Now is a good time to be thinking about next year’s bowling green lawn in your garden, but how bad is your current lawn?
You may not care overmuch for a manicured paradise, but some occasional health maintenance can help prevent a sudden swathe of dead grass.
At the very minimum, we would recommend aerating and weeding your lawn. Compacted lawns (see photo below) will end up as a muddy waterlogged mess over winter.
To aerate, use a garden fork to punch holes all across the lawn. This will improve drainage and ventilation in the soil. Weeding is best targeted at tap-rooted perennials (such as dandelions) and done with a weed extracting tool that will take out the whole root, which will prevent re-growth. Fill in any holes with top soil and sprinkle on some grass seed.
We find the most common problem with lawns is too thick a layer of moss and thatch. Get out the elbow grease and grab a hard wire rake; you’re going to SCARIFY your lawn. Start by raking across the lawn, as you would to collect leaves. Keep the angle between the rake handle and the ground below 45 degrees, and only apply enough force to scrape the moss and thatch layer out – very little grass should be coming up. You may have a large lawn, and therefore you may want to hire a mechanical scarifier to help speed the process. You will need to go over the area multiple times from different angles.
If you decide to use a chemical weed and moss killer, do apply according to the manufacturer’s instructions. It sounds obvious, but we have been called in to do a Garden SOS Advice Visit and had to tell the house owner that their flowers in the border are all dead not due to a virus but because they accidentally sprayed weed killer on them.
Once you have finished, the lawn will be looking a little bare. Aerate the lawn with a garden fork, or special aeration tool. This will improve drainage, especially important over winter with rain and snow likely to be on the weather forecast.
You may, however, decide to completely re-do your entire lawn! This is perfectly reasonable, especially if you have inherited an unloved lawn, as the time and cost to ‘rejuvenate’ may be higher than simply nuking from orbit and starting from scratch.
If you decide to do this, go the whole hog. Hire a turf stripper, apply an organic or chemical weed killer and wait two weeks (longer if specified). It is prudent to cover the area with landscaping membrane if it’s being left longer than two weeks, to prevent newly introduced seeds from germinating. You can leave the membrane on all winter and sow seed in the spring; earlier than if you started this process in spring as the soil will have kept warm under its membrane ‘blanket’.
If you would prefer to lay turf, this can be done at any time of year, so long as the ground isn’t hard with frost. The grass will take longer to properly root outside of the growing season, but should otherwise be fine.
Laying turf: after the two weeks, pull out any remaining weeds, and spread decent topsoil, £80+ for a bulk bag, with added nutrients if your soil is poor, to a depth of 3-5cm. Good soil is important; it will feed your new lawn; improve retention of nutrients for health and growth and optimise drainage.
Take time in preparation; level the area using a rake and then firm the surface by shuffle walking across the area. You may need to smooth some more using the back of a rake. You can then either lay the turf. Stagger the rows (think brickwork wall) and butt the turf strips closely together, or they will curl (see photo below for how your recently laid lawn should NOT look).
Turf provides an instant visual effect and is usable within a month, but is more costly in both material and labour.
There’s a bit more to renovating a lawn than I’ve said here, so remind me to tell you nearer spring or check out our other lawn blog posts or get in touch – firstname.lastname@example.org
A spiked and scarified lawn next to the untouched area of lawn, showing that some re-seeding will be needed.