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How to look after your lawn...

The best results come from regular maintenance throughout the year.

If you've got an established lawn, your main priority is to keep the grass healthy and looking good, especially during warm dry weather.

Lawn maintenance

If you've got an established lawn, your main priority is to keep the grass healthy and looking good, especially during warm dry weather. The best results come from regular maintenance throughout the year.


Early Spring (February, March)

This is a time for remedial work: repairing edges, rolling turf that's been lifted by frost and applying moss killer, if needed. However, if it's frosty, or the ground is waterlogged, you should wait - treading on grass in these conditions will do more harm than good.

Start mowing as soon as the grass begins to grow, keeping your mower blades at their highest setting.


Late Spring (April, May)

Mow regularly, gradually lowering the blades.

If your lawn has bare patches, you can put down more seed - remembering to keep these areas well watered in dry spells. Apply fertiliser and weedkiller. Small hollows in a lawn can be levelled out by top-dressing. Use ready-mixed turf dressing or mix your own, with equal parts of sieved garden soil and sharp sand or horticultural sand (not builder's sand).Sprinkle the mix evenly over the area with a shovel. Spread with the back of a rake so it's no more than 1cm thick. Then use a stiff broom to brush the dressing in, making sure the grass isn't buried.


Summer (June, July, August)

Keep mowing your lawn regularly - even when the grass is hardly growing, to remove tall sprouts and cut off weed seedheads. Raise the mower blades in dry weather: short grass suffers more from lack of water.

Don't feed your lawn or apply weedkiller in dry conditions, as this will burn the grass.


Autumn (September, October)

This is a time to prepare your lawn for winter. Repair damaged edges. Apply autumn feed to toughen up the grass. Spike and scarify to improve drainage. Remove fallen leaves regularly: if left to build up, they will kill the grass beneath.


Winter (November, December, January)

The lawn should have had its final cut by now, so book your mower in for servicing. Leave the grass reasonably long - and avoid treading on it in frosty weather, as frozen tips will break. Continue to clear any fallen leaves.

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Mowing

Vary your lawn mowing pattern. If you always mow in the same direction, it will compact the soil and make the grass lean in that direction. Changing your mowing pattern every few weeks will keep the grass healthier and more upright, and help you achieve a cleaner cut.
Note: for a striped effect, use a lawnmower with a roller.


Choosing a lawnmower

When buying a lawnmower, factors to consider include the shape and size of your lawn, the finish you want, and what you will do with the clippings (a box for collecting these will save you time and leave a cleaner lawn).

Hover mowers are easy to manoeuvre, especially over uneven surfaces, but don't offer as fine a cut as the scythe action of a Rotary lawnmower, but less effective with long grass and uneven ground.

Electric mowers are suitable for smaller lawns (up to 100m2). For larger areas, or longer grass, petrol gives more power. If your lawn is really large (over 1/3 acre), you might consider investing in a ride-on tractor mower.

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  • Edges & repairs

    The edges of a lawn are often tricky to cut with a lawnmower: use edging shears, or a power trimmer with an edging facility. A half-moon edging iron is ideal for cutting turf and reshaping lawn edges. To repair a damaged edge, cut out a square of turf including the edge, turn it round and put the broken edge to the inside. Fill the damaged area with soil and reseed.

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Low maintenance edging

Hard edging is a neat and practical way to finish your lawn. You can use bricks, concrete blocks, specially designed strips or treated timber.

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Feeding

Fertiliser is vital for keeping lawns lush and green. Feed once in spring - a high-nitrogen feed to kick-start growth - and to toughen the grass up.

On smaller lawns, you can scatter granular seed by hand, or apply liquid feed with a watering can or sprayer. Bigger lawns are best fed using granular feed in a wheeled spreader. Always feed on a dry day, but make sure the ground itself is not too dry - water first, if necessary.

Load the spreader away from the lawn, to avoid spills. Adjust the dial, to get the right dosage - then walk the spreader systematically up and down the lawn.

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  • Combined lawn feed and weedkiller

    Some lawn feeds combine fertiliser with weedkiller. The advantage is that well-fed grasses will grow more vigorously to fill gaps where weeds have died back. Apply carefully, though, as the weedkiller may damage other plants. Always follow the instructions on the packaging.

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Spiking

Spiking, or aerating, improves drainage and stimulates root growth. You can do it with a garden fork, but it's quicker and easier to use a rolling spiker. You should spike your lawn in autumn, or any time it gets compacted.

Hollow-tined spikers lift out small plugs of soil, and are recommended for heavy clay lawns or grass with obvious drainage problems. Work evenly and methodically across the lawn - and pour horticultural sand into the holes to keep them open for good drainage.


Scarifying

Moss and dead grass (thatch) prevent light, water and nutrients reaching the roots of the lawn. You can remove them by scarifying, or raking. Use a spring-tined lawn rake or an electric lawnraker - having first applied moss killer, a week before scarifying.

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Watering

Don't panic if your lawn looks a bit brown after a dry spell. Unless it's a new lawn, it will recover quickly with a bit of rain. If you must water, do it either early in the morning or later in the evening - never in between, or the grass may scorch. Better still, use a sprinkler with a timer set to come on at night, when the grass will absorb most water.

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Be water aware

Watering a lawn takes a lot of water - and an established lawn will survive dry summers perfectly well without it. Leave your grass longer in a dry spell to help prevent it drying out.


Water butts

Catching and storing rainwater is a great way to beat hosepipe bans. Install a water butt to catch the rainwater from your gutters

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