March 2020 Lawn Diary
Welcome to this years first lawn diary
We've lots of help for your forthcoming gardening pleasure and some restoration procedures for those people who have found that the winter has caused die back, thinning or moss infestations in their lawns. If you are one of the unlucky ones go to Spring Lawn Repairs for the full story. We have no reports of disease at present but if you notice a few curious patches or blotches in the lawn see Pest & Diseases below for more advice.
This Month in a Nutshell
March heralds the start of the lawn care year but due to the recent very wet weather and current soggy conditions in many parts of the country it may be a slightly later start for some unless you have lots of moss which many people have!. We have put a new Lawn Alert up to help with mowing issues brought on by the excessively wet weather. Of course the weather will change so don't let it lull you into a false sense of security so that you get stuck in with the scarifier to then find the sister of the beast from the east is on it's way. Therefore please take note, it is too early for many jobs but you can make a start with aeration and moss killing (not moss raking yet), ensure equipment is serviced and ready for use and get your goods in ready for this years lawn care:
Summary 'to do' list for now through March:
- Reduce worm casting prior to mowing - see Pest & Diseases below
- Treat moss with a Ferrous Sulphate based product
- Aeration - use spikes and if no frost likely then also hollow tine
- Light topping with the mower - use very high setting
- Turfing jobs
- Ferrous Sulphate or moss killer
- Grass Seed
- Weed Killer
Overall a mild winter but cloudy and overcast which favours the moss and not the grass. Of course that is all forgotten as the storms of February occupy our minds. A little more to come with the south benefiting of some more settled conditions sooner rather than later according to the met office.
Anyway, we begin with our standard post winter warning: March can give us a 'false spring' with a few weeks mild weather followed by another cold spell with some more frost. This means a little caution with some jobs in March. In addition the ground is very soft in some parts of the country so try and keep use to a minimum. If the postman takes a short cut across the front perhaps a little spiking is in order - the ground not the postman! So, stick to the normal game plan that you'll find in this Lawn Diary.
The Met Office long range forecast for the weeks up to late March are below:
Thursday 27th February to Saturday 7th March
Unsettled and often windy conditions are expected to continue with areas of rain moving east across the UK, interspersed with brighter, showery interludes. Rain is likely to be heaviest across western and northwestern areas, especially over the hills, with the best of any more prolonged drier interludes in the south and east. There is an increased chance of deep low pressure systems affecting somewhere in the UK, causing large amounts of rainfall and very strong winds. Temperatures are likely to frequently oscillate between rather cold and rather mild, with large diurnal variations. During any colder interludes, there is likely to be some snow on the high ground of the north. The weather may become more settled in the southeast at the very end of this period, though remaining unsettled elsewhere.
Saturday 7th March to Saturday 21 March
A continuation of the unsettled weather is expected at first, with spells of rain and strong winds broken by brighter, but showery conditions. The heaviest rain and strongest winds are expected in the northwest, with drier conditions expected in southern and eastern parts. It appears likely that conditions will turn generally more settled by the middle of March, with more prolonged dry spells possible, especially in the south. Any further spells of wet and windy weather most likely in the north. Temperatures mostly above average, but there will be large diurnal variations should more settled conditions take control, with frosts becoming likely.
And now for something completely different....
As you know we have never deviated from our theme of lawn care. It keeps it simple that way and you know exactly what you're getting!
However, occasionally we come across something that is extra special and because of the circumstances caused by Covid we wanted to share this one with you. It's a great way to escape the lock-down routine and a wonderful opportunity to get a breath of fresh air and a new perspective on life. Do take a look, it's hard to beat... The Little Seed Field
Those in the south may already have given the lawn a light New Year cut and with the potential for some slightly warmer weather next month, another cut, or your first cut, preferably on firm dry ground may be required. It's doubtful if this is the start of the mowing season just yet but it does offer the opportunity to tidy the lawn and check the mower is working as it should. Keep the cut high taking off just the very top.
If you haven't already sharpened the lawn mower this is your last chance. Next month there will be queues in the mower shop service department and it'll be weeks before you see your mower again if you leave it too late.
If you have a petrol lawnmower and are feeling adventurous get the mower manual out and change the spark plug and oil, then clean the air filter and if it's a rotary replace or sharpen the blade. It's dead simple but if you are a technophobe replace the blade (rotary only) and get a professional service at least every other year. Cylinder mower blade sharpening should be done in a machine shop. See the section on mower Cleaning & Maintenance
This is not necessarily the start of your fertilising schedule as weather can still bite with a cold spell. For most parts of the UK April is the time to start feeding though if March does warm up those in the southern half of the country may benefit from an early fertiliser application.
If you want to give the lawn a colour and health boost WITHOUT stimulating too much growth, copy the green keeper and apply a turf hardener. This will help the grass resist disease and green it up nicely with the added benefit of blackening moss if used at the highest rate.
There are two products to consider: WINTER GREEN 5-0-8+Iron if you feel the wet winter has leached out a lot of nutrients, particularly if you're on sandy soil. Remember to delay your spring fertiliser application to give 6 weeks between this and your spring treatment. If fertiliser levels are good or you're on a loam or clay soil I'd stick with a medium strength (2g per square metre) liquid application of soluble iron in the form of our Green-up soluble ferrous sulphate which will give a good green up. As ferrous sulphate is more like a grass 'vitamin' rather than a feed it won't impact on when you apply your spring fertiliser.
You should wait until April at least to use weed killer - May is better still - but manual weeding can be done particularly as the two weeds that are likely to be about this month are hard to kill at the best of times. Digging them out is about the only sure fire way of controlling them.
