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Autumn Lawn Care
Autumn is a crucial time for lawn maintenance. Since the soil is still warm from the Summer, but daytime temperatures are milder and drought is unlikely due to more frequent rainfall and heavy dews, grass will be actively growing but under far less stress than it was in the summer. This means it’s the perfect time to tackle problems such as moss, patchy areas and drainage. All the work you do now will help your lawn withstand the tough Winter weather to come, resulting in a stronger, healthier lawn next year!
If moss is a problem in your lawn, deal with it before beginning the rest of your Autumn lawn care with a lawn mosskiller. If the moss is widespread use a sprinkle-on product such as Scott’s Lawnbuilder with Moss Control, or Evergreen Complete throughout the lawn. If it is localised you could use a water-on product such as Evergreen Mosskil. It will take about two weeks for the moss to die, leaving blackened areas of dead moss which will need to be raked out. Moss is usually caused by shade or poor drainage - if you suspect poor drainage or your lawn regularly lies wet or floods, deal with it as described below.
Raking & Thatch
Your lawn will need to be raked well to remove fallen leaves and thatch. Thatch is a layer of debris that builds up on the surface of the soil, at the base of the blades of grass. It is caused by general natural garden waste, such as decomposing fallen leaves, grass clippings and dead weeds. Thatch is very harmful to the lawn, as rain can often sit on top, rather than penetrating through to the soil. This means your lawn is likely to puddle or flood, yet the grass itself can suffer from drought as there is insufficient water at root level. Furthermore, a dense layer of thatch can impede air exchange at soil level, and the lawn can suffocate. So use a large plastic lawn rake all over the lawn to scrape up thatch and remove dead leaves, then remember to clear falling leaves regularly throughout the Autumn. This intensive raking is known as scarifying.
As we mentioned before, the signs of poor drainage in lawns are flooding, areas which lie constantly wet and excessive moss. Lawns with poor drainage need to be aerated at root level, to create new drainage channels. This involves spiking the lawn at regular intervals, making rows of small holes around 4-6” deep. You can buy specific lawn aerators to make the job easier: some have spikes on a roller so you can whizz up and down quite quickly, others have a row of metal tubes which you push into the ground at regular intervals to remove thin cylinders of soil. These are known as hollow-tine aerators and are best for very compacted soil which water cannot penetrate easily. Hollow-tining should not be done every year. If you don’t want to incur the expense of a new tool you can use a regular garden fork. Push it into the ground and rock it gently, and repeat at 6” intervals. Once you’ve created your drainage channels, apply lawn top-dressing and brush it into the lawn. Top-dressing is a mixture of lawn sand, to improve drainage, and compost, to add nutrients and aid healthy growth. By brushing the lawn with a soft broom you will fill your new channels with top dressing. This spiking and top-dressing can be done yearly if necessary.
Once you have removed thatch and dead moss, and improved the drainage, you will have created more space around the blades of grass. It’s important to fill this space with more grass, or weeds or moss could return, so sprinkle grass seed in all patchy or sparse areas. Both Evergreen Multi-Purpose Grass Seed and Miracle-Gro Grass Seed are very good, tough-wearing varieties, and Miracle-Gro Patch Magic will grow virtually anywhere, so is particularly good if you have areas where the lawn is always sparse and patchy. As we have said, drought is unlikely at this time of year but if we have a very warm Autumn you should keep the seed well watered.
If you are laying a completely new lawn, you could either turf or sow seed. Turfing will give an instant result, and your grass will be nice and dense, and weed-free. You must keep new turf well watered. Seed will take a few weeks to germinate, and is likely to be less dense, simply because it’s hard to scatter the seed completely evenly. You will probably find you need to add extra seed in patches as it begins to grow., and you may have more weeds initially than if you turf. You will also need to keep off of it as much as possible while it begins to grow, which may be tricky if you have pets. You should water if it is warm. On the plus side, seed is considerably cheaper, and, once it germinates, is very tough as it doesn’t have to go through the stress of being lifted and re-laid, like turf does, which can lead to small areas of turf dying off round the edges. In the summer of last year we moved house and had to lay completely new lawns. We turfed the back garden in the summer, and grew the front garden from seed in the Autumn. A year on, there is honestly no difference between the two, so it really is personal choice; just make sure you prepare the ground well first, whichever method you choose.
Last, but by no means least, apply an Autumn lawn feed to the lawn. Autumn lawn feeds are specifically designed to concentrate on strengthening each blade right down to the roots, so the lawn is well prepared for the Winter, and able to withstand our inclement, harsh weather. We always recommend Scotts Lawn Builder Autumn Lawn Food, a professional-grade product which will release food gradually throughout the Autumn. If you do nothing else to your lawn this Autumn, apply the Autumn Lawn Food - it really will make a difference to how your lawn copes with the Winter, and therefore, how good it looks next Spring! NB Do not feed new lawns.