Lawn care can be a battlefield for the modern gardener. How do you juggle all of your commitments to family, work, socialising and have an incredible looking lawn? After all, no self respecting gardener is going to live in a house with a second rate lawn – that would just be madness!
Your lawn is an extension of yourself. Letting it become overgrown, covered in weeds and moss signals that you don’t respect your garden, your home, or yourself. It’s a constant struggle.
Thankfully, (and after several years) I’m pretty sure I’ve cracked the code behind an awesome looking lawn with minimal effort. Here are my top tips on how to have an awesome (but easy) lawn like mine.
“Business at the Front, Party at the Back”
In a lot of ways, the key to having an alpha lawn care regime is to treat your garden like it’s a mullet haircut from the 1980s. The main premise with the mullet was ‘business at the front, party at the back’: you kept everything nice and short and neatly clipped at the front of your head whereas the back was where all the fun happened. Literally.
It’s the same with your lawn. The ‘front of house’ should be looking really sharp all year round whereas the back is where the fun happens: barbecues, parties and kids’ play time.
Your front grass is an extension of your persona:
- It’s well groomed and trim all year round
- It’s very forgiving but free from blemishes like weeds
- It’s respectful to the elderly and gives generously to charity (Ok, so that’s just me, not the grass)
Contrast this with your back garden lawn which is hard wearing and maintained for utility. After all it needs to absorb all the parties, summer football tournaments, water fights and outdoor workouts.
OK – so this all sounds great but how do you actually go about it?
Regular Cutting: Harness the Power of Lateral Spread
Grass is a spreader. No I don’t mean it likes gossip, I mean it propagates by vegetative spread (science alert!). It grows laterally (sideways) as well as vertically (up and down). To have an impressive lawn, you need to harness the power of the lateral spread. This is where regular cutting comes in.
Regular cutting stimulates the lateral growth which makes your lawn thicker and harder wearing. For best results you should lift the grass clippings. This reduces the risk of mess to your spotless home and also reduces the build of ‘thatch’ which can discourage lateral growth. Regular cutting will also reduce the amount of broadleaved weeds in your lawn as most of them don’t like getting a regular clipping.
So what is a regular cut? This depends on how fast your grass is growing. I live in central Scotland where it’s fairly mild and wet so my grass grows faster than a BMW driver stealing your parking spot. I’ll cut at least once a week or even every 5 days if necessary. The trick is not to overdo it; cutting your grass too short can cause scalping or scorching. This is when the vulnerable grass underneath the main lawn is exposed and goes yellow. This not only looks bad, it also opens your grass up to disease.
Regular Watering: Because No One wants a Dry Sward
‘Sward’ is just a technical term for your lawn. And the last thing you want is for your grass to dry out. Just like you, your lawn gets dry quickly in hot weather. If it hasn’t rained for a week, you should think about getting the hose pipe out and giving your grass a good soaking.
Kids love to do this too so you could ask them to ‘help’ and then retreat inside to read a book or catch up on some sleep. If you don’t have a willing child, an inexpensive sprinkler will do just as well.
Lawn Pro-Tip: If you walk on your grass and it doesn’t ‘spring’ back up, it probably needs watering. A lawn affected by drought is more likely to become diseased and look like a big shrivelled up yellow lemon. So don’t let it happen. Unless you want to lose the respect of everyone you know and more importantly, yourself.
Regular Feeding, Weeding and Moss Kill
This is the third part of the holy trinity of lawn care: regular feeding. Feeding and moss kill is probably the most neglected aspect of lawn care. Not taking an interest in this aspect of lawn care is like going to the drive through car wash but not paying the extra fifty pence for suds: unimaginable.
My lawn supplement regime has three parts:
Springtime: Lawn Sand
Don’t be fooled – this ain’t sand. It’s ferrous sulphate mixed with sand as a bulking agent. It performs two functions. Firstly it will BURN TO A CRISP any broadleaved weeds or moss that may be lurking on your otherwise manicured green carpet. As long as it’s applied properly (more on that later) it won’t affect the grass itself.
When ferrous sulphate is mixed with water (more science – chemistry this time), it turns to weak sulphuric acid. This acidifies the soil which makes your grass greener. This acidification controls some pests including leather jackets (crane fly larva, not the local biker gang).
You can use a dispenser or apply by hand – roughly one handful per square metre. Always wear full rubber gloves – there’s nothing big or clever about being burned by sulphuric acid.
Summer: Feeding Time
Summer is the time for growth so use a quick acting summer feed. This gets the grass growing in double quick time and helps it recover from all the long play dates and social occasions that summer brings. Your lawn may well be depleted of nutrients from wet winters leaching out goodness. Regular cutting takes goodness away from the ground which needs to be replaced as well. For summer feeds, I use a hand applicator – not because it’s easier but because I have a small lawn and using a wheeled applicator would look utterly ridiculous.
Autumn: Nice and Slow Release
Autumn is time for gardeners to slow down a little. I apply a slow release feed to keep the roots growing all winter (yes, in temperate climates, your lawn will grow throughout the year). You might not be able to see it but your lawn will be increasing its root growth during warmer periods in winter and autumn. Slow release feed will help this process along and give you a healthier looking lawn come spring.
This has been a high level run through of basic lawn care but if you follow these tips, your lawn will improve in thickness as well as becoming harder wearing, greener and free of pesky weeds. The treatments I described are not expensive and only need to be done once or twice a year. Finding lawn sand can be a challenge but most smaller garden centres or specialist retailers will stock it.
Neil M White lives in Perthshire with his wife and three children. He has worked in horticulture as a landscape gardener and in a tree nursery. Now a ‘hobby’ gardener, he spends most of his time growing fruit or veg. Juggling gardening, family life and a day job, Neil also finds time to write – his latest book on gardening ‘The Self Provisioner’ was published in April 2020. Catch up with Neil on his Twitter feed.