Are you jealous of your neighbour’s lawn? Follow these tips and the grass doesn’t have to be greener on the other side of the fence.
As the centrepiece of any garden, a lush lawn is a prerequisite for any impressive outdoor display. Sure, flowers can add flair, water features can bring intrigue and furniture carries functionality – but if the backdrop to them all is a tired and listless looking lawn, all your care and attention elsewhere will be undermined by the grass itself.
For that reason, it’s important to ensure that you put in the necessary legwork to ensure your lawn stays green and healthy all year round. Of course, a little discolouration is to be expected in the colder months – especially in a climate as inhospitable as the one which many parts of the UK suffer during winter – but you can minimise the damage by taking adequate precautions.
As for the rest of the year, there’s no reason why you can’t upstage the Joneses with your garden’s grass as long as you follow these simple tips for keeping it healthy, happy and horticulturally on-point.
So without further ado, we’ve compiled a shortlist of 16 tips on how to maintain a stunning lawn right throughout the calendar, divided into four different sections (mowing, irrigation, artificial additives and everything else). Happy reading, happy weeding and happy lawns for all!
1) Size matters
It may come as a surprise, but the height to which you cut your grass is all-important in determining how well it grows going forward. That’s because longer grass can provide shade to the soil beneath, protecting the roots and potentially retaining more moisture.
The exact height to which you should mow your lawn depends on the species of grass and the conditions to which it is exposed, but a general rule of thumb is to grow your grass to between 2 and 2.5 inches high.
Never remove more than one-third of its overall height at a time, either, or you risk damaging the integrity of the stems themselves.
2) Sharpen your blades
A good workman never blames his tools – but a good workman never lets them rust or become dull, either. It’s important to check your lawnmower blades on a regular basis and sharpen them as and when it’s required, since a dull blade will hack your grass and turn the tips yellow.
In turn, this can make it more vulnerable to pestilence and disease, thus compromising the health of the whole lawn.
3) Alter your mowing patterns
If you always mow your lawn in exactly the same way, it can encourage the grass to lean to one side, thus affecting its vitality (not to mention its aesthetic qualities).
At the same time, continually going over the same ground and taking the same turns can create ruts in the soil, which look unsightly and inhibit the growth of the grass in and around them.
Alternate the direction in which you mow your garden to encourage upright stems and minimise rutting.
4) Leave clippings behind
For the perfectionists among us, leaving cut grass atop the surface of your lawn can be akin to horticultural heresy. However, clippings can serve as an excellent natural fertiliser for the grass beneath them, providing vital nutrients to the rest of the lawn.
For the best outcome, you might wish to invest in a special mulching lawnmower, which chops up grass into the tiniest pieces and helps them to decompose more effectively.
However, it should be noted that you should only leave clippings behind when they are dry. In fact, steer clear of cutting wet or moist grass altogether, since it can damage both the blades of the mower and the lawn itself.
5) Check the conditions
Because you live in a nation which receives its fair share of rainfall, you may think that watering your garden is a job best left to Mother Nature. While that might be true for most of the year and in most parts of the country, there are times when your lawn will certainly need a helping hand.
Heatwaves and periods of droughts are obviously two such occasions, but it may also be that the type of soil in your garden requires a little more irrigation than the heavens are prepared to supply it.
One sure-fire way of checking whether your lawn is drying out is to step on it firmly but gently. After removing your foot, the grass should spring back into place; if it doesn’t, it’s likely in need of a drink.
6) Longer but less frequently
Many people make the mistake of watering their garden every day for a few minutes at a time – especially if they have an inbuilt sprinkler system. While this might seem like a logical move, it can actually be counter-productive in terms of stimulating growth, since it will mean that the water never reaches too far beneath the surface of the soil.
Instead, you should irrigate your lawn for longer periods of time, but only once or twice a week. This will allow the moisture to permeate deeper beneath the surface and encourage the roots to work harder and grow longer to reach it.
The end result? A healthier and more resilient lawn.
7) Get the timing right
As well as focusing on the frequency of your irrigation methods, it’s also a good idea to concentrate on the timing. The ideal hour to water your garden is in the early morning, before the sun has reached full strength and the air is cooler.
This will give the grass plenty of time to absorb as much of the moisture as it needs before the sun’s rays and the warmer air cause it to evaporate. On the other hand, if you water in the evening, the droplets tend to cling to the stems of the grass and make it susceptible to fungal diseases or mould.
8) Set up a sprinkler system
As hinted at above, a sprinkler system might be an advisable option if you have a large lawn at your disposal and minimal time to care for it. It takes all of the effort and stress out of keeping things in tip-top shape, since an automatic timer can be set up to remotely manage the process.
