Discover how to spruce up your lawn with these profesional tips
Well as we all know it certainly been a challenging year for us all, this year’s weather has certainly affected our growing season in many ways, all aspects of our industry have been affected in one way or another. The prolonged dry spell has been compared to 1976, one of the hottest driest years on record. I remember that year well, I was working on Cocks Moors GC and spent the whole summer hand watering greens just to keep them alive. No doubt many golf courses have struggled to keep their course watered with irrigations systems running on maximum capacity.
Plenty of grass roots playing pitches and domestic lawns will also have suffered, especially those with no watering facilities leaving them prone to the weather. Once soils become hydrophobic they repel water and when they are dried it can be difficult to re-wet them. Irrigation water will run off, evaporate and be wasted.
Hydrophobic conditions are often caused by a waxy coating on soil particles. The coating may form as a result of wax eroded from leaves, exudates from roots and fungi, decomposing organic matter and waste products from biological sources. A variety of wetting agents are available to overcome the problem. Without the aid of watering facilities, we are in the lap of the gods, waiting for some much-needed rainfall.
The net result of this ongoing dry weather has left us with many dried-out bone hard lawns, with large areas of dead grass and a lot of weeds such as broad leaf plantains. Without doubt it will take time for these lawns to recover naturally, in most cases they will benefit from some help in terms of undertaking some renovation work in the form of scarifying, deep aeration weed killing and overseeding while soil and air temperatures remain favourable.
As for the lawns, grass growth has been particularly non-existent for several weeks due to the very hot dry conditions, we are now just starting so see some grass growth after the recent rain showers.
September is a good month for renovating your lawn, the benefits of an autumn lawn renovation are numerous giving you the opportunity to:
· Clean out surface moss and fibre
· Aerate/de-compact the soil
· Topdressing with a sand/soil dressing to maintain surface levels
· Overseed with some new grass seed to repopulate the lawn, sowing at a rate of 35grams M2
· Apply a spring NPK base fertiliser
The first job is to clean off as much vegetation as possible and remove any unwanted organic matter / thatch by the process of mowing, scratching, scarifying and sweeping the surface prior to topdressing.
You really need to remove as much dead matter and thatch out of your lawn as possible, scarifying in 3-4 directions to remove all the dead fibre/ thatch.
Then re-instate dips and hollow and restore levels with appropriate amounts of compatible root zone dressing 70/30 ratio of sand and soil material and then overseed with a desirable quality amenity grass seed mixture.
Thatch is a tightly intermingled layer of living and dead stems, leaves and roots which accumulates between the layer of actively growing grass and the soil underneath- Thatch accumulates when the production of dead organic matter exceeds the rate at which it decomposes.
The first task is to mow the lawn as low has you can get with your mower, then use a combi rake to scratch up any remaining prone grass growth and then re-mow the square or use a brush / vac to clean up the surface.
The next task is to scarify the lawn, Scarifying is a process perhaps best described as a mechanical raking. A scarifier uses a series of sharp blades that rotate at high speed and cut into the turf in a vertical manner. Always scarify to a depth suitable for your lawn , i.e. to below the depth of thatch.
Scarification is important to remove unwanted vegetation, but also to produce a key for the rootzone topdressing and seed to sit in. The level of scarification required will be dependent on how much of a thatch layer you have generated throughout the season. scarifying in at least three directions, never scarify at right angles to the last pass as this can pull blocks up and severely disrupt the surface.
Where necessary, clean off all the thatch debris after each pass. The square can then be oversown using a suitable grass seed mixture; do not be frightened to try out new cultivars. Sowing rates now range between 35-50 grammes per square metre. In essence you are aiming to establish new grasses into your square.
Your top dressing materials can be applied in various ways, by hand or using a drop / cyclone type of spreader. If this is being done purely to smooth the lawn then you can apply at 3 to 4 kilos per square metre which will give about ¼” or just over half a centimetre in depth. Obviously the dips will get more but you must not smother the grass. The rule is 75% of the leaf must be exposed.
Ensure a good seed pattern during renovations. The best method is to use a dimple seeder and make many passes but, if this is not possible, use scarifier grooves, even applying seed in between scarifier passes whilst the slits are open, since only a small proportion of the seed will be picked up in subsequent passes. The seed must be in good contact with the soil or it will not grow.
Aim to complete all renovations by the end of October at the absolute latest, and preferably sooner, ryegrass needs a soil temperature of above 5.5OC in order to germinate. With favourable temperatures, the seed should germinate between 7 and 14 days. Water the seed if necessary and keep moist until the grass plants have established.
A pre-seeding fertiliser can be used to help promote some growth, something like an 8:12:8 NPK or even a 7:7:7 NPK at 35g/m2 will be ideal, though you should be careful not to use anything with iron in at this stage as it can acidify the surface and damage the new grassplants. It will then be a case of allowing it to grow to a height of around 40mm before giving its first cut using a rotary mower.
Regular mowing when the grass is growing will maintain the sward health. Certainly, do not allow the sward to grow above 25mm when established or else there will be a loss in density.
Feed through the winter months too! Grass needs much less nitrogen through the winter months, but that does not mean that it needs none. Applying a low nitrogen feed, which is high in potassium, will help the grass plant recover from damage and stress and keep red thread at bay.
The benefits of all this work will be seen next year.