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Lawn love: how to look after your lawn

By Rebecca Milligan

The lawn is the centre piece of many gardens. Turf culture – yes, it is a thing – in its highest form approaches a fine art. We look at how to improve your garden’s green patches
large lawn in garden leading to hedge with gate

From the greens of Wentworth, to the gardens of manor houses, luxurious lawns are a feature of UK parks, gardens and sporting arenas. They are the result of hours of careful attention from teams of gardeners. But maintaining rich, green foliage is no less important for those of us whose lawns are more modest in size.

So how should you best look after your lawn? Most of us know that you need to mow and water the grass, but what about other lawn maintenance tactics such as aeration and scarification?

Which? Trusted Traders has lawn and gardening experts in your area, who can help maintain your garden. We spoke to one of them, James Edwards from First Lawns in Harpenden, who gave us the following tips on looking after your lawn.

Mowing your lawn

  • You should mow your lawn once a week during the main growing season, which is from mid-March to mid-June (slightly later in Scotland and northern England). You may even need to mow more often than that to ensure the grass doesn’t get too long.
  • Don’t cut the grass too short. If you cut more than one third of the normal grass height, it may go brown – known in the trade as ‘shocking the lawn’. While you might want a lawn that’s cropped like a golfing green, on a domestic lawn you’re better off keeping the cut high and regular.
  • Mow your lawn in different directions each time to strengthen and improve the quality of the grass.
  • Remove clippings or debris from the lawn after mowing. Leaving them behind encourages thatch (dead grass) build up and moss.
  • It’s good to mow your lawn in winter too, as long as the ground isn’t waterlogged or frozen.

Watering your lawn

  • Many people water their lawn regularly for short periods of time, for example half an hour every night. This is a mistake. You should water your lawn less often but for longer periods of time. Give it a good soak, for a couple of hours, once a week. If it is really hot and dry (30 degrees or more) you can do that twice a week.

Feeding your lawn

  • You should only feed your lawn in the spring and summer, mid-March through to September. James recommends using fertilizer three times during this period, once in spring, once in early summer and finally at the end of August or beginning of September.
  • Granular and liquid-based fertilizers do the same job, but if the weather is dry it makes more sense to use a liquid-based treatment. Water well after using either type of fertilizer. Find out more with the Which? guide to lawn feeds and weeds.

Lawn scarification and aeration

  • Raking or scarifying your lawn to remove a build-up of dried leaves and dead grass (thatch) or moss helps give new, healthy grass space to grow.
  • This is a vigorous process, so it’s best to do it about once a year when the grass is not actively growing to allow it to recover – usually autumn through to spring time.
  • You can do it yourself using a strong rake but it is incredibly hard work. Professional gardeners will use a scarifying machine to mechanically rake out dead matted grass, thatch and moss.
  • Aeration is often carried out at the same time as scarifying. A machine goes across your lawn and punches holes into the soil to help loosen it. This strengthens the root structure of the grass by allowing water and other nutrients to reach it more easily. Stronger roots make for a stronger lawn.
  • After scarifying, seed any bald areas that are left, otherwise moss or thatch will go back in.
  • Add fertilizer after a scarification treatment to help your lawn recover faster.

Lawns need love. Left to their own devices they will quickly get out of control and look untidy. If you’d rather somebody else took the strain, Which? Trusted Traders have gardeners, landscape designers and landscapers in your area now.

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