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Here are some of the more minor lawn care treatments, problems and topics that are still important if you want your lawn to be a pleasure

Watering the Lawn

Watering the lawn is normally by choice not necessity. Grass unlike most other plants goes into a state of dormancy when moisture reaches critical levels. It will resume growth once water becomes available again.

There are some sound reasons for not watering the grass.  For reasons of conservation when reservoirs are not being adequately replenished, when cost is an issue or when watering may do more harm than good.

On the other hand there are good reasons to water the lawn particularly if you need to keep a good surface for games or kids or if you’ve undertaken some form of renovation and need to promote recovery. Other times you may just need a light watering to soak moss prior to applying a ferrous sulphate based moss killer or as part of  seeding or turfing process. For the heavier watering to maintain grass cover, after renovation or just to keep it looking green the following guidance will help.

How Often

Water when the lawn tells you to, not according to some arbitrary plan. Your soil type, grass type, exposure to sun and wind are just a few of the factors that will determine how frequently you need to water. It also goes without saying that an adequately fertilised lawn will tolerate dry conditions better than one lacking proper nutrient levels. This might mean some lawns require watering once a week whilst others only need water once a month in exactly the same weather conditions.

The signs to look for when the lawn is starting to gasp a little are: a change in colour with the lawn becoming dull as moisture levels become low. In addition the lawn will lose its ‘springiness’ and foot prints will remain in the lawn when normally the grass would spring back to shape.

If the lawn has started to turn brown however, you’re well passed the watering point and it may be best to let the lawn go dormant!

How much water

Water deeply each time you water – at least half an inch for clay soils and an inch (25mm) for sandy soils. You can work this out by placing a few straight sided containers (empty paint tins are ideal) in the sprinkler area to catch some water. If you time the process until there is the required amount of water in the container you’ll know how long to water for.

But I’m on a Water Meter!

As of 2014 a cubic metre of water costs £2. If you were to water at 25mm per square metre (an inch deep) on a 100m2 lawn this would be 2.5 cubic metres of water or £5. Doing this weekly during the driest one or two months is affordable for many.

When to Water

You must avoid having wet grass at night as this promotes disease. Therefore, water before the heat of the day so that the lawn has time to dry before nightfall. You can put the sprinkler on anytime from 4am to early afternoon on most days even sunny ones. If the temperature gets above 240C/750F turn the water off.

If you have disease in the lawn watering can make it worse. Red Thread and Fusarium will get worse in wetter conditions whilst watering will help the grass fight off Rust diseases. See Pests & Diseases for more detail.

Consequences of Incorrect Watering

Watering too often, too little or at the wrong time of day promotes disease, moss, weeds, weed grasses such as annual meadow grass and shallow rooting. Better no watering than watering incorrectly! Pop up automatic sprinkler system watering daily can be the cause of many lawn problems.

Water Repellent Soil

Sometimes soil becomes very hard to re-wet once it has dried out. Even though this might be due to a fungal condition such as dry patch using a wetting agent can aid water penetration and retention in most circumstances.

Lawn Care Companies

First started in America over 40 years ago lawn care service operators now exist in every developed country in the world.

As a rule they will treat your lawn with fertiliser and weed killer 3 to 4 times a year plus any other optional services applicable to you and your lawn. They have helped elevate the standards of lawns throughout the British Isles and have sparked a new interest in lawns and lawn care for many people.

They can handle small postage stamp sized lawns or large estates without any difficulty. Some offer a wide range of services including mowing and turfing whilst others keep to more traditional lawn care services of fertilisation, weed and moss control and possibly scarifying and aerating.

Independents’ vs Franchise Operators

In my experience apart from the van signage it can be hard to tell an ‘Independent’ from a Lawn Care Franchise particularly if both are professional with good reputations. Each have their own reasons as to why they’re better but ultimately it comes down to the knowledge, ability and enthusiasm of the person who is going to do the job. If it is the franchisee or the sole independent operator then the buck stops with the person doing the job. If on the other hand it is an employee who is going to do the work then you may want to talk to them as well. After all, having someone working around your home when you are out is an issue of security and trust.

Licensed Operators

To use commercial pesticides (weed killer, fungicides, insecticides etc) your lawn care service person needs to be NPTC registered and will be carrying a photo ID card. Don’t take their word for it that they have it, ask to see it. You’re not offending anyone and you’re also demonstrating your knowledge which will earn respect from the more professional operators. If they’re not registered you’re taking an unnecessary risk with your lawn, garden, pets and family.

