Looking at Lawns

Autumn is the ideal time to sow new lawns or patch up existing ones. When the autumn rains begin to moisten up the soil is the perfect time to sow lawn seed. With a little additional watering you can keep the soil moist allowing seeds to germinate and establish. Then the new grasses have the rest of autumn, winter and spring to establish before they hit a hot dry summer.

Likewise perennials, shrubs and trees are best planted in the autumn. Now is the time to prepare for your sowings of lawn seed.  The first aspect is to get rid of any weeds in the lawn if you are not going to rotary hoe the lawn and start a fresh. There are a number of lawn weed killers on the market and if the lawn weeds are grass weeds then a product such as Roundup can either be selectively sprayed or wiped over the leaves with a paint brush.

If you opt to sow a completely new lawn then kill off the existing one with Roundup and Woody Weed Killer combined, prior to rotary hoeing. (Add Raingard to the spray for better results) Once the area is turned over and leveled off you keep the soil moist to germinate any weed seeds. As soon as there is a show of weeds, spray them or hoe them out. Repeat this as many times as possible to eliminate as many weeds as possible.

If you do not do this you will have a weedy new lawn later on. Drainage is important and if the area is prone to ‘ponding’ then Nova flow pipes should be placed through the area and run off to your storm water system.

If you have a heavy or light soil you may wish to import top soil for your new lawn. This will be full of weeds so once spread out, follow the above to kill the weeds. If after killing off the weeds in an existing lawn you may wish to thicken up the grasses by over sowing the lawn with fresh seeds.

This action is done in the autumn when the soil is moist by hiring a scarifier which will rip out the thatch in the lawn and make grooves which are ideal for broadcasting the new seed into.
After sowing the seed lightly water to settle the seed onto the soil and then roll the lawn to press the seed into the moist soil.

If you repeat this action each autumn (for a few seasons) you will obtain a lovely lawn that is dense in nice grasses making it very difficult for weeds to establish.

If your lawn has thatch (thats the debris that builds up on the soil surface) you can either scarify the lawn or spray the product called Thatch Busta which can eat up an inch of thatch in a month if kept moist. (not wet) Autumn is the ideal time to do this.

If you desire a good lawn then you must sow top quality lawn seed which is not cheap but well worth it.
Super Strike is a good lawn seed otherwise confer with the companies that supply lawn seed to Green Keepers.

A number of gardeners have contacted me recently with a problem of brown patches in the lawn.
This can be what is called dry spot which means that water or rain sheds off those areas leaving the grass to brown off through lack of moisture. Often the surrounding grasses are lush and green as they are getting all the water.

To fix this problem you need to fill a watering can with warm water and give it a good squirt of dish washing liquid. Lather up the water then spread it over the dry spot, it will help break the surface tension that prevents water penetrating.

Autumn is also a good time to control grass grubs in lawns as they are near the surface and easier to kill.
I always advise people to lift some turf to establish if there are a number of grass grubs in the lawn.
This is best done in areas where past problems have occurred but other test lifts can be applied at different spots on a lawn. You may find that some areas are badly infested where other areas have little or no grubs.

This can also save you a lot of money by only treating the infected areas. The lawn needs to have been moist for a couple of weeks prior to testing as the grubs go deep and dormant in dry conditions.
A safe product to use, if you do not want to use a harmful chemical, is Professor Mac’s 3 in 1 for lawns.
It is a liquid made up of Tea Tree and Eucalyptus oils with a lawn food and wetting agent. The 2 litre container snaps onto the hose for spreading.

Those that prefer a chemical can use the product called, Lawn Pest Control. It is a granule chemical that is spread over the lawn and watered in.

If Porina caterpillars are a pest in your lawn then simply mow the lawn and that evening spray the lawn with Neem Tree Oil. Repeat a couple of weeks later.

