises and earlier sunsets. This means that your lawn could lose anywhere from 4 to 8 hours of daylight. Added to this, the sun is also lower in the sky and, no doubt, eclipsed by buildings and lower growing trees and shrubs. As the lawn still requires light, it’s easy to realise that it will absorb less light as there is less light on offer. To counter this, you will need to raise your mowing blades about 20mm (3/4″) higher so that it can absorb the light it needs to stay healthy.
Lawn mowing contractors
Lawn mowing contractors have a place in our lives. Most of us are working longer hours these days and realise the importance of family life. Mowing contractors and gardeners give us a little more freedom with our time and help us to keep on top of things around the garden.
However, it must be pointed out that the Lawn Mowing Contractor sees many more clients than yourselves and, during the course of his run, picks up weed and grass seeds along the way; dispersing them on your lawn. Ideally, he will clean the undercarriage of his mower at the completion of every lawn cut but let’s face it…. he’s won’t! It’s not a viable proposition for him.
The other point about the Lawn Mowing Contractor is that he will normally come every two weeks in the summer; and you need your lawn cut weekly!!! Now that’s not a viable proposition for you!
Solution- buy a lawn mower and put it in the garage or garden shed. Set the mower to the height YOU want and instruct him to use YOUR mower. He should have no complaints. There’s no wear and tear on his mower. He’s not paying for fuel. There is no reason for him to complain. On every other week, drag out the mower and cut the lawn yourself. It’s a bit of exercise. It gets you some time to yourself AND you will soon see an improvement in your lawn.
Fertilising the lawn normally takes place every season.
In Spring, a fertiliser with a high nitrogen base should be used to green up the lawn and get it growing.
A generous application of complete fertiliser is used in the Summer to keep your lawn healthy as it’s feeding constantly over the Summer months. A potassium-based fertiliser is best used in Autumn as it will strengthen the cell walls of the leaf swards, keeping your lawn greener for longer over the winter period. Your lawn is still feeding in winter and another, smaller application of complete fertiliser is recommended at this time.
REMEMBER: Always drench your lawn after fertilising. It will help to dissolve the fertiliser and release nutrients into the soil which will leach down and be drawn up by the grass roots.
Fertilising your lawn will make it greener and healthier.
Mulching your garden beds is a great way to keep the weeds at bay. It also gives the additional benefit of keeping the plants’ roots cool and moist- even in the peak of summer. Irrigation systems help by supplying much needed water to those plants’ root systems on set days and at set times for a set duration, leaving homeowners the freedom to go about their way and do other things. There are many gardens with irrigation systems in their garden beds. On top of this, there are many more gardens with mulch placed on their beds. However, there is only a small percentage of these with irrigation systems in the lawns.
Many of us forget that grass is a plant that requires water throughout the year- and especially during the summer. Unlike many garden beds that are mulched, lawn areas are quite often exposed to full sun and the process of evaporation is a constant one that most lawns have to endure.
With this in mind, I would ask you to consider the possibility of watering the garden beds less and your lawns, more. Your lawn should be thoroughly watered several times per week, depending on their situation. When I say ‘thoroughly’, I mean watered so that the soil is moistened at least 100- 150mm below the surface. Shallow watering will encourage the grass roots to stay near the surface. We want the roots to travel down, as far as possible, into the soil for a stronger, more robust plant. Watering late in the afternoon or early evening will counter the effect of evaporation and allow the water to soak deeper into the soil. When I say ‘depending on their situation’, I mean what physical elements would affect more or less water. For instance, if a lawn is in a heavily shaded garden, it may need watering only once a week. If it lies in semi- shade or has afternoon sun, it may require watering twice a week. If it’s in full sun or lies on shallow soil on an outcrop of sandstone, it might be best to water three times a week. It’s your call but just take in all the variables before making a decision.
The Main Points:
1. Fertilise your lawn 3-4 times/ year;
2. Drench your lawn after fertilising to release nutrients into the soil;
3. Water your lawn, at least, once a week;
4. Mow your lawn weekly- DO NOT SHAVE YOUR LAWN;
5. If you have a Lawn Contractor- get him to mow your lawn with YOUR MOWER.
Want to learn more about lawn care? Take a look at our other useful resources:
- Ultimate Grass Guide
- How to Combat Weeds
- How to Combat Pests
- Simple Guide to Laying a New Lawn
- Spring Care Renovation for Your Lawn
- The Year-Round Program More in Detail