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Late autumn/ early winter lawn care

It’s long been a gardening tradition that if you want a healthy and robust lawn in the springtime, then you should give your lawn a sort of pick-me-up in September. A late summer feed it is thought will help to revitalise lawns after dry summer weather and give them the nutrients to survive the harsh weather conditions of winter. However, as the climate changes thanks to the effects of global warming, that advice is no longer set in stone. We now live in more temperate times, and this means that the ‘deadline’ for treating the lawn has been extended. As long as the weather remains mild enough, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be giving your lawn a little TLC in late October/ early November, providing that the lawn is wet enough and the grass shows signs of growing. Here are Ladybrook Nursery’s top tips for winter lawn care

Winter lawn care: what to do

Tackle moss and thatch

  • Make sure you treat and control moss, particularly moss found in patches under trees or hedges. Treat by spreading a mosskiller across the lawn and within two weeks the weed will have died and turned black.
  • Remove the dead moss by vigorously raking the surface with a spring-tined lawn rake. At the same time you’ll remove masses of old grass clippings and other debris that can build up on the surface of the lawn, forming a layer called thatch.

Thatch can hinder drainage and encourages weeds and turf diseases. Throw the material into a wheelbarrow and put on your compost heap when finished. If you have a large garden, it’s possible to hire an electric raking machine.

  • To prevent moss from thriving in the future, you need to tackle its causes. So remove branches or lower the hedges that cast shade, and improve drainage.

Improve drainage

  • Areas of the lawn which get heavy traffic, like play areas, often become very compacted. This can cause problems with drainage, weeds and moss. To treat this you’ll need to improve drainage. Do this by pushing a garden fork into the ground as far as you can, then wiggle it backwards and forwards to create air channels. Repeat this every 10cm (4in) right across the lawn. Brush a sandy top dressing across the surface of the lawn so that it fills the holes, allowing air and water into the lawn. If you don’t have the time or facilities to mix up the top dressing yourself, then you can get ready mixed bags from most garden centres.
  • For larger lawns you could hire a powered aerating machine or if your lawn is very heavy, use a hollow tining tool that removes plugs of grass, which can be filled with top dressing.

Feed your lawn

  • After you’ve treated the moss and improved drainage, all that’s left to do is feed your lawn. Use an autumn lawn fertiliser, which is high in phosphates and potash. This will help strong roots to develop, which will produce healthy leaves.
  • Don’t be tempted to use a spring fertiliser. These contain high levels of nitrogen, which encourages soft, sappy leaf growth that’s vulnerable to disease and could be damaged by frost.

Late autumn and winter aftercare

  • As autumn turns to winter, make the most of any dry days and rake the lawn to keep it free of leaves. A thick layer of leaves will smother a lawn and weaken the grass, and it also provides winter shelter for unwelcome garden pests.
  • Avoid walking on your lawn if it’s frosted, as this can also damage the grass.

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