I absolutely believe that a nice lawn sets off a nice garden, and that a poor lawn detracts attention from an otherwise lovely garden. It’s a little bit like a beautiful picture, framed with an ugly frame.  Great looking lawns and great looking gardens go hand in glove, so to speak.
Many well-tended gardens entered into competitions have failed to do well simply because of a poor-quality lawn.  You might remember viewing some really nice gardens on the 1999 television show presented by Maggie Barry. Some of these gardens were badly let down by messy lawns, patchy with clover and weeds.

Anyone mowing their lawn will notice an instant transformation to their overall landscape. Sadly, the effect lasts just a few days before the lawns start looking scruffy again. Mowing is one of the gardening pleasures of those gardeners growing a great lawn.

Conversely it is one of the biggest bugbears endured by those growing a so-so average lawn, as they use mowing to cut down the weeds. Weeds grow faster than grass, and make a lawn look very unkempt.

The weeds problem is exacerbated by mowing a lawn low  or scalping it, as it is called. This process opens up spaces in which weeds are more able to germinate and grow. Some lawn mowing contractors are prone to mowing in this manner, as it means they will have to come back more frequently to do the job, increasing their income.

It is possible to have a tremendous looking lawn, but it does take a little bit of time and effort to maintain it to that standard. No more so, however, than the time and effort required to maintain an average to poor quality lawn!

13 comments on “Looking at Lawns

  1. David Hall on said:

    Our lawn, which was sprayed on, 2.5 years ago has suffered continually from our dog peeing and killing patches of it.
    It is a fescue/ryegrass mix, which, in the first few months after establishment, looked wonderful.
    Then, the dog took control. We have tried re-sowing the patches, but with varied results; mostly there remains a bare patch. It’s as if the earth has been sterilized.
    We have put a proprietory product called ‘Dog Rocks’ in the dogs water bowl and this definitely helps, but friends dogs – with drinking water not treated this way – still leave dead lawn patches. The lawn is a dreadful mess.
    Do you have any suggestions?

  2. Hi
    Drench the bare patches with Magic Botanic Liquid (MBL) then about a week or so later water well and then resow.
    Wally Richards

  3. Andy Wright on said:

    What is the minimum length of time I should wait after apply roundup to topsoil before I should lay new instant lawn in order to avoid affecting the new lawn with roundup?

  4. Hi Andy,

    You need to wait a few days for the plants to take up the systemic poison. It will be fine to lay instant lawn after that as it is neutralised in the soil so far as a herbicide goes.


    Tim D

  5. Richard Hanna on said:

    Wally, I have Kyllinga nemoralis in ever increasing patches in my lawn. Can this be selectively sprayed without damaging the other lawn grasses?

  6. Alan Wall on said:

    Yarrow weed is taking over my lawn, please advise on a weedkiller that can be used in a lawnboy or knapsac to get rid of the problem

  7. Hi Wally,

    How late can I leave seeding a new lawn (after weed removal with bare earth) in the autumn? My main concern is how early frost might affect/kill young grass shoots/seeds. I have heard of some people laying hay over the lawn after seeding to speed up growth and protect from frost…

    Many thanks for any help/advice.


  8. What part of the world are you in?

  9. Mac Mackay on said:

     Hi Wally

    I am trying to purchase a Trulite Lawn Level or similar for delivery to an address in Nelson NZ  Please could you let me know of any company able to assist   Regards  Mac

  10. landscapedesignnz on said:

    Hi Mac,

    I have had a good look but cannot find a source for you. Are you looking for a levelling bar or a laser level?  


  11. Damian on said:

    I am sowing a new lawn. Do I need to put a fertiliser into the top soil before seeding? If so, what brand would be best? The soil is a premium lawn soil that has some nutrients etc in it already apparently.

  12. No don’t do that straight away wait for the lawn to strike and grow otherwise you will burn the new grass

  13. Damian on said:

    Thanks. I do realise that but I had just heard that you can use a starter fert in your soil.
    I won’t put anything in

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