Flooded Lawns

The degree of damage caused to your lawn from excess water depends primarily on:

  • What is in the water e.g. sewage, oil, debris
  • How deep the water gets
  • How long it lasts for

Lets start with the least worst scenario:

Rain Sodden Grass with no Flooding

Generally, sodden lawns will have some of the following factors that increase water ingress or retention:

  • Low lying (maybe your neighbour has a higher garden)
  • Run-off from hard areas
  • Poor drainage due to a sunken lawn or a none draining sub layer
  • Clay soil – usually heavy clay

Though the above can be problematic the lawn will usually recover once dry. Focus should be made on helping the lawn recover by coring (hollow tining), feeding and then resolving the cause.

The Seasonal Temporarily Flooded Lawn

Many people enjoy living near rivers and expect their gardens to flood on occasions. If your grass is under water for a week of less then it will usually recover. As it starts to dry rake off any excess silt, core aerate and get some fertiliser in. If you want to make sure of a good recovery over seeding should be undertaken. Assess the recovery for further action after about 30 days.

Major Lawn Flooding

If the lawn is submerged for more than a week the chances are the turf is dead. Further, if the depth of water is greater than about 10cm or 4″ then it will have caused some compaction. Depths over 30cm or a foot of water will cause major compaction.

Start by removing debris. Wear gloves as the area could be contaminated and contain glass and other sharp objects. Then start grading the lawn to get levels back to normal. This will definitely involve removing silt but may mean bringing in new top soil.

The whole area will then need to be rotovated to work the new soil in but also to relieve the compaction and get oxygen back into the soil. Adding humus (well decomposed green matter) and perhaps a dash of chicken poo will help build the organic content and get the bugs, microbes and worms working again. These are absolutely essential for a healthy soil.

Now you can continue as for preparing a new lawn with either turf or seed.

Odd Lawn Damage

Petrol

As a lot of garden machinery is petrol powered, on occasions, petrol spills will happen. Do NOT therefore, fill on the lawn or near any plants for that matter. You will contaminate the soil and before anything will grow there again the contaminated soil will need removing and replacing. A lot of work for a minor lapse!

Hot Stuff

Anything hot (close to boiling or above) can kill the grass. A nice cuppa whilst sitting in the deck chair is a lovely way to relax. Put the cup down on the lawn whilst it’s still hot and you may well leave a dead circle of grass! Be warned.

The same thing goes when using power tools like a hedge trimmer around the garden. They get hot and if put down on the lawn can quickly kill it.

Builders, Plasterers & Engineers

These guys, not all but some, have a tendency to swill buckets out on to the lawn. If the bucket contained mortar or plaster then there will be plenty of lime in it. If concentrated it can kill the lawn but even if it doesn’t it can contaminate the soil causing lawn problems for many years to come.

Other contactors use some pretty harmful materials and as they know flushing it down the drain is illegal they opt for dumping it on the garden.

Discuss this with them before you employ them, they won’t be offended.

Clothes Lines & Postman’s Short-cut

These can become well trodden and worn so before they get too bad aerate to relieve the compaction. See How to Aerate the Lawn

Frost, Freezing and Snow

Frosty Grass

Frost by itself doesn’t cause any real damage. It’s only when you walk on it the damage occurs. Walking on a frosty lawn causes the frozen grass leaves to fracture. When this happens the frost ruptures the leaf cells seriously damaging the leaves. The effect is that ugly disfiguring foot prints form in the lawn and stay for quite some time.

Though the grass doesn’t suffer long term damage keeping off the lawn in frosty weather is beneficial particularly if the lawn is a feature of the garden. You may need to have a diplomatic word in the postman’s ear!

Freezing

Snowmen on the Lawn
Freezing conditions with or without frost and snow can cause the surface of the lawn to ‘heave up’ in response to water in the ground freezing and swelling. This can be particularly bad if you’ve hollow tined very late (too late) in the year.

Under normal conditions there is nothing you can do to prevent it but be prepared to give the lawn a light rolling in dry conditions in the spring to flatten the raised areas. Ensure worm casts are thoroughly dispersed before rolling.

Snow on the Lawn

Snow itself is generally not a problem but a fungal disease called snow mould (a variant of fusarium) can occur once the snow thaws. This will often happen in unusually dense areas of snow normally where a snow man has spent some time or if you’ve cleared the path or driveway and chucked the snow on the lawn! You’ll know not to do that next time because snow mould can kill the grass!!

If you’ve got kids and snow you’ll get snow men. Not necessarily the best thing for the lawn but hey, it’s loads of fun!

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