Garden Lawn and Grass Maintenance
We cannot all have gardenthat look like bowling greens, but we can go a long way towards that goal by careful preparations beforehand and regular maintenance thereafter. I genuinely believe that is all very much worth while.
Garden Lawn Aeration
After mowing, probably the next most important part of caring for a garden lawn or grass maintenance – but one which gets very neglected indeed – is maintaining the aeration of the. Grass is like any other plant in that it must have food, water and air, and in a lawn it is inevitable that the soil gradually becomes more and more closely integrated, both because of constant mowing, and of general traffic, particularly if there are children and animals using it. The pore spaces in the soil will disappear, the particles of soil will get closer and closer together and gradually the air – and oxygen – is driven completely out of the soil. If the soil is heavy, there is the added trouble that water is unable to drain away and becomes more and more sour and the grass roots start to rot. As a result the top growth of the grass plant ceases to grow, starts to die off, and eventually unevenly-shaped and irregularly sized patches of brown grass will begin to appear all over the lawn.
This type of brown patch is frequently seen on old lawns, where the only care the lawn has is mowing. Brown patches can also occur on new lawns. This is because it takes the soil some years to settle down after being cultivated, and to produce a good crumb structure in which there are plenty of pore spaces and hence room for air and for water to drain away freely. In hot, dry weather, on lawns where aeration has been neglected, grass will turn brown more quickly than on a well-structured soil because, not only are the roots short of air, but the top growth is transpiring water quicker than the roots can obtain it; aeration will help to turn it green as quickly as watering – probably more quickly.
Lawn Pricking and Spiking
Lawn aeration can take several forms. The standard method of doing this is by pricking or spiking, ie. by making holes in the turf to a certain depth and at regular intervals all over the lawn. Compaction as a result of mowing and other traffic may extend to about 2 to 3 inches deep, so that for best results spiking should be to a depth of at least 3 ½ to 4 inches for preference. An ordinary garden fork can be used, pushing this straight into the lawn at about 6 inch intervals. It can also be done with spiked rollers fitted to mowers, or with separate spiking cylinders which are rolled over the ground; these make dealing with dry soil much less difficult.
Lawn aeration can also be carried out with a hollow-tined fork; there is a special one available with springs fitted to it so that when the tines are pushed into the soil, the springs enable them to be withdrawn much more easily. This also has the advantage that it removes cores of soil completely, and where the soil is very heavy these can then be filled with sand, or a sandy loam mixture. Other sorts of tines can be obtained, from suppliers of turf equipment, depending on the degree of compaction and type of lawn.
Spiking is a major part of grass maintenance and it gives its best results in the autumn, and if a hollow-tined fork can be used, so much the better. It may also be carried out in the spring, particularly if the winter has been very wet or very hard, to enable the grass to start into growth more quickly, and it may also be done in emergency during the summer, if the weather is very wet or dry. Some heavy clay soils may require routine spiking several times a year, and if this treatment is followed by filtering coarse sand into the holes, it will be possible to fundamentally alter and improve the structure of the soil over the years.
Another mild form of aeration is raking, so that light and air can get to the top growth of the grass. This is a spring and autumn job and, if thoroughly carried out, can do a great deal to improve the grass. It gets rid of, leaves and any decayed vegetation which may be lying on the surface of the soil. Such conditions, too, if allowed to continue, provide a very comfortable home for pests and their offspring, and encourage the spread of fungus diseases. Raking is best carried out in the second half of the season; before this the grass is naturally rather thin, as it is concentrating its energy on producing flowers and seeds, and raking can weaken it after this vegetative growth increases. Autumn raking in particular will not harm it or make it too thin. If a thorough autumn raking is given, then there should not be any need to rake in the spring; the routine brushing before mowing is all that will be required.
A wire-tined rake gives the best results; this is the kind with very springy tines shaped rather like a fan. Rake thoroughly in one direction, and then. Mow at right angles to the line of raking; then repeat both raking and mowing, again at right angles to each other and in different directions to the first time. If moss is present in the lawn, no raking should be undertaken at all unless the moss has first been killed. Raking tends to spread the moss, particularly the spores, over a much wider area of lawn and will do more harm than good.
For larger garden lawns, it is possible to obtain a special scarifier on a frame which covers a much larger area at one time.
Brushing your garden lawn with a stiff broom immediately before mowing is another form of aerating, again of the top growth only. It is a very light method, nevertheless it does help to prevent dead and dying vegetation from settling on the surface, gets rid of any stones which may damage the mower, and brings up the grass if it is flattened.
Brushing the lawn does much more good than is generally realised. It is the first attention my lawns receive in the spring.
All of this advice for grass maintenance is well worth the effort, for you will reap the rewards resulting in a truly beautiful grass lawn.