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Autumn lawn care

Autumn is a critical time in the lawn care calendar. Many jobs will need doing if you’re to have a healthy looking lawn come springtime, however most lawn treatments are best carried out in September when there is time for the grass to respond before the soil temperatures fall and growth terminates for the season. Here are Ladybrook Nursery’s top tips for the perfect autumn lawn.

Regular raking, or scarifying, keeps levels of thatch and old grass stems, dead moss and other debris at an acceptable level. Layers of thatch greater than 1cm (3/8in) deep can impede water and fertiliser penetration. To remove thatch, rake vigorously but carefully with a spring-tined rake. For larger areas powered tools are available as single units or mower attachments.

It’s worth noting that you can damage turf if you scarify too deeply, so be careful. Another word of caution is that avoid scarifying in spring as the lawn may not recover in summer conditions: try light raking instead Turf is damaged if scarified too deeply. Do not scarify in spring – opt instead for a light raking and aerating.

Spiking

Spiking lawns allows better movement of air and water in the root zone. A well-aerated lawn will manage better in periods of drought or waterlogging. For an average lawn, aeration every two to three years should be adequate. Concentrate on areas that receive the most wear and those that are compacted.

Small areas can be spiked with a garden fork, spacing holes 10-15cm (4-6in) apart and deep. On clay or waterlogged soils use a hollow-tine aerator every three to four years. This extracts plugs of soil from the lawn. Hand held and motorized hollow tiners are available. After hollow-tining, sweep up the plugs and then rake a top-dressing (see below) into the holes to improve air and moisture penetration.

Top-dressing

Top-dressing is the application of loam, sand and well-rotted organic matter to a lawn in order to correct surface irregularities and improve the texture of difficult soils. This encourages greater rooting and thickening of turf.

The top-dressing mix is three parts sandy loam, six parts sharp sand and one part compost or leafmould (by volume). Apply 2-3kg per square metre (4.4-6.6lb per 10 square foot), working the dressing in well with the back of a rake.

Flattening

To correct bumps and troughs, use an edging iron or spade to slice through the turf and roll it back. Fork over the underlying ground and add or remove soil as necessary. Replace the turf, pressing the edges together, and water thoroughly.

Sweep up autumn leaves

Sweep up fallen autumn leaves using a rake. This is really important because if left on the lawn, the leaves will rot down on top of the grass, causing damage and releasing pathogens, which could cause disease.

Mowing

Mow about once a fortnight until about mid-October, depending on weather conditions. You should, however, adjust the setting on your mower as the grass will be growing much slower at this time of year.

Treat moss and weeds

If the lawn is very mossy, treat with a proprietary lawn moss killer. These are specially formulated for the colder autumn months, and will also help to combat invasive weeds. Wait until the moss has turned black (about 2 weeks) and remove the dead moss using a rake.

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