How to take care of your lawn
Mowing your lawn
Getting off to a good start with a professional lawn analysis and a fertilisation, moss and weed control lawn care program does much to improve your chances of creating a healthy and beautiful lawn. However, correct mowing and day to day lawn maintenence will make the difference between a lawn of distinction and an ordinary weed free lawn.
The most important thing is not to cut your lawn too short. If you cut a lawn under one inch (2.5cm) and you’re not a knowledgeable enthusiast who can spot or, better still, anticpate lawn problems and diseases before they show themselves you’re more than likely going to encounter problems. Also, letting the grass grow too long between cuts not only makes cutting difficult, but can also contribute to other potential lawn problems. Moss can become a problem and certain lawn diseases flourish when the grass is left to grow too long.
Keep your mower blades sharp and avoid mowing wet grass. Blunt blades rip and tear the grass leaving the tips bruised, brown and susceptible to disease. Wet grass is not only difficult to cut and collect, but easily bruised.
How often should I cut the lawn?
Normally, weekly mowing is about right, although during dry spells you may find that the grass isn’t growing and doesn’t need cutting. Don’t cut the grass shorter just because it hasn’t grown.
During the peak growing season of May to July cutting the grass a couple of times a week, if you can, is best as this will help to give your lawn that coveted velvety green look. Try not to cut more than a third off the height of the grass in one go as this will weaken and shock the grass, leaving it looking yellowish. The more often you mow, the fewer clippings and the easier and quicker it is. Many people find that after a day at work trimming the lawn is a relaxing thing to do. It’s just such a satisfying things to do.
What should I do with the clippings?
If you wish, you can compost the clippings, as long as they are composted for at least six months if a weed killer has recently been applied. Otherwise, the green bin is the place for them.
What type of lawn mower is best for my lawn?
This really does depend on the grass types in your lawn, and the amount if additional time and maintenance you are prepared to invest in your lawn. For most people a rotary mower with a clippings collection box is most suitable. Rotary mowers tend to cope better than a cylinder mower with overgrown grass and uneven surfaces and come with the option of a rear roller for the (all important?) stripe effect. Cylinder mowers with a rear roller can give an excellent, fine cut with more defined stripes on more even lawns.
Then there’s choosing whether to have a petrol, electric or battery powered version and the size of the mower and width of cut. Remember, you’re more likely to cut the grass at the right height and frequency if it’s easier to get the mower to your lawn, start it and tidy everything away. There’s an argument for light weight, wheels and no trailing cable for you! If you would like advice on which mower to buy, we’d be happy to help.
How high should I cut my lawn?
A cutting height of about 1 1/2nches (about 4cm) works well for most lawns. Many people tend to cut their lawns too short for the grass types in their lawn. During dry spells, in shaded areas and outside of the growing season a cutting height closer to 2 inches is generally better.
Moss is a non-flowering plant. It has no root system. Water or damp conditions are essential to its existence and reproduction.
What causes Moss?
Understanding the causes of moss helps us to tackle it. Initially we have to appreciate the principle that moss thrives in damp conditions. In creating a moss free lawn, there is a need to remove, or reduce, the moss-loving environment.
At times this is impossible if, for example, one side of your house or a tree overshadows the lawn leaving it in the shade (and therefore damp) for much of the day.
Moss lives on the surface. It has no root structure. From this, we must conclude that moss must grow just above the soil line, in places where the grass is suitably wet. Apart from the problems of shade described above, a matted layer found between the soil and the grass leaf known as thatch also encourages moss.
A very heavy compacted and /or clay soil can likewise restrict free water drainage into the root zone.
Can I just rake the moss out?
For many people, including gardeners, mos removal means raking the lawn at the beginning or at the end of the growing season. Lawn raking will remove some of the moss. However, until you tackle the cause, effective moss control will not be achieved. Remember, using “moss-killer” will only affect the moss present at the time of application. New moss will develop unless the causes of it are tackled.
The three steps to discourage moss invasion are:
1. Encouraging a healthy strong lawn
2. Dealing with issues that encourage moss
3. The timely application of a moss control treatment or spray
Thatch is the name given to a ‘mat’ which is made up of the accumulated years of stems, roots and leaves intermingled with decaying or partially decaying matter. However, when it increases faster than it decays, then the thatch is formed.
