In my last article I wrote about creating a new lawn. In that post I discussed several ways to build a new lawn, including the two most well-known methods of seeding grass and planting Turf. As the article was mainly aimed at beginner gardeners I decided to stay with and explain the easier option of laying turf.
We will now fast-forward your lawn to a point where it will need regular maintenance to keep it green, neat and healthy. In this post I will be discussing some basic beginner gardening tips in relation to a ‘Do it Yourself lawn Care’ maintenance program. We will discuss.
1. Watering your lawn.
2, Feeding your lawn.
3. Weeding your lawn.
4. Mowing and Whipper snipping your lawn.
1.WATERING YOUR LAWN:
Before I go any further I believe I should discuss some valuable information into growing and maintaining a healthy lawn during the extreme hot, dry spells that have ravaged many parts of America, Europe and Australia.
I have a had a lot of comments from people across the world that have been having issues keeping their lawns alive in the extreme heat and dry that many of us have experienced this summer, and winter for those of us living in central and Northern Australia.
FIRSTLY, I MUST STATE THAT IF CONDITIONS ARE BAD ENOUGH, THERE IS LITTLE THAT CAN BE DONE.
However, there are several preventative methods you can use that will help you through the worst.
1. Make sure your lawn is as healthy as you can get it to be while it is growing. This means following the suggestions I made in my previous article. You should prepare your soil carefully, then your lawn will have a good chance of developing a healthy root system quickly. Make sure you have the correct Ph levels, add plenty of old manure as well as a slow release fertilizer. Preferably an organic slow release fertilizer should be incorporated before laying the turf.
2. Water it deeply, rather than often. In other words give the whole lawn a good soak every three to four weeks during the cooler period in spring. Less if you are receiving comstant rainfall. You should never give your lawn, or for that matter any plants, a shallow watering, you will not help it to develop a deep root system. Deep root systems are vital for plants and lawns to grow strong. Once the roots of your lawn or plants hit dry soil they tend to stop growing or curl upwards looking for moisture. This can cause the plant or grass to stunt or die.
3. Make sure that when you initially purchase your turf variety that you find one that can withstand heat and dry. Some grass types are able to withstand incredible heat, and although they might look dead after a long dry spell, they will bounce back as soon as the rains come. For example, Bermuda grass can withstand more heat and dry then most others. It can also be cut a lot shorter. Once again, I can’t stress enough that it’s better to ask an expert at your local garden center about grasses for your specific area.
4. If you have chosen the correct grass for your region it should withstand long periods of dry weather. After you have finished laying your turf ,and you have thoroughly watered it, you should gradually wean the grass off water. Obviously you don’t start this procedure until your turf is growing and totally settled. Weaning the grass off water doesn’t mean withdrawing water totally. It’s simply a way to harden you lawn ready for the hot dry summer ahead. For example, when your lawn is still establishing itself I would water it deeply every week for a month. Then in the second month I’d do it fortnightly, and in the third monthly.
FEEDING YOUR LAWN:
Before I go any further I need to give a warning in regard to the current heat and dry. NEVER FEED YOUR LAWN DURING HOT DRY SPELLS… YOU MAY KILL IT.
Yes, if you use fertilizer on a very hot day, during a lengthy dry spell, you are really wasting your money as the roots of the grass will be unable to take up the nutrients. This doesn’t mean you can’t fertilize in normal hot weather. As long as you do it later in the afternoon, and water it in thoroughly, it will be okay.
This brings me to the types of fertilizers you can use and when.
I personally only ever fertilize my lawn once a year in early spring. This is ideal for the climatic conditions we experience, which are mild fairly dry winters, hot dry springs, wet summers and a wet fall (autumn). In other ares of the world you can fertilize twice or more a year. But personally I would only fertilize in early spring and early fall.
I personally prefer to use organic or organic type slow release fertilizers. You should purchase the slow release types that release there nutrients over a six-month period, then two applications a year are fine. These controlled release fertilizers are less likely to burn your lawn and more likely to keep it looking lovely and green. Always look for a product that is reasonably high in phosphate. Particularly for your pre winter application as this will help your grass get through the colder weather. The fertilizer you purchase should have a well-balanced NPK ratio along with much-needed micro nutrients.
WHAT IS NPK … And what are micro nutrients.
