Lawn Care Tips
This is an attempt to indicate some of the do’s and don’ts of lawn maintenance. This summary may assist for purposes of reference and in avoidance of pitfalls. It is not possible, of course, to make hard and fast rules for all classes of turf and all conditions. Each lawn owner must study his own conditions and how his own turf responds.
Before starting construction be sure to have a proper plan of campaign. The layout can make the difference between ease of working and difficulty. Plan banks, verges, and paths with care. Whatever work is done, do it thoroughly. Do not hurry the work nor skimp it. Hurried work leads to trouble in the future. Look ahead and bear in mind that the sward is permanent and that the period of construction offers the best opportunity for altering the physical nature of the soil. During construction give thought to the question of drainage.
Turfing is a winter job, best completed by January or February. While it is true good results are sometimes obtained by later work, the risks from spring droughts are greater. All turf used should be of even thickness and cut to uniform size. Do not beat the turf into position or roll it heavily. On a well prepared bed the turf should go down like tiles on the floor. Bond the turves. Be sure to top dress thoroughly after laying, using sand or sandy compost by preference. Work the dressing into the seams.
Most lawns are sown about the end of August or in early September, but spring sowing may also be done. Do not sow in spring, however, until there has been an opportunity for buried weed seeds to germinate. Late summer sowing gives better opportunities for fallowing. Do not sow on badly prepared seed bed, nor on one contaminated by weed seeds. Neglect of the seed bed can cause failure or at least future difficulties. It is wasteful to sow first class seed on poorly prepared land or to sow poor quality seed on land which had has much labor expended on it. Fertilizer pre treatment aids establishment. Sow seed uniformly on a dry surface. Divide the seed and sow transversely. Do not rake deeply. On heavy wet land do not sow until some pre treatment with sand or some other gritty material has been done. Avoid rye grass mixtures for fine lawns. Buy seeds by name and ask for information on purity and germination. Complicated seed mixtures are not necessary; simple mixtures suitable for the purpose give best results. Remember leafy varieties are more suitable than non leafy.
It is a mistake to apply an excess of fertilizer. This leads to more mowing and makes turf soft and lush and susceptible to disease. Late march and early of April are early enough for spring application, while the last dressing should go on about the end of August or early September. Do not use fertilizers in winter; sometimes this mistake is made. When buying fertilizers give attention to the value of the material as plant food, remembering that small quantities are proportionately more expensive than large. Don’t apply fertilizers unevenly, otherwise uneven color or perhaps scorching of grass will result. Most fertilizers are best bulked with a carrier of top dressing to facilitate application.
There is sometimes a temptation to apply raw farmyard manure. This is a harmful practice. If such manure is available, build it into a compost heap and allow to decompose thoroughly before screening and preparation for use. Do not apply more top dressing than the sward will absorb. If necessary, apply two to three part dressings. Remember top dressing with compost is the best way to maintain the surface. Make top dressings sandy in nature but the sand used should normally be free from lime.
Mowing is the operation carried out most of all on the lawn; it should therefore be done with care and economy. Regular mowing is needed, avoiding long intervals. Keep the sward more or less at the height at which it is desired. Spasmodic cutting is harmful to the grass; mowing two or three times a week is preferable, but do not ‘shave’ the turf. In autumn and winter do not allow the grass to grow too long, occasional topping being in order in open weather. Normally box of clippings but allow them to fly in dry weather. Switch the turf before mowing to scatter worm casts and dew. Always set the blade higher in spring than in summer and again raise it in autumn. With newly sown grass lightly top at first, gradually lowering the blade. On no account allow the seedlings to get out of hand. A well set machine is desirable.
The aim should be to give an adequate amount to achieve penetration. Start watering early in a dry period before serious signs of drying up are apparent. Picking and spiking are a great help in getting penetration, especially on slopes or banks. Application as a spray is best. A good plan is to water lightly, then after an interval of an hour or two return and apply the main volume.
Worming must be done when the weather is mild and the worms are near the surface. This is especially important with expellents like mowrah meal and derris. Water in mowrah meal thoroughly. New material gives better results than old. Use lead arsenate. Lead arsenate is a poison! Control of earthworms is desirable, since their casts destroy the ‘truth’ of a lawn.
The main one is the leather jacket. Can cause damage so keep careful watch in autumn and again in April and May. DDT, BHC and lead arsenate may all be used for control.
Some turf diseases are encouraged by forcing the growth. Prevention is better than cure. Scatter the dew. Where lawns are repeatedly attacked, preventive applications of fungicide are desirable. A number of materials designed for turf are available.
Weeds spoil the appearance of the lawn. Don’t use lawn sands in drought but use them when the soil is moist, the sun bright and there is prospect of dry weather for a day or two. If used in wet weather, their scorching action is lost. Renovation of treated area may be necessary, using seed to get rapid ‘grow in’. use selective weedkillers in dry conditions, but avoiding drought. Good growing conditions give best results and pre treatment of the site with fertilizer before application of the weedkiller enhances results. Do not allow drift to other plants in the garden or neighboring gardens. Liquid selective weedkillers give best results than powder. Some weeds are resistant and need repeat applications.
Many lawns become over compacted, owing to use and this condition can be relieved by forking or mechanical spiking. Do not prise the turf. Forking and spiking improve root development. Scarifying, another form of aeration, is valuable, especially on lawns with much fibre.
Maintenance of Equipment
All equipment should be care for, especially the lawn mower, which should be cleaned after use and put away dry. Periodical greasing and setting is necessary. Small tools too, if carefully maintained, last longer and give better results.
An occasional roll is desirable, especially in spring, to put lawn back after frost. Do not roll out worm casts; sweep them off first. Abuse of the roller should be avoided; a true surface is best got by top dressing, though a roller will help with the small lumps. Avoid rolling in very wet conditions.