At the end of summer our lawns can look a little worse for wear with bare patches in the shape of paddling pools, unwanted moss and weeds starting to creep amongst the carefully tended grass, and scuffs and dents from impromptu football matches with the kids.
The good news is that autumn is a great time to give any lawn a little TLC to help it revive over winter ready for next spring. So set aside a day and put in a little effort now, and you’ll be rewarded tenfold next year.
The treatment we recommend below is best carried out in September, to give the grass time to respond before soil temperatures fall and the growth season ends.
Step 1 – Mow
First give your lawn a mow to take it down to a workable level. When you mow, raise the blades a bit higher than normal to reduce stress on the grass.
Step 2 – Scarify
Then give your lawn a good rake (or scarify as it’s also known). This removes thatch (old grass stems, dead moss and other debris) so that water and fertiliser can penetrate the soil and feed the roots of your grass. A layer of thatch greater than 1cm (3/8in) deep can impede this.
To remove the thatch you need to rake quite vigorously with a spring-tined rake. However, be careful not to scarify too vigorously as you don’t want to damage your turf. If you have a large grassed area, you may want to consider hiring a specialist scarifying power tool. These are available as either single units or as an attachment for your mower.
Step 3 – Even Out Bumps And Troughs
To achieve a nice flat lawn, it’s possible to correct uneven bumps and troughs. On the uneven area, use an edging iron or spade to cut through the turf allowing you to roll it back. Fork over the underlying ground before adding or removing soil as needed. Then replace the turf, press the edges together and water well.
Step 4 – Aerate
Aerating (or spiking) lawns helps to loosen compacted soil and allow air and water to move more easily to the roots of your grass. By aerating now, your lawn will be less inclined to get waterlogged during wet spells, as well as helping what little water there is during a drought to reach into the root zone.
For most lawns, aeration need only take place every two to three years. Focus on areas that receive the most wear and tear, and those areas that are particularly compacted (e.g. areas of lawn that act as a path from the house to the shed, patio, play area, hot tub etc.).
Simply spike small areas with a garden fork spacing holes 4 to 6 inches apart and deep. If you have clay or waterlogged soil, using a hollow-tine aerator is a good idea. This tool extracts plugs of soil from the lawn, which are then swept up and a top-dressing raked into the remaining holes to help improve air and moisture penetration.
Step 5 – Top Dress
Top dressing is used to help smooth the lawn surface, reduce thatch build up and improve the texture of difficult soils. Top dressing refers to applying a mix of loam, sand and well-rotted manure to a lawn. It’s a mix that helps to feed, improve soil structure and the drainage qualities of your lawn.
Ideally you want to match the composition of your top dressing with your existing soil, but generally speaking the mix is three parts sandy loam, to six parts sharp and and one part compost or leaf mould. You should aim to apply 2-3kg per sq metre and work it in well with the back of a rake. Though you may also find using a stiff bristle broom also works well in achieving a nice even layer across your lawn.
Step 6 – Feed And Continue Mowing
Once you’ve followed the above steps you can give your lawn a low-nitrogen autumn feed. Keep mowing as your grass continues to grow whilst the weather is mild, but increase the cutting height of your mower to 1.5 inches. When leaves start to fall, make sure you also keep these raked off the grass.
Should you require assistance in repairing or maintaining your lawn, Thames Valley Landscapes offer a range of grounds maintenance contracts for homes and businesses. Please feel free to contact us to enquire on 01628 629720.