Adrienne Wild provides some timely first aid solutions for greener grass
1. Green Up Grass
The most common reason for a lawn turning yellow is excess heat and drought, but over-fertilising with nitrogen is another. Feeding a hungry lawn with leaf-making nitrogen in summer will encourage green, lush growth, however too much will burn the roots and upset the soil’s pH balance, leading to the lawn’s inability to take up water.
Pest larvae of chafer grubs and leatherjackets chomping at the roots will also put the grass under stress, and lawn diseases can cause the grass to become faded.
Take steps to turn it green again. Begin by treating pests with an organic lawn grub control, then feed with a liquid lawn tonic to improve its vigour and health. To prevent the lawn becoming a water-addict, water infrequently but deeply, as light watering will encourage shallow roots, vulnerable to drying out.
2. Revive Well-trodden Paths
By the end of summer, the effects of outdoor living can lead to soil compaction and worn patches in the lawn. The pore space in the soil is essential for oxygen to circulate and water to drain, but when it’s squeezed out, grass roots die, allowing weeds, mosses and algae to grow.
Aerating the soil is not difficult to do, you can simply slash worn areas with a knife or pierce the turf with a garden fork or special ‘spiker’ machine to make holes 75-100mm deep, about 25-50mm apart, over the compacted area.
Do this any time during the growing season. If you need to do it now, avoid spiking on days when the weather is hot and dry as the open holes could cause the lawn to suffer drought and heat stress.
3. Stop Weeds From Taking Over
Nothing spoils a lawn in summer like weeds. A thinning grass sward is ripe for invasion by fast-creeping weeds, like speedwell, daisies and clover to name but a few. Dandelions, which have deep-rooted taproots are also a nuisance and thrive in nutrient-rich soil with a high pH.
Before reaching for the chemicals, try hand weeding – practical if there are only a few plants. One session in May when growth is strong should be enough, however it is important all roots are removed to prevent regrowth. Any new shoots should be grubbed out before they establish, which takes about six weeks.
Afterwards, patch the lawn with turf so there’s little room for weeds to get a foothold. Rake before mowing to cut off any remaining.
4. Avoid Ants In Your Pants
Ants prefer living in dry light soils and in dry weather the ant hills cause havoc in lawns as they become scalped when mowing.
The carnivorous red and yellow ants, are a nuisance as they sting, causing a minor skin irritation. Black ants, on the other hand, are beneficial to the garden as they farm aphids to feed on their sweet honeydew, keeping pest numbers down.
You can disperse ant nests across the lawn with a stiff brush before mowing but the best solution is to destroy their nests.
Environmentally friendly Nemasys No Ants (greengardener.co.uk) uses harmless nematodes to kill the larvae, and irritate the adults, so they abandon the nests. It is safe to use if you have children and pets, and for wildlife, and is applied by watering the solution into the nest and surrounding soil.
5. Mowing Mistakes
Contrary to what you might think, mowing little and often is the easiest way to keep on top of your turf.
This can mean twice a week in summer, but it’s worth doing as it will encourage a thicker sward as it forces low-growing side shoots to develop, which make it harder for weeds to find a way in. Lawnmower blades wear down with use, leaving ragged, jagged and torn grass, so aim to keep them sharp.
Always take care not to cut the grass too short, otherwise you might scalp the lawn resulting in unsightly brown patches. Overlap each cut, too, otherwise you’ll end up with ribs of longer grass in-between and avoid only mowing in the same direction each time as this will create an uneven, rippled surface.
Don’t forget to trim the edges for a neat finish.
6. Collect Clippings
It’s important to collect grass clippings after mowing, otherwise they’ll turn the grass yellow and prone to disease through lack of light. If left, a ‘thatch’ of old grass clippings would also build up and suffocate the growing tip, which is found at the base of a blade of grass, reducing its ability to absorb water and nutrients.
You can rake clippings off, but the easier solution is to buy a mower fitted with a grass collection box. Mulching mowers are your best bet, though, as they not only save you endless trips to the compost bin but are eco-friendly.
The machines chop up the clippings into a fine mulch that is distributed over the lawn as you mow, which not only decomposes, putting precious nutrients back into the soil but also protects the grass in dry weather.
7. Get Rid Of Moss
Moss is a sign something is basically wrong with your lawn – anything from poor drainage, shade and starved grass to mowing the grass too close – so if you really want to eradicate it, then you have to find out what the actual problem is that is causing it, rather than just treating it with chemicals.
Moss can rarely compete with strong, healthy grass and will only take a hold when grass is weak.
While moss is traditionally treated in autumn, there is a non-chemical product, Mo Bacter Organic Lawn Fertiliser, that can be applied from March to October. It feeds as it weeds out the moss and should be applied just after mowing.
For Mo Bacter to become active, it needs to be wet and grass left uncut for seven to 10 days before being mown again. The dead moss will break down in situ, doing away with the need to get out the rake.
8. Dealing With Dogs
Yellow patches will appear within a week of a dog weeing on the lawn. This is because dog urine has a high nitrogen content, not dissimilar to bleach, which burns the grass, causing it to die.
To prevent the problem, it’s essential to douse the area with a hose to dilute the effect of the urine. Dog poo is another problem and should be disposed of safely as it carries worms (Toxocara canis), which have eggs that can live in the soil for many years.
Handling infected soil may result in fever, coughing and vomiting and serious eye disease, so always clear dog mess immediately and worm your pet regularly.