Tuesday 12 December 2017

Love your lawn, but not too much

Andrew Collyer - Practical Gardening

We love our lawns in Ireland. Grass is the fundamental backbone of the countryside. We are a nation built upon the image of green and the fabled forty shades of green, which if your lawn is anything like mine at the moment, is close to what you are witnessing from your back windows.

A patchwork of different grass types and shades, intensely vivid moss areas and those, yes straw coloured spots where we have by necessity cut back too hard in an attempt to quell winters unruly growth.

The inexorable growth of our grass right throughout the year is a double edged sword or maybe sward in this case. Our lawns recover in quick time but also can become long and uncuttable because of wetness in the late autumn and early winter months giving rise to what you see now.

Your lawn is in its worst condition of the year. This used to bother me but grass is an amazingly versatile and resilient plant. Constant cutting, wear and tear, drought, flood, snow and frost it copes with it all and I know by May it will look like a bowling green. Well as good as I would like it anyway.

To get your lawn looking 'like a bowling green' is a full time job and for most of us living is already a full time job. A bowling green type lawn is generally surplus to our requirements anyway and we certainly don't want to get the 'keep off the grass' signs out, a pet hate of mine particularly in municipal areas, to achieve it. Maintaining a pristine lawn can also take, not only a lot of time, but also a lot of fertiliser and chemicals and we must ask how environmentally green is it to keep you grass green. Golf clubs have had the environmental finger pointed at them for their over use in the past with some justification.

The single most important thing you can do for your lawn is to regularly cut it. The start of May to the end of August once every 5 days is ideal. Mid March to mid November once a week if the weather and under foot conditions allow. It is recommended to cut grass only when it is dry, which in Ireland I'm afraid is nonsense. Try to cut your grass when it is dry or at its driest or if necessary when you have time but do cut it.

Also blade cutting height is important. Start at the highest cutting setting that will top your grass then work the heights down over the next few cuts. As mentioned above because of our winter grass growth there can be quite a discrepancy in heights of the grass for the first cut and this can lead to some yellowing in places but these will green up over the next couple of weeks. Your aim is to get the grass height down to around an inch by mid May and keep it there until the end of August. Many country lawns in particular are not good enough quality to cut at this level but get the grass as low as you can. This helps to eradicate weeds and moss and also allows the grass to dry more quickly for cutting. Don't be tempted to scalp your lawn at any stage as this will weaken the grass roots.

Now is ideal to feed and weed treat your lawn. Some weeds can be hand dug on small areas or selectively sprayed. A weed, feed and moss killer is also another way of giving your grass a boost for the summer. Moss can be a big problem on Irish lawns for obvious reasons. Mo Bactor is a product that uses bacteria to eat away the moss in your grass while incorporating a fertiliser to feed it as well. It can be quite slow to work but it will given time. It doesn't have a weed killer element so that needs to be done seperately.

In town size gardens it is relatively easy to apply and manage spring lawn treatment products but on the many large country lawns it is often too expensive or impractical to do so. Agricultural fertilisers can be used to feed the grass and a knapsack sprayer with a selective lawn weed killer can be used to manage weeds.

But if your lawn is effectively a football pitch or play area be kind to the environment and don't worry too much about feeding and weeds. Mow regularly and you will end up with something appropriate for your needs that looks half decent too.


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