Don’t let the grass grow under your feet

A grass act: You can give your lawn a bit of tender care before it beds down for the winter months.
A grass act: You can give your lawn a bit of tender care before it beds down for the winter months.
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It’s been a cracking summer (despite August’s return to normal service) but as September usually brings with it a fall in temperature and more rainfall, we should be thankful for what we’ve had and what we get.

The lawn has no option – it’s out in all weathers and it has to live with whatever nature throws at it – but somehow grass (and all plants) know when it’s time to slow down in preparation for a good winter sleep.

The gardener should be grateful because it means the mower can also look forward to a well-earned rest.

But before the dark days of winter, there’s always September, the time to adjust the height of the mower blades so the grass is left a little longer at each cut.

And before the end of the month, it’s a good idea to rake or scarify the whole lawn to pull out any dead material, called ‘thatch’, and lift up any grass runners so they can be trimmed by the mower. A spring-tine rake is the ideal tool for the job and not only does it work wonders on the grass, it can benefit the gardener too – plenty of healthy exercise.

After that mowing, you are clear to aerate the surface to allow air into the top few inches of soil. On heavy clay soils, professional groundsmen recommend you use a hollow-tine fork that removes cores of soil rather than simply driving holes into the surface with an ordinary garden fork.

If you remove these cores and fill the holes with something like washed river sand or fine compost, you’ll be doing a marvellous job on improving drainage while helping water get to the grass roots.

Following this autumn renovation, think about treating your lawn with a special food to encourage a stronger root system and harden off growth so the grass is tougher and can withstand more extreme conditions.

There are several proprietary products which will work wonders to help the grass withstand the winter. Most also contains a moss killer that will control the first infestations of a weed that spreads so easily in autumn.

And even if you can’t be bothered to weed and feed (or give the mower another run-out) always clip the lawn edges. It’s surprising what a difference it makes.