How To Achieve The Perfect Lawn
A lawn provides a simple but stunning centrepiece for the garden, waiting to be framed by borders and planting. Maintaining your lawn needn’t be a chore. With some simple steps, you can have a lush, striped lawn to rival any bowling green. Here are our top tips.
It is best to do most of these preparation steps in the autumn months if possible when lawn growth has slowed down, it then has enough time to recover for the spring and summer months.
Scarify Dead grass and debris can easily build up to cause unsightly thatch, which in turn blocks air and sunlight getting to the grass and a vicious circle begins. Depending on the size of your lawn and the scale of your problem, you can choose between a manual lawn rake or a powered scarifier to help clear the lawn.
The autumn months are the best time to give it a vigorous rake but be careful not to be too forceful and rake too deeply as the turf gets damaged it can take a long time to recover.
Aerate Like any plant, the key to healthy grass is taking care of the roots. Make sure the root gets maximum oxygen by doing all you can to improve drainage. The best way to do this is through aeration.
As with scarification, the best tool for the job depends on your lawn size. You can again invest in a powered machine, or you can simply pick up a garden fork and insert the spikes roughly 15cm deep every 30cm around the lawn, focussing particularly on any areas where damp and flooding is a problem. This will reduce moss growth and give you a healthier, greener lawn.
While there is some debate about the true benefits of top dressing a lawn for the home gardener, it can help correct small surface irregularities and improve drainage.
Top dressing involves spreading a 1cm covering of material such as soil, sand or compost (or a mixture) evenly over the lawn. For a universal lawn dressing product, look for Westland Lawn & Turf dressing which is designed to improve the root structure, drainage and physical condition of your lawn.
Top dressing should ideally be done annually and after aeration for best results. Once you have aerated your lawn, make sure the grass has been recently mown before applying your top dressing. Apply it by spreading evenly across your whole lawn and use the back of a rake to work into the ground, focusing on filling any gaps created by aeration. The grass should not be completely covered - the tops of the blades should still be visible. Once your top dressing has been applied, give your lawn a good water.
If you have some large unsightly bumps or dips in your lawn, you’ll need to do a few small procedures to rectify. You can do this by lifting and rolling back the turf of the offending bump or dip using an edging iron or spade. Turn over the ground underneath and then remove or add soil until you have flattened out the area. Pull the turf back over, press firmly around the edges and water generously.
Repair and Seed
Once all the steps above have been done, check the lawn for any patches or worn areas. Autumn is the best season for sowing grass seed on a new lawn or overseeding your existing lawn while the average temperature is still warm enough to encourage successful germination. Sprinkle lawn seed over the worn parts and lightly rake into the ground and apply patch repair to small missing patches. Firm the ground once applied by taking a walk over the areas.
Spring Mowing Our top tip for mowing is to invest in the right machinery! There are lots of options for mowers on the market from petrol, to electric and battery, from rotary to cylinder, and walk behind to ride on.
If you’re after a striped finish then a rear roller mower is recommended and the lawn needs to be mown up and down to perfect your stripes. This is because the roller flattens the grass so that it lays flat in the direction in which you’ve mowed. Finish the effect with clean sharp lawn edges using a half moon edger.
The first cut is the most important. It may be tempting to jump straight in and cut the grass low to kick off the season, in fact, you need to do the opposite. On the first mow, you need to be gentle to protect the grass’ roots which will be soft and delicate after the winter. A short cut will weaken the grass and encourage weeds and moss. Cut on a higher setting, then repeat a few days later on a lower cut height. Then be sure to mow regularly throughout the season.
If you need to repair patches of your lawn or reseed a larger area, there is a new product available that allows you to make an even earlier start this spring. Gro-sure Smart Seed Fast Start allows grass seed to germinate at lower soil temperatures. This means you can sow seed around a month earlier than previously - in March, rather than April - and see good results.
Early spring is also the time to target small patches of weeds with a dedicated lawn weedkiller and use a moss killer if needed when the weather is good. Products have recently become available that more easily remove moss - MO Bacter by Viano, and Miracle Gro Premium No Rake. These contain special bacteria which digest the moss in your lawn and break it down to form fertiliser, which then greens your grass. Apply these with a spreader to make sure you get the coverage advertised on the bag - however, if you do accidentally overdo it a bit in one area, you won’t get awful black patches. And with the moss all broken down into the soil to feed your grass, there is no raking to be done either. These moss products won't control broad-leafed weeds such as dandelions and thistles in your lawn though, so you will have to deal with these separately. Remember to use a specific lawn weedkiller that won’t damage your grass.
If you are planning to lay turf, mid-March is the ideal time. Prepare the ground a couple of weeks before laying turf, using a product like Grow More Granular Fertiliser that has a balance of the major nutrients needed, allowing it time to work into the soil.
