Whether it’s in need of a refresh or a complete overhaul, now’s the time get to started. Adrienne Wild reports
If you are looking at your miserable, post-winter, weather-beaten lawn and thinking that perhaps you should replace it with paving, think again.
This solution might be a low-maintenance alternative but not only will you miss out on gorgeous summer grass, it will also lead to flooding issues when we inevitably have yet another deluge of rain.
This is because, apart from looking lovely, lawns act as a sink to trap run-off water and allow it to drain and soak into the soil.
Their expansive root system also helps to prevent soil erosion, which is particularly useful if you are gardening on a slope. Plus they have the ability to filter out dust and pollution, which is particularly helpful in urban areas.
If you’re still not convinced to keep your lawn, then bear in mind that lawns are also actually good for us. Scientific experiments have shown that standing barefoot on grass can trigger a reduction in the signs and symptoms of stress.
However bad a winter battering your lawn might have taken, if you have a proper action plan for repairs and routine care, you can have it looking fabulous again by the summer.
If it’s showing signs of new growth, as it almost certainly will be, then it’s more than likely it’s a survivor and can be repaired, and at a fraction of the cost of replacing it.
✿ Start by raking out the dead grass and hosing or raking off silt and debris – any residue can block leaf pores, causing them to slowly yellow and die.
✿ Then aerate the grass to get some life-giving oxygen to the roots. You can do this by hand-
using a garden fork, plunging it 13cm deep every 5-8cm across the lawn.
✿ If the area has become severely waterlogged, use a hollow tine aerator that removes cylindrical plugs of soil that can be filled with sharp sand to keep the channels open.
Where waterlogging is an annual problem, also consider digging a series of larger 40cm-
deep slit drains.
These should be backfilled with clean stones and topped with turf, and must run into a soak-away
pit sited at the lowest part of the garden.
If you’ve been unlucky enough to have proper flooding on your property then it is possible your lawn might need replacing – grass that has been completely submerged for a week or more may, through lack of oxygen and light, be already dead and beyond repair.
Here, your best solution is to start afresh.
✿ Skim off the old grass and fork out compacted roots and stones. Incorporate some organic matter, such as well- rotted garden compost, into the subsoil, then rake over the area to prepare a weed-free, level area for sowing.
Apply a dressing of Growmore to help the new grass establish, then sow seed thinly and evenly at about 40g per sq m. It will take about 21 days for the seed to germinate and if
the weather remains mild, you will find that the new grass will romp away.
Mowing little and often is necessary to keep your lawn looking good. This can mean twice a week when it’s growing vigorously in summer.
A freshly mown lawn, however, is not complete without neat, manicured edges and you’ll need a pair of long-handled shears to take the back strain out of this job.
✿ To cut down on mowing maintenance you might like to install a mowing strip – a row of paving slabs or bricks butted up against the lawn edge that allows you to simply glide the machine over and trim any straying shoots.
A mowing strip will also prevent edges collapsing and, if necessary, a path or stepping stones laid across a well-worn route, say to the shed, will prevent unsightly and difficult-to-mow ruts forming in the grass.
✿ To give your lawn a real touch of class, always mow stripes. You will need to use a lawnmower that’s fitted with a roller to achieve the effect and for a bowling-green finish, it must be a cylinder model.
Light and dark stripes are created by mowing the grass in opposite directions, but take care to overlap the stripes as you walk to prevent a ribbed effect.
Once you’ve addressed the immediate drainage issues, scatter top dressing – a mixture of sand, peat and loam, across the surface of the lawn to help nourish the grass roots and replenish beneficial soil organisms, such as worms, which may have been drowned or washed away.
Nutrients, too, will no doubt have washed out of the soil, so feeding now is essential for recovery. Use a specific spring/summer lawn feed, such as EverGreen Complete 4in1, which also controls moss and weeds, to replace leached nutrients.
For a quick fix…
…you might prefer to lay turf. Prepare the ground level as for sowing and lay the turves in staggered rows – like bricks in a wall.
Do not stand on the newly laid grass but work from wooden planks. Brush compost into the cracks after laying the turves, and water in well. After several weeks, the turf will have roots and be ready to mow.