I am pleased to see that more gardeners are taking pride in their lawns. It is the old story, great gardens are enhanced by great looking lawns. Poor, scruffy, weedy lawns ruin the appearance of the best of gardens. In fact one can go as far as saying that a great looking lawn will improve the appearance of a mediocre garden. It would then make sense for anyone landscaping a section, to firstly establish great looking lawns before worrying too much about the gardens the lawn will border on!
Autumn is the best time to sow a new lawn as the autumn rains and cooler temperatures make it easier for the grasses to establish. Spring planted lawns do not have much time to establish before they are hit with the summer conditions and unless regularly watered, they can fail.
Gardeners that plan to sow a new lawn or rip up a tatty lawn for resowing, should start preparations now.
The first thing to do is to determine what the soil is like in the area to be sown. Light, sandy soils need good friable top soil and compost mixed through the soil. Heavier clay type soils need to be opened up by using ample Gypsum, top soil and sand, incorporated. Gardeners that are blessed with nice friable soil need only incorporate more compost into it.
The first step would be to kill off whatever is growing in the area to be sown and then rotary hoe to a depth of at least 250mm.Then place a layer of the materials you are going to add to the area (about 4 to 6 cm thick) and rotary hoe them in. Now we water the area regularly to germinate the weed seeds that are going to be present.
Once these weeds are up they can then be killed off. A further layer of introduce material may then be applied to the area and rotary hoed in also. Water and allow the weeds to germinate so you can kill them off while young. We are trying to establish an area of friable soil to a depth of about 250mm that is free draining with ample humus for moisture retention.
If the area is prone to flooding you may wish at this stage to lay some nova-flow pipes.
It is also at this stage when a pop-up irrigation system can be laid. Complete these tasks and level off the lawn allowing a fall for water run off, to prevent ponding later. Once again water to germinate any other weed seeds. The above will be done over several weeks which should take us into autumn and the time to sow your new lawn. The quality of lawn seed you buy will determine the end result so no cheap lawn seed. Super Strike lawn seed is one I can recommend as it comprises of only fine turf grasses and no brown top seed. (Do not sow a mix with brown top in it as the brown top is a grass that gives you thatch problems and looks out of place in a fine rye and fescue mix).
Super Strike has a fine coating on the seed which only adds a gram of weight per kilo of seed. Most other coated seeds can add up to 500 grams of coating per kilo and you lose 500 grams of seed.
We will look at sowing and after care, later on in autumn.
For those gardeners that have a reasonable lawn which is prone to weeds and is not as thick a mat as you would like, then you can use another method for improving your existing lawn.
It is too early to start this, but what you do when the soil becomes moist with autumn rains is to hire a scarifier and run that over your lawn, north/south, east/west. This rips up the thatch and makes grooves in the moist soil. You then spread a top quality lawn seed and gently water it into the grooves.
This method will greatly improve your lawn, thickening up the grasses, making it difficult for weeds to establish and creating a carpet of green. You can do the same again the following autumn till you have the lawn you require.
For those gardeners that do have a great lawn there is a reasonable amount of work needed to keep it nice. Never mow more than one third off the height of the lawn in any one mowing. Also mow so that the height of the grasses are between 25 to 50 mm tall. Mowing lower weakens grasses and allows weed establishment. Never use a lawn fertiliser on the lawn. Only use a slow release fertiliser and preferably a natural one such as Break Through or its commercial name Bio-Boost.
Ordinary lawn fertilisers damage the soil food web, weaken the grasses, cause thatch problems and are like fast foods, give a boost then nothing.
You can apply the following products to advantage, soft garden lime, dolomite, gypsum, diluted liquid animal manures, Magic Botanic Liquid, Perkfection and Ocean Solids as a liquid feed or spray.
Grasses are just another plant like your roses, and for healthy plants you need natural products.
Twice yearly applications of Thatch Busta will not only eat up thatch in your lawn but will also improve the soil food web for healthier grasses. This can be done now as long as you keep the lawn soil a little moist after application. If you need to apply a weed killer always add the Thatch Busta to the spray as it will make the spray work better and the weeds will disappear faster. It will also off set the damage the chemical does to the soil life.
If you have ‘dry spot’ which are areas where the grass is browning off, it is because the soil has become too dry and will not accept water. You can remedy this very simply by adding some dish washing liquid to warm water in a watering can and apply this to dry areas.
A couple of gardeners have told me that they have porina caterpillars in their lawns at this time.
This would be right as the young caterpillars would be active now and they eat the grasses at the base, causing gaps and damaging the lawn. A simple spray of Neem Tree Oil over the lawn late in the day after the lawn has recently been mowed will stop the damage. A further spray of the same about a month later should catch others that have hatched out in the meantime.
Root Nematodes are another pest that attack lawns but being at the root area of the grasses they are hard to detect. When nematodes suck on roots they take energy from the plant and the plant looses its vigour.
After mowing the lawn you can sprinkle Neem tree Granules over the lawn and water in. These break down, releasing the Neem properties which are taken up by the roots of the grasses and thus stopping the nematodes from ever feeding again. A few weeks after application you will notice a new luster to the grasses and the leech’s have stopped sucking. The same treatment will also take care of any grass grubs feeding on the roots and porina chewing on the grasses.
Another point with lawns are the lawn mowing contractors whom in many cases want to mow their client’s lawns so low that they scalp the lawns. This is really bad as it opens up the lawn to weeds and weakens the grasses. The result is a lawn full of weeds that quickly becomes unsightly and needs the mower man back to do it again, often.
Another point that some have complained about is that mower contractors do not wash their mowers between lawns and as a result, they can carry new weed seeds to your lawn.
Great looking lawns add a lot of value to your property and are a pride to the owner.