This ‘matting’ between the grass and the roots acts like a thatched roof, preventing water, air and nutrients, in the form of fertiliser, from reaching the root zone where the lawn needs it.
Weed contamination is the most common problem to affect lawns. Even using the most effective professional herbicides available and the best application methods, it is not possible to kill all weeds in one go. There are several reasons for this:
To be killed, weeds need to receive a direct spray of herbicide. Where the weed cover is dense, the leaves of some weeds will cover and protect the leaves of other weeds.
The growing season, and the susceptibility of different weeds to herbicides, vary between weed types.
The lawn survey carried out as part of your lawn treatment plan will indicate the difficult weeds to kill in your lawn.
Lawn weeds fall into two main groups:
1. Broad leaf weeds, which are relatively easy to kill
2. Difficult weeds, which require repeated applications of herbicide. E.g. Woodrush, speedwell and trefoil.
Generally speaking you can expect at least two thirds of your weeds to be killed by an initial treatment. Therefore, after two or three treatments, most of your original weeds will have gone. Having said this, it is a never ending battle to keep your lawn free of weeds. Even then, continued treatment and vigilance is necessary as weed seeds lie dormant, others are blown in from neighbouring properties resulting in recontamination of your lawn.
The odd toadstool in a lawn is quite common and isn’t a problem. An exception to this is if they form a ring (see Fairy Ring below). Just pick them off your lawn. Sometimes, when a lawn has just been fed, toadstools may appear due to the increased microbial activity in the soil. Toadstools also develop during humid conditions.
There are three types:
1. A circle of dead or dying grass, with lush green surrounding it. Toadstools are usually present.
2. A circle/band of lush green grass. Toadstools may not be present.
3. A circle of Toadstools by themselves. The grass doesn’t seem to be affected.
Type 1 is the most severe. Fairy rings are difficult diseases to control. They are caused by fungal mycelium, which lives off organic matter (e.g. old tree roots or wood, deep in the soil. An impervious barrier develops which prevents water from getting to the soil. It then kills the grass and renders the soil dead. Control is possible, but difficult; and more than that it is expensive. If you feel you have a problem with a Fairy Ring please let us know; we will identify it and discuss with you what can be done.
Casting worms can be a problem in lawns. They can make a lawn look unsightly if there are hundreds of them in a small area. Due to the benefits of worms in the garden a few of them should not require treatment. If you feel that you have a problem please ask us to come and have a look. Casting worms can be controlled; however it usually takes two applications of a biocide, within a month of each other, to suppress their activity.
Chafer Grubs & Leatherjackets
There are two unwanted visitors to your lawn: Chafer Grubs and Leatherjackets. Both of these insects can cause widespread damage to your lawn. They both have a ferocious appetite for grass stems and roots. If your lawn has the persistent attention of rooks or starlings feeding on your lawn in groups, then you may have a grub problem. Although this is a good indicator of their presence ask us and we’ll confirm whether these insect are present by lifting a section of the infected, dead or dying grass and searching for them.
Chafer Beetle Larvae in your Lawn?
If rooks and starlings, badgers and foxes are persistently rummaging in your lawn for food then they may just be after Chafer Grubs.
1. Chafer Beetle Larvae are the larvae of the Common Chafer Beetle.
2. Chafer grubs are white, comma shaped, fleshy grubs with brown heads and 3 pairs of legs towards the head.
3. Grubs live for 1-3 years before adult beetles emerge.
4. Patches of dead or dying grass similar to that caused by leatherjackets are caused by the grubs.
5. Early and correct pest identification is important.
What do they feed on?
1. The larvae feed on the roots of grasses during the spring and summer.
2. They cause yellow/brown patches and, as the grasses are eaten off at the same level in advanced cases a carpet of dead turf can be removed.
3. Their presence is usually seen the first time the lawn gets stressed by cold or drought by the frenzied activity of large birds like Crows, Rooks and Magpies.
4. The net result – no grass roots, no grass and a lot of ripped up areas once the birds have gone!
5. The adults and grubs have many predators: birds, badgers, moles and even foxes and these cause damage to the turf areas when they are foraging for their food.