This months nasties:
If the weather remains cold through March hold off from a moss removal programme because the lawn will not recover until things warm up. If we get a mild spell and the long range forecast looks good then you may be able to start but only if you're in the midlands or south.
If you are just applying a ferrous sulphate based moss killer to control moss growth, then you can get on with it sooner rather than later after you've done a medium to high cut on the lawn. This means you won't need to mow for a while after application and you'll have uncovered some moss giving better exposure to your treatment.
If on the other hand you're going the whole hog and raking the moss out after killing it then I'd be thinking of treating the moss from the middle of the March or early April with raking being done a week to two weeks after. Raking in early May is perfectly acceptable as long as there is ground moisture available for grass recovery.
Your post moss removal plans should include over seeding bare patches or even the whole lawn with appropriate grass seed and finally assisting recovery with fertiliser. See Lawn Raking & Scarifying for procedures.
Don't forget you don't HAVE to kill the moss before raking it out as applying a ferrous sulphate based moss killer after raking to kill what remains may well be more effective. Treating before AND after is even more effective particularly if moss loves your lawn. See Moss Removal.
For those of you with concerns for safety of children and pets that are likely to be on the lawn soon after treating you can now use a chemical free product in your treatment program. See MossOff in the moss killer products link below.
TIP: Good moisture levels around the grass and moss such as on a dewey morning helps the ferrous sulphate penetrate deeper.
Aeration with a garden fork or hollow tine fork on heavily trafficked areas is in order if the ground is firmish and no frosts are imminent.
Your main aeration effort should be spiking (with solid spikes) the whole lawn from the middle of the month onwards. You'll find spiking anything more than a few square metres much easier with the aerator shoes or a rolling aerator - it's quick and relatively pain free whilst raising the heart rate ever so slightly!
The moss is once again quite rampant in places and some people have already started applying an iron sulphate product to the lawn to kill the moss. That's a good idea but what is not good is to wait the traditional two weeks and are then rake it out! This is a common practice but I don't advise the raking part at this time:
- If the surface of the lawn is wet your work will smear and seal the soil preventing air getting to the grass roots in the spring when growth starts
- A raker or scarifier may turn a soft surface into a mud bath
- If your raker or scarifier cuts into the soil and you get a following frost the lawn will heave
- You will cause excess damage to the grass if conditions are wet, exacerbating the damage caused by what is already an invasive treatment
- Your lawn will be disfigured for quite a few weeks until it starts growing again. Do you want to look at it in that condition for so long?
- Because it is too early for the grass to start growing and recovering any moss left behind will take advantage of the thinned and weakened grass and start growing again. The opposite of what you are trying to achieve!
All you need to do to resolve all of this is get the timing right. Wait until you have done the first two cuts in spring. This means the grass is starting to grow so it's then safe to start the raking process. You can apply iron sulphate (soluble iron) reasonably often, so applying now or before raking and again afterwards will be highly beneficial. Do read Moss Control as there are many other tips on how to do a great job and have the lawn better than ever in a few weeks, NOT months.
Once again make sure conditions are not too wet or soft before working on the lawn. If the surface is firm then re-cutting edges is in order plus any repairs using turf. In fact, up to the end of March is a great time for any turf jobs. See The New Lawn
In addition, if the winter has left you with a lawn thinned and in poor condition you may need to be ready to re-instate it as the weather warms. See Spring Lawn Repairs.
Disease: The only disease you may experience at this time of year is Fusarium occurring either after snow has thawed (this is how it gets its other name of 'Snow Mould') or if the weather is damp and mild for an extended period.
Fusarium can also be a sign of poor turf health, high thatch levels, poor air circulation, compaction or just persistent wet conditions. If you do experience an attack it is usually of little consequence in a domestic lawn but do look for possible causes as you can resolve many problems ready for next year. Read the Fusarium section for remedies and repair advice.
If your lawn is your pride and joy and you want to go that extra mile to keep it in tip top shape then apply Soluble Iron at the 'turf hardening' rate. This will colour the lawn beautifully but also give the grass an extra level of protection against disease. This should be done pre-winter as a preventative or at first signs of attack. Alternatively, if you're trying to help your lawn recover then use our Winter Green fertiliser now and then a Spring & Summer Fertiliser in April.
Powdery Mildew is still obvious in a few shady spots. Next time you take a walk around the garden check to see if you have what looks like 'white wash' on the grass leaves.
Pests: They can come in a variety of guises from squirrels burying their nuts, birds excavating moss, toadstools and moles. Have a read of Pests & Diseases if any of these are a problem. However, a quick word about worms and worm casts.......
Worms: Though it's best to treat for worms at the first sign, they will continue to surface throughout the winter and produce muddy casts that cause mowing problems in the spring. Worms are beneficial in that they digest organic matter providing nutrients and enriching the soil. They also do some valuable aeration. A lawn with worms is generally far healthier than one without. Though only moderately reliable we still feel Ferrous Sulphate is the most cost effective way to reduce worm casting.
If you have a fine, ornamental or croquet lawn and the surface is firm to walk on, a light roll to reduce frost heave is in order otherwise consider rolling in April.
As a routine treatment this is not necessary for any lawn other than fine, ornamental and croquet lawns. Wait until April/May and work this into any renovations (aeration and scarifying) you have planned for your lawn.
If a new lawn is in your plans this is a great time to make a start. The time is not right for seeding but it is perfect for turfing. You can consider seeding from April onwards.
*Lawnsmith product categories from this diary:
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Have a great month