How To Care For Your Lawn In Autumn
Reduce your carbon footprint
Give your lawn a bit of tender loving care after the summer. Autumn provides ideal cool, moist conditions for restoring your lawn whilst giving it a head start before winter sets in. It is up to you to decide how pristine a lawn you would like but a well maintained healthy lawn can pay back dividends on the time and money you have spent getting it into this condition. Apart from being the ideal surface for the kids and pets to play on it also traps dust, dirt and water making for cleaner air and reducing the threat of flooding by trapping rain water with minimal runoff. It is also highly efficient at converting carbon dioxide into oxygen making it one of the best ways to reduce your carbon foot print - a 232 m2 lawn produces enough oxygen each day for a family of four!
Raise the mower height as summer moves into autumn, this allows the grass to replenish its store of nutrients in the roots. When you mow you reduce the ability of the grass plant to manufacture food, and thereby to form strong roots. The shorter you mow, the less the roots will grow and deep roots are the key to a healthy, drought resistant lawn.
This is the technical term for vigorous raking of the grass using a spring-tine rake or powered scarifier. You will find that over the summer there is a build up of plant debris, such as dead stems and moss, which has accumulated within the lawn. This ‘thatch' slows down the absorption of water and fertilisers and needs to be raked out to allow moisture, light and air to penetrate the lawn. If you have wet, shady or heavy clay soil you will have moss in your lawn and the problem will just get worse over time until you have no lawn to save!
If you have a lot of moss present in the lawn it indicates poor growing conditions which regular maintenance may solve but may benefit from an application of moss killer. Moss spores in September and grows best from autumn to spring. So the heavier the infestation, the earlier you need to apply moss killer before it gets too deep. Ideally you should scarify first to give the moss killer a chance to get to the lower layer. The moss killer kills the top layer of moss which then prevents light getting to the bottom layer of moss for 6 to 8 weeks. This treatment can be repeated every 4 to 8 weeks over the winter and with other lawn restoration methods you may improve conditions sufficiently to encourage the grass to grow rather than the moss. If the moss problem persists and you have acid soil you could try treating with calcium carbonate to raise the pH (60-120g per m2, 2-3oz per sq yd).
Over time the soil under your lawn will settle and become more compact and this is exacerbated each time you walk on it. The more compacted it becomes the less air and water the soil can hold leading to poor grass growth which in turn leads to an increased weed and moss problem - aeration relieves these problems and makes your lawn healthier and less prone to drought. Spiking is a common method to aerate the lawn, make holes using a garden fork at least 7.5cm (3") deep, spaced 10-15cm (4-6") apart, alternatively get yourself some lawn aerator shoes and wear them whilst mowing the lawn. This type of aeration disturbs the soil and the sandy particles within it move to create gaps. If you have heavy or clay soil without the proportion of sandy particles this will not work and in fact, will just compact the soil further. In these cases you need to use a hollow tine aerator which will remove plugs of soil from the lawn. To prevent the holes compacting again you can brush in sharp sand which will also improve drainage.
After all these invasive processes your lawn will need a boost to help it recover. For a well balanced feed for the correct time of year a proprietary Autumn lawn fertiliser takes all the guesswork out of fertilising your lawn. They are low in nitrogen so that growth is not boosted at the wrong time of year and higher in phosphorus and potassium which are beneficial for root development, protection against disease and also help the grass to recover from the stress of scarifying.
This is done to level out an uneven lawn surface and to encourage better rooting and thickening of the turf. Topdressing has several advantages; it improves the soil, helps control thatch, protects the grass over winter and can improve drainage over time with repeated applications. Top dressings are a mix of sandy soil and organic matter and can be bought ready made or mixed at home - mix by volume three parts sandy loam, six parts sharp sand and one part compost or peat substitute. If you are mainly interested in leveling out your lawn then apply 2-3kg per m2, if you are topdressing as part of a regular lawn care program then apply 1-2kg per m2; whichever you choose there should be 75% of the leaf blade left exposed. Finally you need to work the topdressing into the lawn using the back of a garden rake or a stiff brush, carry this out on a dry day on a dry lawn - make sure you even out your hollows and dips. Leave the lawn a few days before mowing and ideally until after it has rained so that all the loose material has washed off into the grass, you can always give it a light watering if it hasn't. If there is an area of the lawn that needs reseeding wait until after you have topressed, if you are applying at the 3-3kg rate, or carry out beforehand if you are applying at the 1-2kg rate.
NOW sit back and enjoy!!