‘A lawn is nature under totalitarian rule’ Michael Pollan
If you’re in an area where there has been little or no rainfall and drought is causing your fine lawn to brown, raise the height on your garden tractor cutting deck or lawn mower. Better still, if you have a mulching deck use that to let grass clippings act as protective mulch. It all helps to reduce drought stress.
Last month we talked about watering the lawn in times of drought. If you prefer not to water and the grass is browning it will recover when the rains come. What you can do is begin a regime in the autumn to help reduce browning next year. Scarifying, aerating and ensuring good drainage will help reduce thatch, moss and soil compaction in preparation for the season.
A lawn on thin soil will benefit from a high phosphate feed to strengthen roots. Most lawns will benefit from a weed and feed come September and into the autumn. Fine turf benefits as well from a good feed to eliminate red thread on sandy soils and dollar spot which appears in damp weather. If you have plans for a new lawn area you should start preparation a month before you sow. September is a good time to sow the seed and turf laid at the end of September into October will get off to a good start in well prepared ground.
Here are some tips from an earlier Gardener’s Journal to help you in your preparation:
A NEW LAWNMaking a lawn from seed is less expensive than turf and you can store the seed in readiness for the right sowing conditions. Order in plenty of coarse grit, you’ll need about a barrow-load per square metre. It will improve drainage. Dig the area one spade deep or use a rotovator or rotovating attachment on your brush cutter and remove all the perennial weeds and all their roots. If you have a heavy infestation you may need to spray with a glyphosphate herbicide before you prepare the area. But don’t use a residual weed killer as it will prevent the grass from germinating.
Once clear of weeds you can dig in the coarse grit and as much well-rotted manure as you can. Now leave it all alone for a few weeks to settle. Four to five weeks is a good period. Hoe off any weeds that have grown and level the area – you can pat it down with the back of a fork. Then, in a pair of well-worn boots, when the surface is dry, tread the soil down hard in several directions, then rake it several times in different directions, making sure you rake it level. Now you can sow or lay turves. If you are seeding you’ll need to decide what type of lawn you want, general purpose, using rye grass, general purpose ornamental or high quality ornamental. Follow the supplier’s recommendation for the correct quantity of seed.
For a general purpose or utility turf with rye grass you can spread about 15-20g per sq metre (½ an ounce per sq yard). You can use 50g/sq.m (1½ oz per sq yd) if you want it to establish much faster. Divide the area into square metres or yards. Divide the seed in half and sow half the seed evenly over the whole area in parallel rows lengthways and then sow the rest of the seed in parallel rows widthways. Lightly rake the area with a spring-tine lawn rake and water with a sprinkler if conditions are very dry. The lawn should germinate in a couple of weeks. If you are laying turf follow the preparation and we’ll have some tips for you next month.