6. Chafer Beetle Larvae live a little deeper the root zone than Leatherjackets which reside in the upper root zone.
7. The eggs are laid in soil in the late spring by the adults in batches of 10 – 30.
There is little or any benefit renovating and repairing any damage to your lawn until you have killed the larvae.
As Chafer grubs live in the soil for up to three years you can have more than one generation in the soil at any given time.
We can control them by applying an insecticide at the earliest opportunity, as soon as we have confirmed their presence on your lawn.
April to September is the best time to apply an insecticide.
Recommend repeating the treatment annually as repeat infestations are common.
Leatherjacket Larvae in your lawn?
Patches of dead or dying grass similar to the feeding action of Chafer Beetle Larvae are visual evidence of commonly known.
No grass root growth = poor stressed turf grasses and later, bare areas.
What are they?
Leatherjackets are the Larvae of the Crane Fly or Daddy Long Legs.
The fully grown Larvae are typically up to 4 cm in length.
They are legless dirty grey or brown grubs that live in the soil just beneath the grass.
What do they feed on?
The Larvae feed on the roots of grasses during the early spring to summer months. They cause yellow/brown patches and, as the grasses are eaten off at the same level, it may well be that a complete carpet of turf can be removed in tact.
There are usually less numerous and less troublesome than Chafer Beetle Larvae.
Their presence is usually seen the first time the lawn gets stressed by cold, drought or by the activity of large birds like Magpies, Crows and Rooks.
What happens to my lawn? Answer- no grass roots, or grass stems, no lawn and a lot of ripped up areas once the birds have gone.
No benefit in renovating and repairing any damage to your lawn until you have killed the larvae.
Leatherjackets live in the soil for one year only they are easily controlled with an approved Insecticide application.
Leatherjackets live in the area of soil just below the grass’ root zone.
Once hatched, the larvae start feeding during the winter months onwards.
Control them by applying an insecticide from October through to the late spring or early summer months.
Repeat treatment annually if repeated outbreaks are common.
Dry Patch is an area of lawn where the grass may not grow or where it has died for reasons similar to the cause of Fairy Rings. Improving the accessibility of water to the root zone and improving the moisture retaining properties of the soil will improve Dry Patch. There are treatments available to help dealing with Dry Patch. Preventing Dry Patch in the forst place is the best line of defence or catching it early and taking the correct measures. Your lawn expert can advise.
Turf diseases are caused by fungus, which attacks the grass and deprives it of vital nutrients. Some of the more common diseases that affect the grass are Red Thread, Fusarium Patch, Dollar Spot, Brown Patch, Thatch Fungus and Rust.
Rust Disease – an autumn lawn problem
If you ever doubted that your lawn could suffer from ‘rust’ then keep reading…..
We are more used to seeing rust on a wheelbarrow than on our lawn. Infected turf appears generally yellow/orange. Close examination reveals the leaves with orange fungal pustules which, when touched, disperse large numbers of uredospores. These are very similar in appearance to the rust dust, which can be wiped from rusty metal, hence the name.
When is Rust normally seen on lawns?
During cool weather in summer and autumn. Initial symptoms show as yellow flecks on the leaves and plant stems. These flecks enlarge and the fungal spores develop on the leaf surface.
This disease does not usually cause serious problems on U.K. turf and the problem is more of a visual one although left un treated the small areas can merge to become large unsightly areas. This picture shows a close up of the rusty spots on the upper surface of the grass plant leaf. The rusty dust can literally come off on your finger as you gently pass it through your thumb and forefinger. When you walk through a rust infected area of turf your shoes can turn orange!
Will it kill the lawn, left untreated?
Rust Disease tends to be present on Rye Grasses and Smooth Stalked Meadow Grass.
Rust disease is normally seen on long grass and poorly under nourished turf, especially when the air temperature is above 20 degrees centigrade. Grasses that are stressed as a result of poor nutrient levels, shade, and lack of moisture and presence of other turf grass diseases such as Fusarium and Red Thread Diseases.
What are my options on control of the disease?