When you are working out how long to have the sprinkler on for each time, it’s a good idea to start out with an initial half-hour session. Then, dig down into the earth and use your finger to measure how deep the water has permeated. An ideal depth is between four and inches, so adjust your timings accordingly.
9) Feed with fertiliser
If the above tips haven’t managed to reinvigorate a flagging lawn, it might be time to introduce some artificial assistance in the shape of fertilisers.
The best time of the year to do this is early in spring or late in autumn; the former will galvanise the lawn into action and set it up for a strong summer, while the latter will reinforce it against the ravages of winter.
Avoid feeding your lawn in the height of summer, since this will encourage the development of weeds as well as grass.
10) Consider going au naturale
When it comes to selecting a fertiliser, you’ll find that there are plentiful options available to you. Which specific type you choose will come down to the type of soil in your garden, the grass you’re growing, the outcome you wish to achieve and your own personal preference.
All major brands will have information about their various merits on the packaging, though this will inevitably promote themselves ahead of others. Just be mindful of cutting corners and plumping for the cheapest option available, since this could compromise on quality.
Natural and organic fertilisers are often the best choice both in terms of their impact upon your lawn and upon the environment, so consider them carefully.
11) Pick your poison
When it comes to killing off weeds, the best defence against unwanted plant-life you can have is a strong and healthy lawn – but if you already suffer from poor growth, discolouration and rampant weeds, that can be something of a Catch-22 situation.
In this case, using a chemical weedkiller can be a sensible course of action. Just remember that there’s no one-size-fits-all option here; individual weeds require specific treatments, with some vanquished after just a one-off application and others needing a more concerted plan of attack.
Do your research, understand the risks that weed killers pose to the local environment and find the product that’s right for you.
12) Consider other users
The use of any artificial additive on your lawn – whether it be a fertiliser or weedkiller – is a big step in garden cultivation and one that could affect organisms other than the weeds you are targeting.
This is especially true if you have small children or pets in the home, so consider how you’re going to keep them from ingesting the chemicals you use, as they could have a disastrous effect on sensitive tummies.
And of course, it should go without saying that you should always read the safety information and follow the instructions of any chemical additive you use to the tee.
Other hints and tips
13) Aerate to encourage growth
Have you ever heard of aerating your lawn? While this might sound complicated, it’s simply a fancy term for perforating the surface of the grass with a number of holes to allow moisture, nutrients and oxygen to reach the roots more easily.
This can be particularly beneficial for gardens which experience a high amount of footfall, since children and adults continually walking over the grass can compact the soil and prevent roots from accessing the things they need to survive and thrive.
It’s also appropriate to aerate if the soil feels spongy underfoot or has a layered texture. There are a variety of tools you can use to facilitate the process and these can be as primitive as a simple garden fork to the footwear pictured above to more complex turbine machines for tackling larger spaces.
14) Dispatch the thatch
Like weeds, thatch is a natural phenomenon which occurs on the surface of your lawn, as dead grass, roots and other debris build up over time. Unlike weeds, a certain amount of thatch is actually beneficial to the soil beneath it, since it can impart important nutrients to the surrounding environment.
However, if the thickness of the thatch on your lawn exceeds 1.5 inches, you might have a problem. Too much of a good thing can prevent water, fertiliser and other nutrients from reaching the roots, which can compromise the growth of the grass.
In this case, you’ll need to use a rake, scarifier or other tool to de-thatch the lawn, which can be quite a cumbersome process for both you and the grass itself – so only undertake it if you’re sure it’s necessary.
15) Re-seed when required
If there are patches of dry earth on your lawn, it’s essential you reseed them to encourage a uniform appearance to the grass. You can even do this if the lawn is simply looking a little threadbare, since more seeds will result in greater coverage and a more impressive appearance.
The ideal time to reseed is towards the end of summer or at the beginning of autumn. Avoid the hottest temperatures or the colder climes, since the seedlings will struggle to survive with the extremities of the calendar.
The cooler (but not cold) temperatures of autumn, alongside the season’s natural dampness, provide ideal conditions for new seeds to take root.
16) Call in the professionals
If all else has failed, there’s no need to admit defeat on your underperforming lawn – but it might be to time seek professional help. An experienced and qualified landscaper will have seen and dealt with all kinds of lawn teething problems in the past, so they’re the best person to provide the insight and acumen you need to get your lawn back to its best.
Ask friends and family for their recommendations, or else search through online listings and read customer reviews to find a company that can help you.