Simply put NPK is Nitrogen, Phosphorous and Potassium. These are known as the macronutrients
1. Nitrogen is available in the form of Urea and also is supplied by rainfall, yes rain provides nitrogen, but only in small quantities. It’s nitrogen that gives your grass that beautiful green color.
2. Phosphorous plays an integral part in photosynthesis of any plant, including grass. Along with many other benefits, It strengthens the DNA structure and stimulates growth.
3. Potassium helps root development, cell structure and the ability for the plant to retain water.
All of these micronutrients help the plant to grow, stay healthy, produce seed, keep the grass green, develop strong root systems, and the list goes on. We won’t do an in depth analysis of all the Micro and Macro nutrients in this article, suffice to say that whatever lawn fertilizer you use, it will need all these nutrients in it if you want to achieve a healthy green lawn. For precise balances of the Macronutrients in particular, I would ask the help of my local garden center. As I have stated before, the balance you need will depend on the grass variety, climatic conditions and time of year you are spreading the fertilizer.
WEEDING YOUR LAWN:
There are several methods available for you to maintain a clean lawn, free of weeds. These are.
1. Keep the lawn free of weeds from day one. This simply means that for about half an hour every week, scan your lawns and either, pull them out by hand, or use a specific weeding tool to do so.
2. Use natural weed killers such as.
A. Vinegar or Vinegar and salt. You can use vinegar straight or you can mix it with a 50% mixture of salt and add a teaspoon of dish washing liquid for every liter of vinegar. Mix it in a bucket and place into a small spray bottle. Aim for the center of the weed and try not to spray the grass.
B. A flame weeder. These are portable gas torches and can be very effective at killing weeds. However, It is difficult in the case of a lawn to restrict the death to just weeds. These devices aren’t to accurate in limiting the damage. They can also be dangerous if used near dry mulch.
C. Broad leaf herbicides. These are the most commonly used weed suppressant liquids. However, they are not the herbicide with those people that don’t like using poisons. If used carefully and only when really needed, they are the most efficient at killing weeds. There are different herbicides available for different lawn types. For example Buffalo grass has that own specific herbicide, if you use the wrong one you could kill the grass.
MOWING AND WHIPPER SNIPPING ( STRING TRIMMER) YOUR LAWN:
I have a lot of people ask me how high or low they should cut their grass. The answer is never a simple one. Once again it is a difficult question to answer because it depends on the grass type you are mowing. As for doing the edges, parts of the world call it the machine used for this a whipper snipper and others a string trimmer. I tried to use both to prevent confusion.
The first thing I do on mowing day is to trim the edges of the lawn with a whipper snipper or string trimmer. You need to be careful you just take the tips of the grass off and don’t dig in to deep or you will damage the edge and leave it open for weeds to grow.
The height you cut your grass at will depend on the grass type, the time of the year, how much shade your lawn is getting and many other factors. I personally general rule I do the following.
1. Cut Shady Grass on the higher end of the cutting height.
2. Mow the lawn higher during hot, dry conditions. This helps to keep the grass alive and growing.
3. I cut warm season grass lower in early spring to remove any thatching and dead blades.
4. Mow cool season grasses at the higher end of the cutting range.
If there’s one warning I’d like to give that that you don’t cut your grass to short in, particularly during a hot spell. I have seen a lot of lawns struggle in the dry season because of this. Also, constant mowing at a very low height leads to scalping and baring of the soil, which allows weeds to grow.
You should mow your grass on a regular basis as this helps to keep the weeds under control. You should mow regularly you will not give the weeds a chance to seed and spread.
At my property I mow every three weeks during the dry season and weekly during the wet. However, we live in a sub-tropical climate. In a winter wet and summer warm climate I would mow weekly in summer and fortnightly in winter. I would adjust the remaining months to suit the climate.
I HAVE GONE THROUGH THE BASICS:
I have now discussed all the basics of keeping a lawn healthy. I could go into more depth but then I will have written a book. Which I might just do one day, or at the very least, and e book. You should now be aware of the importance of watering your lawn, weeding your lawn, feeding your lawn and mowing your lawn. Remember that different principles apply in different regions, and so much depends on the climatic conditions of your region, and your specific soils structure. I haven’t gone into depth about soil structure because this is a topic that deserves its very own blog.
I hope you enjoyed my latest blog, and if you did, please leave a comment in the box below. You should have a question regarding lawn maintenance then please feel free to ask it. I will always endevour to answer you promptly.
Happy Gardening . Jim