Back to grassroots: Diarmuid Gavin's tips to spruce up your lawn
Has winter taken its toll on your lawn? Follow these 10 tips to keep your grass in top shape this spring
With the recent spell of good weather, the hum of lawnmowers can be heard countrywide. Once temperatures warm up we all want to rush outdoors and start looking after the garden and the first thing that needs attention is usually the lawn.
Grass is great - it gets so much abuse and wear and tear but always comes back for more. The heart of our gardens is often the lawn which doubles up as pathways and football pitches. So this week we will take a look a lawn care as it's that time of year where tens of thousands of us rush to the garden centre to buy lawn products.
Here's my top 10 tips to getting your lawn in order this spring:
1 Make sure the blades on the lawnmower are sharp - when you do start cutting you don't want to rip the little plants out of the ground - you want a nice clean cut. For the serious lawn enthusiast, cylinder mowers will give the cleanest cut with their scissor-like action. Rotary mowers give a more jagged wound with their chopping action.
2 The first cut of the year should just be a light topping so keep the blades high. By the second cut you can start to lower the blades for a tighter cut.
3 Mowing little and often is best - both for even growth and weed control. Never remove more than a third of the grass height in any one cut.
4 Spring time is all about greening up the grass, so apply a high nitrogen fertiliser. These come in handy packs from the garden centre which allow you to sprinkle them evenly and many come as "weed and feed" combinations. Make sure that you have a steady hand, follow the instructions walking up and down the garden, not treating areas twice. These preparations will get the nourishment to exactly where the grass plants needs it and at the same time control emerging weeds. Water in if no rain is forecast - always an unlikely prospect in March and April!
5 For a really crisp look, sharpen up turf borders with a half-moon lawn edger and clip edges with lawn clippers or grass trimmers. Maybe your lawn hasn't a very definite shape to start with or you fancy changing a rectangular shaped lawn to an oval.
6 If moss is a problem, apply sulphate of iron. Don't worry about the effect this has on the grass - it will recover. Avoid getting the product on paths and patios as it stains.
7 Scarifying the lawn is a very satisfying job - you're removing the layer of dead material that has built up over the winter. Try to do this job when the ground is dry and go in different directions. Use either a scarifier or spring tine rake for this job and use gentle movements - you don't want to rip up the grass.
8 Aerating the lawn will improve drainage after a soggy winter. Pierce lawn with a garden fork and fill the holes with a sandy top dressing.
9 After removing moss and scarifying, you may have some bald patches so these can be repaired with seed. Rake the bare soil to create a crumbly seedbed for grass seed and sprinkle a good mix of seed - a fine one for the front garden and a more hard-wearing variety for the back garden. Rake in, gently water and cover with a bit of netting to protect from the birds. You can also patch up by using rollout turf (again it's a good time for that now) but this will need extra care so it doesn't dry out in the first couple of weeks.
10 Catch weeds such as dandelions before they set seed and you'll save yourself a lot of problems. Remove any flower heads or dig out the whole weed. If you have low creeping weeds such as buttercups, fluff them up with a rake before mowing so the mower will catch them.
A word of warning when it comes to grassy gardens - we may have to reduce our reliance on this feature of the garden in future. Lawns are not the most environmentally friendly element to our garden - they're not great for attracting wildlife such as bees and butterflies and they're reliant on fertilisers, chemicals, watering and petrol and diesel machines to keep them perfect.
But in the meantime, however, there are lots of reasons to get outdoors and start gardening - enjoy!