The best remedy is to reduce the causes of the stress the grasses are under and to increase the nutrient levels. A slow release balanced fertiliser containing some Potassium will enable the grass plants to naturally ‘toughen up’ to ward off future disease and pest attacks.
You may need to have a professional quality turf fungicide applied, which will have a contact and systemic mode of action. A repeat may be required within a 6-week period. The fungicide will dry the fungal spores out and then help the grass fight the disease from within.
The Sports Turf Institute and Grass Seed Breeders work hard to develop turf grasses that are more resistant to outbreaks of this disease. Choose a grass seed cultivar that has the highest listed ‘resistance to Rust Disease’
It is normally seen on grasses when you get to that evening in late September when you feel the dew falling on your shoulders and mutter to yourself ‘Looks like Autumn is arriving’.
Football Pitches, which are predominately 100% Rye Grasses often get an attack along with Leaf Spot Disease when the evening and night time temperatures dramatically dip at the end of the Summer. They will spend a lot of their financial budget applying fungicide treatments to ward off future attacks and increase Potassium levels too.
The most common disease that affects lawns is Red Thread which gives a pink tinge to areas of grass. There are treatments to limit the effects of Red Thread. If you feel that your lawn may be suffering from a turf disease, please ask us to take a look and we will identify it for you.
A disease of lawns in the late summer and autumn months, especially in lawns of low fertility, especially Nitrogen. If the summer months are humid and moist there will be an incredible outbreak of this disease on UK lawns.
This disease is now thought to be a combination or complex of two fungal species:
L.fuciformis – Red Thread – where the red needles are present.
L.fuciformis – Pink Patch – where the pink mycelium is present.
Red Thread is a very common turf and lawn disease. It occurs during mid to late summer and autumn and can persist into mild winters, especially if the weather is humid and damp. As with any other lawn disease, early and correct diagnosis is important. It is commonly seen as little red needles emerging from the leaf of the affected grasses or as a pink ‘cotton wool’ on the surface of the lawn. Affected areas can be the size of a golf ball but can meld together into larger areas or patches of bleached grass. Pink mycelia are often seen visible in morning dew cover. Red needles are present attached to the leaf blades. Needles (stroma) become brittle on drying and serve to spread disease into new areas.
Where has it come from?
Red Thread naturally occurs as a pathogen within the turf grass seed and ultimately the mature grasses. The grass seed breeders work hard to cultivate species and varieties of grasses that are free of the Red Thread pathogens. Buying certified and quality grass seed with known species in the mixture is a good start. It can occur mostly in turf and lawn areas of low fertility levels, particularly nitrogen. As grass growth slows down due to a lack of nitrogen, the disease becomes more prevalent. If an area of lawn has recently been fertilised and some of the lawn was incorrectly missed and remains unfertilised, you will get more disease in the part that was not fertilised properly. Remedy this small strip or area by fertilising the missed areas.
Will it kill the lawn if left untreated?
Red Thread does not actually kill the grasses, merely making them look a bit straw like and unsightly, especially once the disease has caused the damage and dried up. Grass plants are rarely totally killed.
Grass species involved
Red Thread Disease can affect most turf grass species, but particularly Red Fescue (Festuca rubra) and Perennial rye grass (Lolium perenne) although the majority of cool season grasses as found in the United Kingdom can suffer an outbreak.
What are my options on control of the disease?
Improve fertility levels immediately, especially Nitrogen and Potassium. Feeding a lawn little and infrequently is the worst culprit. Adopt a regular planned feeding programme. Summer control can almost always be assisted by the application of Nitrogen. Winter attacks also pose a problem on fine lawns and an adequate nutrient level must be maintained if the lawn has a history of attack.Choose disease resistant cultivars for initial sowings, repair and over sowing. Maintain a soil pH of 6.5-7.0. Ensure the lawn is mown with a mower with a sharp blade so that the grass leaf is not damaged and weakened. There is little benefit to be gained from an application of a turf fungicide.
Sometimes, even if you are fertilising your lawn on a regular basis, your lawn may still get an attack of Red Thread disease, but generally not as bad as an unfertilised lawn. The lawn will be telling you that nutrient levels are getting low in the soil’s nutrient bank account! React to what the lawn is telling you!