Give your lawn a winter pick-me-up

A garden lawn in the autumn.
A garden lawn in the autumn.
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So many of us leave our aerating and scarifying until spring, yet lawns will benefit from a pick-me-up now before winter sets in.

So says grass care expert Steve Taylor, of GreenThumb, the UK’s largest lawn care provider.

With the predicted long winter and some springs being particularly cold, there may be a shorter period for your lawn to recover if you carry out work in spring than if you prepare the ground now ahead of Christmas, he says.

“At this time of year, the ground temperature is warmer than the air temperature which speeds up recovery from aeration and scarification. Essentially, your grass will recover quicker at this time of year because spring doesn’t always play fair.”

As daylight hours diminish and temperatures cool, key things to watch out for include air movement over the lawn.

“This can be hampered by fencing, leaves being left on the lawn or the fact that the lawn is on an estate and surrounded by houses, which can create issues such as poor air movement, resulting in disease,” says Taylor.

Other problems to look out for include:

:: Disease: We are starting to see leaf spot in lawns along with microdochium patch. Both of these are affected by air movement and a lot of dew left on the grass plant for too long a period. He advises: “Try to keep the lawn area dry by removing the dew or trying to find a way to improve air movement.”

:: Leaf removal: Leaves left on the lawn for too long will restrict the amount of light the plant will receive and, at this time of year, light is important. You want as much light on the lawn to help keep the plant reasonably healthy. Try to remove the leaves, if not daily, then weekly as a minimum.

:: Cutting: “Many believe that as soon as you get to the end of October, you can stop cutting the lawn, but this is not a great idea due to the weather patterns we get in the UK. If the lawn is growing then it is advisable to cut it to keep it tidy. When cutting, ensure you have a sharp blade on the mower and do not cut the lawn too short.”

:: Treatment: If you are going to treat your lawn now, use a micro nutrient feed which helps to toughen the plant, assisting with the chlorophyll (which allows plants to absorb energy from light). It also turns moss black.

:: Compaction: After a season, many lawns can build up compaction, reducing air, water and nutrient movement in the root zone, which can in turn affect the production of thatch due to reduced microbial activity. Taylor suggests: “Have the lawn aerated to reduce compaction and if the compaction is not the issue and the soil is light, it could be that the thatch levels have become sub-surface and the best control for this is hollow tine aeration.”

:: Thatch: The build-up of dead grass between living grass and the soil can prevent air, water and nutrients from reaching plant roots. Moss loves thatch due to its ability to hold moisture. Thatch reduction is important to help the lawn for next season. In small areas where the thatch isn’t thick, you could remove it with a stiff lawn rake or thatch rake, but you may need a power tool for larger areas with thick thatch.