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4 January 2013

Spring Lawn Maintenance

Spring is a very important season for looking after your lawn, and work put in now will pay dividends later.

In early spring, as the grass starts to grow, you will need to start mowing your lawn, but don't be tempted to set the cutting height on your mower too low. You shouldn't remove more than a third of the length of the plant at a time, otherwise the lawn will become stressed. A little and often approach is best to start with in early spring, but as the grass grows faster you can gradually reduce the height of cut to give the desired finish. Avoid excessively close mowing, as although attractive, it can weaken the grass, encouraging shallow rooting and making the lawn more susceptible to drought, weeds and moss.

Your grass plants will be growing rapidly in spring and in order to thrive will need the correct nutrients in the correct quantities, so feeding is extremely important. Healthy plants mean a thicker, denser, greener lawn. There are numerous lawn feeds on the market, including those with added weed and moss killer. Fertilisers are best applied when the soil is moist or when rain is expected.

You will be very lucky if your lawn is weed-free so you will need to think about using a suitable selective herbicide or an all-in-one treatment to combat broad-leaved weeds. You could also remove them by hand or by using a knife / mechanical weeder, but try to get the root of the weed out.

If you have some thin or bald areas in your lawn you may want to overseed the lawn in early Spring. The seed will germinate and fill in any sparse or thinner areas.

Your lawn may benefit from top-dressing in spring. This will even out any low areas that have developed and will also help to break down thatch and improve drainage. You can also add some grass seed to your top-dressing mix to further thicken up your surface. Top-dressing is best undertaken when your lawn is dry and should be done in thin layers - don't be tempted to try to take out depressions in one go.

If you have a problem with moss it may be temporary following drought or waterlogging, or more persistent, suggesting a problem with underlying conditions. On new lawns this may be due to poor site preparation. On established lawns poor vigour, acidic soil conditions, a lack of feed, insufficient aeration, poor drainage, shade, close mowing and over-use are likely to blame. If you have a serious moss problem you will need to scarify it out, though less-serious intrusions may be dealt with by using a moss-killer. You may also consider applying a moss-killer before scarifying, which will help to kill and remove more of the moss. Allow the moss to turn brown/black before scarifying.

As well as being a way of removing moss, scarification reduces the build-up of dead grass matter and roots within your lawn. Scarification can be done using a spring-tine rake by vigorously pulling the rake through the grass sward. However, if you have anything but a small area to do, you may be better to hire an electric scarifier from your local tool hire shop or garden centre. I was able to scarify quite a large lawn for half a day's hire and a surprising amount of material was removed.

If you haven't aerated your lawn during the winter, you can still do it in spring. This will relieve compaction, improve drainage and allow more air into the root system leading to a healthier lawn. You can do it using a garden fork if you are feeling energetic, or may want to hire a spiking machine.

You may find weed grasses appearing in your lawn - they will appear to be different to the rest of the grass sward. Prevention is better than cure and the key is to have a good maintenance regime. A vigorous, dense and healthy growing lawn will out-compete many of the weed grasses and can be achieved with regular feeding with a quality lawn food, regular mowing with a sharp mower and the overseeding of any thinner patches if necessary.

Following the above advice should give you the lawn you deserve, and one that you can be proud of.
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