Care of your lawn during the autumn and winter months begins with proper care during spring and summer, with regular season-appropriate feeds to strengthen the root system against the harshness to come, but whatever your routine may have been this year, any work you’ve put in and any attention you’ve given your gardens may well have been obliterated by the recent extreme temperatures. If you’re now looking at a barren wasteland or a patchwork of differing depths of damage, with the cooler, wetter months still ahead of us, your grass should make a full recovery, especially with a little help.
Now we’ve seen some rain, patches of green have started to appear – almost overnight – and with lowering temperatures and potentially more wet weather to come, the recovery of our grass will begin in earnest. To capitalise on any rainfall, it would be a good time to aerate your lawn, especially if you have clay soil or the ground has hardened in the sun; not only will it help to prevent the loss of any water that can’t penetrate the solid ground, it’ll minimise waterlogging if the wet weather mirrors the hot weather we’ve had and stays with us for a prolonged period. Aerating shoes are the easiest way to spike the ground, but if they’re not available, a garden fork will work well; a hollow tine fork, however, will create little cores of soil that can be removed and relocated to borders. Any areas of grass that do not recover can be repaired with turf, but if there are smaller patches, seed may well suffice, just ensure it’s covered with a little topsoil or lawn dressing.
When you’ve tended to your lawn and can see some improvement, a light cut is a good idea, but be sure to keep it high to help protect the grass when the frost arrives: cutting no more than 1/3 of the total height is ideal. You can then sit back and watch autumn announce its arrival by shredding the leaves and several branches from every nearby tree and dumping them all over your garden! A few won’t cause too many problems, but if you see more tree debris than you see grass, you’ll need to use a fine-tooth or plastic rake to clear it away to avoid further damage, disease or worm infestations, and you’ll need to check and rake regularly, even throughout the winter months – like most plants, grass needs a little sunshine so keeping the autumn offerings off it will help it thrive. So long as leaves are not diseased, they can be used as a mulch to protect tender plants from frosts; not only that, they will eventually rot and improve the soil. Leaving your grass clippings on the lawn when you cut will help protect it too when the weather turns colder.
From September onwards, an autumn feed with low nitrogen content will work wonders as it will focus on root strengthening and growth; there is also the added benefit of the ferrous sulphate which will kill moss before it’s too cold and wet to scarify the remains. Continue to check for moss; it prefers damp conditions, so wetter weather can encourage its growth, but it’s advisable to leave it in the winter and wait for spring before treating again. We always have a range of products in-store, and are staff are only too happy to help you select the best product for your outdoor space.
Winter brings its own challenges, mostly waterlogging and frost. When you walk on wet soil, the air is forced out, and soil without air pockets will compact and dry like concrete, and with nowhere for the roots of your grass to go, it will wither, thin and eventually die. If your lawn has been aerated, however, and we have a particularly wet autumn, the grass shouldn’t suffer too much, but if not, it’s not too late; you can still aerate the soil in winter, and it’s advisable, particularly if you have heavy soil. Where possible, sweep away any surface water, and once aerated, avoid walking on the lawn as much as possible, but if it’s unavoidable, try to use different routes or consider laying down a plank or slabs for stepping stones temporarily to prevent further compression. Frosts should not affect your grass unless you walk on it during those times; if you do, the grass leaves can break, damaging the lawn, resulting in brown patches. Snow, on the other hand, is not so much of a problem as the grass beneath it is protected, but as the snow thaws, check for mould.
Cutting the grass should be a less regular occurrence during the colder months – particularly as growth slows considerable when the temperature drops to 4°C or less – and not necessary at all when it’s wet or frosty to avoid undoing all the good you’ve already done. But grass does continue to grow, unlike most other plants, so be gentle with it! If we’re lucky enough to have some warmer weather during the winter and you’re compelled to mow the lawn, ensure the blade is sharp to avoid shredding the grass, and continue to keep the cut longer to protect it from potential frosts, and if we’re treated to a longer bout of milder days, focus on other lawn-related tasks, like cutting back edges that may have encroached on borders or flattening any lumps that have developed. Multi-purpose feeds are not advisable as they generally contain nitrogen, and your lawn won’t thank you for it now. Drop by and speak to one of our experts who will point you in the right direction, not only with appropriate feeds but with any other lawn-related queries you may have so you’re ready for when the weather changes.
With a little TLC, your scorched, dull, ghost of a lawn can make a full recovery and reward you with a bright, carpet of green by the time nature catches up next year.