Autumn is nearly upon us and with the cooler, damper weather it’s time to consider preparing your lawns (and lawncare machinery) for the winter.
These are some of the things you should be thinking about:
- Raise the mower blade height by about half an inch (12mm) or so to allow the grass to develop some strength. Continue mowing weekly until the end of October, then let it tail off through November.
- Examine the turf for moss and thatch. If moss is present apply an Iron Sulphate solution and rake or scarify a week later. However don’t scarify too heavily at this time of the year or the turf will struggle to recover through the winter – and never scarify later than the end of October. Iron Sulphate, which is commonly used for moss control, also has the benefit of boosting chlorophyll production, so the lawn will stay greener. I’ve found a good reliable supplier is lawnsmith.co.uk, who can deliver anywhere in the UK at very competitive prices.
- I always feed with an Autumn lawnfood during October, which has a lower nitrogen and higher potassium content than Summer food. This encourages root development without too much foliar growth. Once again lawnsmith.co.uk has the best value products, in my opinion. I’m not a fan of combined “Weed and Feed” chemicals found in garden centres and DIY shops. I think they’re expensive, and they don’t last as long. If you have a good strong lawn, you shouldn’t need weedkillers, except for a bit of spot weeding when a stray dandelion or thistle manages to get established. The only other “weed” I have trouble with is clover, which can easily get established in patches if the grass is weak, and especially in dry summer conditions. Some people are happy with clover in their lawns, but If like me you’re not keen, get on top of it with a liquid weedkiller such as Verdone, which you can apply only to the affected areas, as soon as you see it. The main thing is to ensure the grass is strong enough to out-compete any weeds, and you’ll only achieve this with good husbandry, especially a thorough feeding regime. Don’t use any weedkillers after the end of October however, otherwise you risk damaging the grass. Leave it until the spring, and follow the treatment with scarifying two weeks later to finish the job off.
- If your lawns are surrounded by trees, make sure you clear fallen leaves up regularly. Letting them lie wet on the lawn can result in all sort of disease problems, and of course the grass will struggle to thrive if it’s continually under a thick blanket and doesn’t see any daylight. Pack the collected leaves in black binbags and stick them round the back of the shed for 12 months – they can then be used as a really good soil conditioner.
- Lawns get compacted through the summer, so autumn is a good time to aerate to relieve this and also to improve the drainage. Use a hollow tine aerator for preference or if you don’t have one, a good solid garden fork. Go as deep as you can at intervals of not more than a foot or so. I find this just about the hardest work I do on my lawns but it’s well worth the effort.
- Lawnmowers are prone to get a bit muckier at this time of year – make sure you keep them clean so they continue to cut and pick up properly, even though the grass is often damp or wet when you mow. Don’t forget to keep the blades sharp – if anything it’s even worse having blunt blades now than in the summer, because tearing caused by blunt blades will take so much longer to heal.
- Autumn is a good time to make running repairs by seeding any bare areas (rake and fertilise the soil first) and by cutting out and reversing worn and torn edges. If you have scarified, top dress with a sandy soil preparation and re-seed. Some experts advocate overseeding the whole lawn every year, and this will certainly give you a top-class lawn next season if you’re up for it.