How do I keep my lawn healthy?

Caring for your new lawn can be a satisfying task. It is relatively straight forward, and to enjoy your new lawn all year round, it is worth putting in time at the beginning. You don’t have to be an expert to keep your lawn looking healthy-The key is to work with nature, by creating conditions in which your grass can thrive giving the best defence against weeds and disease. Obviously, the amount of rainfall and the type of soil you have will impact on the quality of your lawn. However, wherever you live, our general guidance should keep your lawn looking its best.

Fertiliser

If you applied pre-turfing fertiliser prior to laying, your turf will have received all the necessary support it needs to maintain healthy growth for at least two months.  Over application of fertilisers is one of the main causes for failed turf, so follow the manufacturer's instructions and remember ‘it’s better to put too little on than too much’. Most lawns can be fertilized every year as they will need more nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium than the soil contains. Grass plants tend to need a nitrogen rich fertiliser during the spring/summer growing season  to support new growth, and phosphorus to encourage root growth during late autumn/winter. Fertiliser can be applied every 8-10 weeks throughout the growing season, especially where persistent heavy rain has washed nutrients out of the soil.

Mowing

It is advisable not to cut your new lawn until the turf has properly rooted. This can be checked easily by lifting a corner to see if the roots are attached to the soil below. In spring and summer, this can be as fast as 14 to 20 days after laying. For the first few cuts, adjust the lawnmower to its highest setting, removing no more than one third of the length of the grass blade. When the lawn is fully established, the cut height can be reduced gradually to an optimum of between 15-35mm. For consistently good results, mow at least twice a week during the late spring, once a week during summer/early autumn, and then approximately every 14 days in mid/late autumn. Grass adjusts better to regular rather than irregular mowing. The most important job, and one of the most neglected, is to make sure your mower blades are kept sharp. The cleaner the cut on the grass leaf, the less stress is caused and you are less likely to tear the leaf. Cylinder mowers are better for cutting grass than hover mowers - they cut across the stem rather than rip through from the side.

Watering

Watering properly will enable your lawn to grow deep roots which make it stronger and less vulnerable to drought. Most lawns are watered too little. Only water your lawn when it begins to wilt from dryness i.e. when the colour dulls. It is best to water slowly and deeply-water in a way that imitates a slow, soaking rain by using a sprinkler. Apply about 25mm of water; enough to soak 150mm into the soil. Let the lawn dry out thoroughly before watering it again. During very hot periods, it is best to water early morning and late evening, so as to reduce the amount of water lost to evaporation. What you are aiming to do is to train the grass roots down. Frequent shallow watering causes the roots to stay near the surface, making the lawn less able to find moisture during dry spells.

Scarifying

All grass forms a layer of dead plant material, known as thatch, between the grass stems and the soil. Reduce thatch by raking the lawn (scarifying) or use a machine that slices through it and breaks it up. If the thatch gets too thick (more than 25mm) it prevents water and nutrients from penetrating into the soil. Spreading a thin layer of topdressing (soil mixed with sand) over the lawn can help. In a healthy lawn, micro-organisms and earthworms help keep the thatch layer in balance by decomposing it and releasing the nutrients into the soil.