The Carpet in your Garden: Spring Lawn Tasks

a pretend four leaf clover

a pretend four leaf clover – do you know what it really is?

St Patricks Day is March 17th. St Patrick is the Patron Saint of Ireland, the country also known as the Emerald Isle because of its lush green countryside. Four leaf clovers are lucky plants for the Irish but it’s also good to have some in your lawn.

Ah yes, The Great British lawn; the emerald carpet in your garden; if you’re getting the mower out this weekend, keep the first cut 4mm or more high. Or is the lawn not in a fit state for mowing?

mown lawn, with stripes

mown lawn, with stripes

Lawns can take a lot of damage over the winter. The weather varies from wet to freezing and surrounding trees and other deciduous plants dump leaf litter all over the grass, inspecting your lawn for the first time in the New Year can be a dispiriting sight.

The most apparent, but easily remedied problem will be the leaf litter. Simply grab a soft plastic rake and get to it. Bag the leaves up in black bin bags (try to keep evergreen leaves out of the mix), perforate the bags a few times, and store them somewhere shady. These leaves will compost down and create great mulch for your beds for next year. You could also add the leaves to your compost bin to counteract too much moisture, kitchen waste and grass.

lawn in process of being scarified, bare patches where moss was

lawn in process of being scarified, bare patches where moss was

Once the leaves are swept and cut, you may notice your lawn is more moss than grass, or contains large swathes of dead dry grass. If so, you need to ‘scarify’ your lawn. This is where the layer of ‘thatch’ that develops from dead grass stems and moss is ripped out by using a hard metal rake or scarifying machine. Periodically reducing the thatch in your lawn is important, as a depth of more than 2cm will start to suppress the growth of grass stems, allowing weeds and moss to triumph. If scarifying by hand, mentally split the lawn up into 2m x 2m blocks, as this helps to focus your efforts – it can be hard work! This task is best done when the lawn is as dry as possible.

compacted lawn in need of spiking

compacted lawn in need of spiking

Once you have finished scarifying your lawn, aeration is the next task to be done. This is where a garden fork or special tool is used to punch thin but deep holes into the lawn, allowing the free flow of air and moisture in the soil, and aid in surface water drainage. There are revolving aerators which work by being pushed along by the user, but I have found these to be ineffectual in practise as they do not penetrate far enough into the ground. However, rentable mechanical aerators are very effective, and recommended for severely compacted lawns. You should be aiming for at least 5cm into the soil.

After all this, your lawn will probably look pretty bare – the perfect opportunity to re-seed and fertilise your lawn. There are grass seed mixes for most types of lawn; a mix predominantly containing rye grass will be harder-wearing. Liberally apply grass seed to any bare areas – and water twice day morning and evening if the weather is dry.  Do not walk on or mow these areas for up to 2 months to allow the new seedlings to establish themselves properly. You should see new shoots after 8-14 days.

spiked and scarified lawn next to untouched lawn

spiked and scarified lawn next to untouched lawn

The nitrogen required for new green growth can be applied to your lawn as a feed, or by growing some four leaf clover in among the grass. For more on St Patricks Day, four leafed clovers, spring tasks and spring planting ideas have a look at our new eBook.

And if you decide to lay turf rather than sow seed, make sure the edges of the turf strips are butted up tightly together or this is what happens.

newly laid lawn with edges of strips separating - not laid by Plews!

newly laid lawn with edges of strips separating – not laid by Plews!


2 responses »

  1. My lawn looks like all of the above except for the nice picture. I love your background picture on this blog and I just love this blog for some reason. Do you know the book “Secret Garden?” Ever since I read that book as a little girl, I’ve dreamed about having a garden like that. I’m soooooo far from it. How can you make existing dirt work for you without having to buy soil???? My husband just really isn’t into planting and buying soil seems really silly. (He is from Cameroon, Africa).

  2. Hi – Thanks for your kind words, much appreciated
    check out our new blog and the video for some hints on making your garden and kitchen waste turn that dirt in to black gold ;-]
    the garden that inspired the book “The Secret Garden” is in Kent, UK, we’re planning on visiting it this year, so maybe Marie should write up the visit as a blog with lots of photos…

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