Basic Lawn Care - Mowing, Scarifiers, Aeration, and Watering
By Mark Falco
The arrival of summer heralds a time of increased wear and tear
for the average garden lawn. Children's yard games, barbecue parties,
outdoor sports and generally more activity in the garden means
your lawn is set to come in for something of a beating and without
a little TLC is likely to start showing more than a little worse
for wear. Stomp all over any living thing and it doesn't respond
too kindly but with a little help, your lawn can remain looking
great all through summer and beyond!
For a lusher, healthier, faster-growing lawn you can't beat a
bit of fertilizer. Test your soil type and choose a fertilizer
to compliment this for best results. Most lawns will benefit from
around three to four fertilizer applications through the year,
with the first around a month before the start of the growinf
season to give your grass a kickstart and then up to three more
with approximately a two month gap in between applications can
give good results. You can either spread the fertilizer by hand
if you have a smaller lawn area to cover or use a specialist spreader
tool for more even coverage, using a drop spreader for small lawns
or a rotary/broadcase spreader for bigger areas.
After fertilizing it is generally a good idea to water-in the
fertilizer or plan on adding fertilizer before an expected rainfall
unless otherwise stated in the usage instructions. The important
thing with fertiliser is to follow the manufacturer guidelines
and not be tempted to over-do it. An excessive application of
fertiliser is not a good thing and can lead to fungus, over-growth
and weakness. Keep to the guidelines and you'll get that lush,
thick green grass you wanted.
If you live in a hot climate or dry region, and particularly
during the summer months then regular watering of your lawn is
important. The best time to water a lawn is early in the morning
or late in the afternoon to achieve the best results. Avoiding
evening watering is advised as soaking grass over night can increase
the risk of lawn diseases and mid-day watering when the sun is
hottest increases evaporation and water wastage. Excessive watering
is also something to avoid and ensure if you use a sprinkler you
do actually get out there and move it around rather than allowing
large puddles to form whilst other regions of the lawn area remain
dry. Too much surface lying water can starve the roots of oxygen
and lead to the same symptoms (leaf rolling) as lack of water.
It is important to know when to water rather than just watering
because you think a lawn needs watering. There are a few basic
tests you can do to know if your lawn needs irrigation. Look for
leaf rolling and curling and the slightly blue/purple tinge which
comes when grass is being starved of moisture. Also, try the foot
print test. Stepping on a healthy lawn should see it spring back
into position quickly but if your lawn is slow to react then it's
time to add more water.
The key thing to remember here is that the object of mowing a
lawn is lawn "mowing" not lawn "scalping"!
To take good care of your lawn you need to make sure you are mowing
with sharp lawn mower blades so you cut rather than rip at the
grass and ensure you do not set the blades at too low a level
as you do not want to cut it back lower than is recommended for
your particular species of grass. Cutting too low on a regular
basis is the easiest way to do lasting damage to your lawn.
If your lawn has become too overgrown then do two or more passes
with your mower rather than trying to take it right down to a
desirable length straight away and never cut grass when it is
wet. Grass clippings may be left or raked as you please if you
do not have a lawn mower with a grass collector. Left clippings
do not automatically lead to thatch, this is only occurs when
there is too much dead organic matter to be broken down and a
few clippings actually add nutrients back into the soil.
Edges are something lawn mowers can not handle but a simple pair
of long handled shears will make short work of tidying them up.
Strimmers are a simple solution for cutting around obstacles such
as trees and immovable garden structures.
Aerating Your Lawn
Grass is a living thing and like all living things it flourishes
better when it is able to breath easy and get easy access to food
and water. Aeration of your lawn is important as it allows water,
oxygen and fertilizer to penetrate more easily through to the
roots and improves drainage. If your garden is being regularly
used then the ground will begin to suffer from soil compaction.
When this happens, drainage is reduced and it becomes more difficult
for roots to dig down deeper into the soil. The natural activities
of earthworms and other subterranean insects and wildlife help
break up the soil but compacted earth can always do with a helping
Basic lawn aeration is very simple to achieve with the help of
a simple garden fork. Just drive the fork into the earth at regular
intervals to do the job. For bigger garden areas or for more effective
aeration you can buy or hire specialised lawn aeration tools which
are basically spiked or bladed rollers either motorised or hand
An aerator should be used in the autumn months to loosen compact
soil after its summer beating.
Dethatching and Scarification
Scarifying or raking your lawn to remove dead and decaying matter
which may choke and hinder water and nutrients reaching the soil
is an essential part of a good spring and autumn lawn maintenance
routine. Raking removes thatch, the accumulation of dead and decaying
organic matter like leaves and old grass clippings from around
the base of the grass stems. This scarification improves drainage
and enables increased amounts of water and air to penetrate down
to the roots as well as reducing the chances of lawn disease occuring.
Before detatching a lawn you should ensure there is no moss growing
there as this process will only help spread the moss around. Kill
the moss first with a specialised moss killer found at good garden
centers and then scarify the lawn. Scarifying a lawn may be performed
manually by raking whilst for larger lawns it might be recommended
to use a power lawn scarifier machine which can be hired or bought
for the purpose.
Removing Worm Casts
Worms are the gardener's best friend...unless your lawn is your
pride and joy. Worm casts are those unsightly piles of mud which
appear on the surface of your lawn and left to their own devices
may encourage moss and weed growth. Removal is simple during dry
weather, just wait until they are dry and brush or rake them away
but during prolonged wet periods you may just have to put up with
them. Use of acidic fertilizers may discourage worms from coming
to the surface but for most gardeners just consider worms are
your friend, they help aerate the soil and drag organic matter
from the soil surface into their burrows thus making the soil
a richer growing environment.
Article copyright Mark Falco, webmaster of ukgardeningsupplies.co.uk
where you can find lawn care and gardening equipment including
lawn mowers, lawn scarifiers, garden tools and lawn care accessories
available for UK delivery.
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