Lawn Care Tips & Tricks
A Regular Trim
April is the month that I start mowing regularly, gradually reducing the height of cut throughout the month. It's always a bit tempting to go too far, too fast and drop the height as soon as possible but it shocks the grass and gives you way more clippings than your compost bin can cope with. Far better to take it down one notch at a time, week by week and keep cutting it down gradually than scalp the lawn and forget it for a fortnight.
Starting From Scratch
There's no better time to start off a new lawn than the mild, showery weather of April and May. Whether you're using turf to get an instant effect, sowing seed onto bare soil, or even repairing a few worn patches in an existing lawn; the principles are all the same. First start off with a well prepared soil base, one that is weed-free, as level as you can get it and raked to a fine tilth (that's where you break up the big lumps so it resembles breadcrumbs). If you're repairing patches it's still worth raking and scratching up the soil. Next lay your turf, butting the edges up to one another tightly, then scatter and smooth fine topsoil, top dressing or compost into the joins to help them knit together. If you're sowing seeds, scatter them as evenly as possible over the area, then rake in lightly and fence off to keep dogs, cats and small children away. The seed should start to germinate in about 10 days but it's usually a couple of weeks before I notice a green haze appearing. You have to allow grass a good few weeks to establish, and it will need to be 5-7.5cm (2-3in) tall before it gets a cut and then it's nothing but a light trim.
A Thorough Going Over
This winter has been the worst weather for lawns. I've scarified to remove thatch and moss but it's come back with a vengeance and there's nothing for it but to scarify again. You can scarify a small lawn by hand with a spring tined rake – look on it as a bit of a workout. Tackle larger lawns with a motorised scarifier. Don't set it too low – just enough to comb out the moss and rubbish which you can collect with a rake or by running the lawn mower over afterwards.
Walking on Air
Aerating your lawn will help to drain away all this winter wet. Use a garden fork and press in about 7.5cm (3in) deep, wiggling the tines to open up holes in the lawn and allow air to reach the roots of the grass. Be particularly thorough in areas of ‘high traffic' – the bottom of steps, gateways and so on – as these get very compacted. I try to do these areas several times a year if possible to give the grass the best chance of growing well.
Nothing beats a good trim around the garden in the springtime. It does wonders to freshen up the whole place, giving a sense of order and good housekeeping throughout. Mowing is great but it takes a strimmer or grass trimmer to get to all those hard to reach places; those little tufty bits of grass around the fence posts and gate, the edges of the lawn and tucked away under the hedge. Don't get too close to your trees and shrubs though or you could end up with some unplanned pruning.
If you find that your trimmer line is breaking a little too easily, revive it by placing it into a bucket of water overnight. The line will absorb some of the water and become much more flexible and long-lasting.