Why a lawn needs attention in Winter, Part one.
1 – Compaction
Compaction is the hardening of the ground in and around the surface, which inhibits water, air, and nutrients entering the soil profile. Compaction is caused by pressure on the surface, whether by feet, mowers, or weather, rain in particular.
Compaction is probably the number one enemy of managed turf as it restricts the ability of the grass plants to breath and take in nutrients. It also leads to excess water being held near the surface, which basically drowns the plants.
Compaction also is the prime reason why there are so many other problems that occur in managed turf, which is why it is essential to tackle this first and foremost.
To combat compaction in managed turf it has to be aerated. On small lawn areas this can be done by using a garden fork, inserted at 90% to the surface, then eased back and forward to loosen both the surface and the underlying soil. A specific aeration tool known as a Paul fork, a three to five pronged hand tool that can be fitted with solid or slit spikes, or also with hollow cores to remove soil in severely compacted areas, can be bought to do an even better job.
On larger lawns, and sports turf, there are many powered aeration machines to suit most budgets, and a good selection of machines that can be hired. Aim to do this as often as you can over the Autumn and Winter, at least every four to six weeks.
2 – Disease
As in humans, disease is most likely to cause problems when the person is living in an unhealthy environment.
It follows that if we produce a healthy growing medium, the root zone, the grass plants will survive and thrive.
Healthy soil has a population of bacteria and fungi numbering in the millions per square meter, with the good guys usually outnumbering the bad guys, that is, the ones that cause disease. This means that in a healthy soil there will be very little incidence of disease outbreaks.
But as soon as the soil starts to become unhealthy, for example compaction restricting essential air intake, the the good guys start to die off, and the bad guys take the chance to multiply and cause disease outbreaks. The natural balance is destroyed.
The main diseases that cause problems in managed turf are Fusarium, Take all patch, Red thread, and Dollar spot. Red thread is very common, but will not kill the grass, just producing the characteristic red tinge. A light Nitrogen application will remedy the situation as it is a symptom of low fertility.
As for the other three, chemical control is possible, but is very expensive, and without remedial action will be ongoing and progressively getting worse, so more expensive still.
By far the most effective treatment is to adopt an overall maintenance regime that will protect and enhance a healthy soil. This will both produce a healthy sward of turf, and also save substantially on the spending required. All the information to allow you to do this are on this site.
To come in part two
3 – Leatherjackets and chafer grubs
4 – Worm casts
5 – Moss
6 – To much grass growth
7 – Weeds
8 – Yellowing 0f the grass leafs.
And you thought Winter was easy!