Your Autumn lawncare programme can vary dramatically depending on many different factors, from stressfull growing conditions in the Summer such as drought (we wish, in Scotland) to waterlogging, shade, and the most problematic of the lot, heavy wear. There are a number of solutions to these problems, ranging from lawn aeration and top dressing to hollow coring and scarifying.
In this article I will give you a run down on these treatments and more, all of which can be used to renovate even the worst problems that affect your lawn. In many cases it can be difficult to diagnose what exactly is, or has, caused the problem so it is well seeking advice if you are not sure as it can save you time , effort, and most importantly money.
Mowing of the lawn should be continued throughout the Autumn and Winter as it is a fallacy that grass stops growing during this period. The height of cut should be increased by roughly fifty per cent from the main summer height, and the frequency reduced slowly until the end of October. After this, topping should be carried out during any mild weather throughout the Winter.
Scarifying is the act of vertical mowing, spinning blades that cut into the grass sward vertically to remove moss and thatch (dead and dying grass leafs and shoots) and allow more air into the turf canopy which helps to preserve a dry healthy surface . This is ideally carried out in the Spring and Autumn while grass growth is strong enough to fill in the gaps.
Aeration is essential for the production of a healthy sward because without air, grass roots will not survive. This can be carried out by a number of different methods, the most common of which is the garden fork being inserted as deep as possible straight down then eased back to an angle of twenty degrees or so to loosen the soil. This should be done at a spacing equivalent to the width between the fork tines to give a square pattern. There are many motorised spikers on the market, such as the SISIS range, which aerate to differing depths and on bigger areas are well worth looking at. Hollow coring (removing finger shaped cores of soil) is a more severe form of aeration which should only be considered on lawns that are on very poor soil and require the introduction of a sandy free draining material.
Topdressing is a great aid in producing a healthy, firm, dry and level surface on the lawn. The consistency of the dressing required varies depending on the drainage capacity of the soil in the lawn, again if not sure ask for advice, but as a rule of thumb a mix of 70% sand and 30% organic will suit the lawn on normal free draining loam, going to a higher sand content, or even straight sand on heavy soils, or on lighter drought prone soils the oganic content can be increased. The application rate should be around two kilos per square metre, increased to possibly as much as four kilos if hollow core holes are to be filled in, brushed evenly into the sward.
Autumn is the best time of the year to introduce new grass seed using a mix that will suit your particular requirements. This is ideally done after scarifying and before topdressing to ensure good contact with the soil. Application rates for overseeding are around 25 grammes (one handfull) per square metre.
My next article will be on renovating a seriously damaged lawn by seeding or turfing. In the meantime do not hesitate to contact me for advice on any problems that you may be encountering on your lawn and please do leave a comment below to let me know how your own lawn is getting on, or to ask any questions about this article.
All the best, Duncan.