Caring for your lawn

Date
Published in
Various local newspapers (UK)
Written by
Kim Wilde

Your lawn needs attention throughout the year and September is no exception. Here is my guide to ensuring your grass is top-class this autumn.

You can begin by mowing your lawn less frequently now as grass should grow more slowly. Over a period of time a layer of debris and dead grass, called thatch, builds up on your lawn. If left to accumulate over the years, this thatch will begin to restrict air movement and can cause problems with surface drainage, encouraging moss and other weeds to colonise the area.
You can remove the thatch from your lawn in several ways. The most cost effective method is to drag it out with a spring-tined rake. Be warned though, the lawn will look an absolute mess once you have finished but I promise it will do it the world of good and it will soon recover!
You should then aerate it. Like any other plant, grass needs air. The surface of the lawn gets very compacted over the summer thanks to a combination of constant use and weekly mowing. To relieve this compaction you can aerate the lawn with a fork pushed into the ground, to a depth of 15cm, at 15cm intervals over the whole area. Again, if you have a large lawn I would recommend hiring a machine for this job.
You need to 'top-dress' immediately after aerating, which ensures that aerating holes stay open and revitalises the upper layer of soil.
Mix three parts sieved garden soil with two parts of sharp sand and one part sieved garden compost and spread 1-2cm layer over the lawn. Work this in with a stiff broom or the back of a rake. Again it will look a little messy for a couple of weeks but the grass will soon grow back again.
Patches of broad-leaved weeds can either be treated now or in spring. Make sure you use a selective weedkiller especially formulated for lawns so as not to damage the grass.
Established lawns should also be fed at this time of year, but I recommend using only low-nitrogen fertilisers. Sow seed now to repair any small bare patches that may have appeared over the summer months.
Rake out any thatch, roughen the surface slightly with a fork to make a fine tilth, then level it. Put the grass seed into a bucket along with an equal quantity of sieved garden compost. Then simply spread this mixture over the bare patch and tap it down with the back of a rake.
To encourage fast germination, I would cover the area with polythene pegged into the ground. Keep the patch watered if it gets dry and the seed should germinate in two to three weeks. Remove the polythene as the seeds begin to germinate.

Top tip

Before you sow new seed, why not take the opportunity to plant bulbs in your lawn for spring interest. Patchy grass, particularly in shady areas, such as underneath trees and hedges, is often difficult to repair so naturalising bulbs in these areas is an ideal means of creating spring interest with minimal effort.