Using a good quality feed will provide your lawn with the nutrients it needs to maintain its health and reduce the shock of the first cut. Make sure you use a spring mix to give it the right balance of essential nutrients and feed for this time of year. We recommend a lawn feed like Miracle Gro Evergreen Complete 4 in 1, or for a 100% organic feed, choose Westland SafeLawn - highly recommended for households with children and pets.
Grass feed should be applied evenly when the soil is moist and rainfall is expected. During prolonged dry spells, you will need to water the lawn for several days after application.
Edges A perfect lawn can instantly be ruined by messy edging. Use a half-moon lawn edger like the one above from Burgon & Ball and a pair of edging shears, and you can solve this in a flash. Be sure to collect up the trimmings afterwards to stop the cut grass and debris building up on the lawn.
The summer months are the ones where we really hope to relax a little in the garden, spending time enjoying the fruits of our spring labours and perhaps walking barefoot on our beautifully prepared lawn. It is also the season when the lawn comes under the greatest amount of stress. Reduced rainfall, rapid lawn growth, which uses up the nutrients in the soil and the increased presence of people happily trampling over the grass can all take their toll. Mowing, feeding and careful watering can keep your lawn at its best in summer.
As long as the weather conditions are not extremely hot and dry (see below for drought management), continue to mow regularly - weekly if possible.
Summer calls for a different type of feed to give your lawn the nutrition it needs. Choose a feed like Aftercut Ultra Green, which feeds and conditions grass from root to tip. It helps achieve rapid greening within days, at a time when the lawn can tend towards turning brown, prevents moss and helps create a stronger and tougher lawn.
Watering lawns during the summer months can be a matter of preference, as lawns will typically recover well in autumn with increased rainfall and there is a lot to be said for conserving this precious natural resource. If conditions are particularly dry and you do want to try and prolong the lush green of your lawn, a major soak less frequently is better than frequently sprinkling, which can lead to shallow root growth.
See drought management below for more advice on summer watering.
Our friends over at Westland Garden Health have provided some great tips for reviving your lawn after a drought.
What happens to the grass in drought conditions?
The grass will try to fight by increasing the root system to reach for water. Because of this, it focuses resources to keep the roots alive and as a consequence will turn brown/yellow. So in most cases the grass is not dead, just dormant, and uses as little water as possible to survive this dry spell. To find out if your grass is dormant or dead: pull it! If the grass comes out easily, with no resistance if is dead. If this doesn’t happen it means the roots are still alive. Another test is watering a small section to see if it starts greening.
What to do in the meantime?
1. Leave the grass to grow. Longer grass will give shade to roots and encourage them to grow as well, so raising the height of the lawnmower is recommended.
2. Don’t use top dressing or weedkillers on the lawn during this period. Avoid fertilisers unless you are able to water the lawn (think of water resource in your area)
Light drought – recovery should be apparent within 7-10 days
Medium drought – recovery should be apparent within 7-14 days
Heavy drought – recovery should be apparent within 2-3 weeks
How do I recover my lawn?
1. Rake the lawn lightly and remove any loose material
2. Water, water and water! (think of the resource in your area).If it does not rain, water heavily for a couple of days. After this period water as normal. Is always better to give a good soak but less frequently instead of little and often. This will encourage deep rooting.
3. Avoid high traffic when it is recovering to avoid more stress.
4. After watering there may be some patchy areas. To repair, rake the area and remove dead grass. Apply Gro-Sure Smart Patch, as it contains water retaining granules and is guaranteed to repair any patch.
5. Once the grass is recovering, apply a balanced fertiliser to replenish soil nutrients and boost the lawn health. Westland SafeLawn releases nutrients gradually to avoid stress and includes grass seed to fill thinning areas.
6. If your grass is very sparse or worn, we recommend overseeding the whole lawn with Gro-Sure Smart Lawn seed. It contains a clever aqua gel coating that can absorb 400 times its weight in water to guarantee germination.
7. Finally, if your lawn is dead, you will need to re-turf or sow a new lawn with Gro-Sure Smart Lawn seed, a quality blend that will help prevent this happening if another dry spell occurs. Keep watering well to help seed germination.
Recommended Lawncare Toolkit
- Mower (for a striped lawn, consider a real roller mower)
- Grass Seed (e.g. Gro-Sure Smart Seed Fast Start)
- Moss Remover (e.g. MO Bacter by Viano or Miracle Gro Premium No Rake)
- Lawn Weedkiller
- Lawn Feed (e.g. Evergreen 4 in 1 Complete or Westland SafeLawn)
- Top dressing (e.g. Westland Lawn & Turf Dressing)
- Half-moon Lawn Edger
- Edging Shears
- Lawn Rake (or powered scarifier)
- Garden Fork (for aerating)
- Garden Spade (for flattening)
- Garden Hose (for regularly watering)