In my last two articles I talked about selecting lawn types as well as preparation and establishment of new lawns. But what do you do to maintain a healthy and lush lawn?
Fortunately, most of lawn maintenance is relatively easy.
The most important and most time consuming aspect to lawn maintenance is mowing. This may seem obvious, but incorrect mowing can reduce the health of your lawn. Lawns need to be mown regularly during the growing season. Grass left to grow too long is not only harder to mow; it also thins out at the base. When you do get around to mowing, you are left with a pale, clumpy lawn with many small bare patches – the perfect spots for weeds to take hold.
The height of the cut is equally important. While actively growing, the mower blades should be set at the recommended height for your type of grass. When the growth slows down in autumn, the mower bed should be raised a notch or two to ensure that the lawn is not scalped, once again creating footholds for weeds.
Lawns are fairly high consumers of nitrogen and some other nutrients. Because we cut the tops off the little plants every time they grow a bit and then we take away these clippings (ideally to the compost heap), not much is being returned to the soil. An established lawn will benefit from a dose of fertiliser every 3 months.
Sometimes a lawn loses its lustre and no matter what you try, it doesn’t come good. This can be caused by age, lack of nutrients, mowing too low or compaction due to parking cars or building works. Even the constant rain like we experienced earlier this year can compromise the health of a lawn by altering the structure of the top soil. Damaged lawns will benefit from a renovation which includes dethatching, scalping, topdressing and the application of soil conditioners and fertilisers. This is best to take place in spring, just as the grass is gearing itself up for the summer season.
Lawns are affected by several pests and diseases
The most noticeable pests are lawn grubs. Lawn grubs may be the Armyworm or the Sod Webworm. Both can do their damage between late spring and late autumn and both are active at night. Lawns infested by these pests can be devastated within a few nights and once you see large dead patches, it is too late to treat that attack, but treatment can prevent further infestations.
Insecticides are available to break the life cycle of lawn grubs. These are toxic and may impact on your local ecosystem. Follow the instructions carefully on the labels of any horticultural chemicals you buy and do not over use them.
Nature does have its own control for this pest, such as the Ike Newman wasp which lays its eggs in the grub’s body. Insecticides will also kill the wasp. To reduce the size of future attacks check under the eaves of your house. If you see soft yellow mounds, these are the moths’ eggs. Remove these with a broom or soapy wash.
Lawns can also be affected by fungi such as Brown Patch and Grey Leaf Spot. Both can be treated with systemic fungicides, but firstly, make sure that the lawn has adequate drainage and good airflow.
Once your lawn is established and lush, all you need to do is lay back on it and look for interesting shapes in the clouds. I could have sworn that I saw the Olympic rings among the clouds the other day.