Never sure how many people get the opportunity to follow this
March has been a strange month so far starting off with relatively warm sunny weather – which resulted in many people venturing out and realising the lawns were not in the condition that they had hoped for .
Moss continues to be the devil – with many lawns heavily covered and going to need scarifying, which having done a few recently is taking twice as long as usual and producing a massive amount of waste material
It also very noticeable that turf lawns have struggled , with grasses dying out and there is no real pattern , some that were laid late in the year have really struggled , but then again some laid last April have not done any better . The one common thing seems to be that the finer grasses , the fescues have struggled and the stronger rye grass have survived. Time will tell how well they recover , but most likely there is going to be a need for over seeding .
Having started warm – we seem to have reverted back to damp weather , and a cold wind – guess its what we should expect as we head towards the Spring equinox next weekend Saturday March 20th
Highlights the need for a regular plan and strategy to keep lawns looking good – Not necessarily possible to fix things instantly but we can use the next few months to rectify the problems to have healthy lawns for future years
As Benjamin Franklin said “By failing to prepare you are preparing to fail”
Turf showing the effect of hard winter and death of Fescue
Well what a month January turned out to be – from minus 5 deg C up to 13 deg. We had Snow for 2 days, frost and my lawn is still covered in water having had 4 inches of rain over the month.
Unfortunately this has delayed the planned application of winter lawn tonic and moss control – so lets hope February is better. What is really noticeable is the incidence of struggling turf that was laid last year . The turf has still not fully established and put roots down and tends to be very dense, the wet conditions have resulted in the roots sitting in water and not getting any oxygen.
Getting a lot of inquiries about lawns that are sitting in water which has identified areas of poor drainage, not easy to solve especially on clay soils where the ground may have become compacted. Or the surface has thick thatch and moss and water cannot get through.
You have to remember that all soils can only absorb so much water – we refer to this as Field capacity, it is the amount of soil moisture or water content held in soil after excess water has drained away and the rate of downward movement has materially decreased, which usually takes place within 2–3 days after a rain or irrigation – basically you can only get so much in a pint pot, before it over flows.
If it’s a surface problem it can be resolved with scarification and aeration and top dressing with a good compost this will open the top 15cm up and allow water to get through.
If its clay we have two options we can apply gypsum which causes the clay particles to flock together increasing the particle size which will help improve drainage, but this is a slow process and can take 2-3 years, and will not always resolve the problem.
In the USA who are regarded as the experts in lawn care and who we tend to follow there is increasing use of treatments that can be sprayed on to the lawn which can improve drainage with out the need for scarification which can be quite aggressive – it’s a new idea in its infancy so we will might look at trialling it later this year.
The other option is to put in a drainage system, this is the most expensive option and if the problem of water sitting on the surface only occurs every few years you might be better to put up with it. If not the most common method is what is known as French drains – trenches are slit into the soil and back filled with gravel up to the surface, this allows water to drain away – often the drains slope way into a ditch where water can move away or in to a soak away.
Its important to mark where the water did sit on the lawn as in a few moths time when its dry it will soon be forgotten , and then if need be the repair work can commence .
Well the wet weather of November carried on through December with 89mm or 3.75 inches . Interestingly this matched last December as well . Outcome of all this wet weather is MOSS and more Moss, although moist conditions are not the only factor responsible for moss, it certainly is the main contributor.
Other factors that add to the problem – Thatch, Shade , Drainage, Air movement, Cut height and Feed.
Moss in most cases is always present on lawns, but in most cases the % cover is so small that you don’t notice it in a healthy lawn , until one of the factors that contribute to its growth is no longer in balance.
Thatch can build up at surface level, and below – it is a mat of dead and decaying root and grass material that can prevent surface water draining through , it provides a perfect medium for moss spores to grow on and prevents air getting to grass roots and air movement around the blades of grass. Healthy soils are less prone to this as fungi and bacteria will feed on this thatch , break it down and convert it to a natural fertiliser that encourages grass to grow strongly. Getting that balance is not easy, but regular scarification to remove this thatch can help.
Shade – provides perfect conditions for Moss , hence as we moved into autumn with shorter days and less light the spores that are present quickly multiply. You will always notice Moss where you have trees that create shade and plants that spread out over the edges of the border on to the lawn. Hedges throw shade and often we find gardens moss free on one side and then as you move towards the hedge it increases. North facing gardens also are a potential moss haven – no direct sun and constant shade.
Drainage is vital to move away excess moisture , again if you have water sitting on the surface the moss quickly grows , aeration will help remove excess water – but to get the real benefit it should be done in conjunction with top dressing in order to get some sandy loam in to the growing area. Clay soils are the worst and you should always ensure remedial work is carried out when conditions are appropriate.
Air movement – hugely important, many small lawns can be surrounded by fences and hedges which provide the structure of the garden. Probably not possible to change the design , but you should be aware that there will be less air movement , and lawns will take longer to dry out.
Cutting height is a major factor in encouraging moss – too often grass is cut too short and the blade scalps the surface, the grass never recovers and the surface is populated by the moss spores. Essential to adjust cutting height through out the year according to the conditions and never cut more than a 1/3 of the grass length at any one time – also need to take in to account the grass variety and type of mower that you are using.
Keeping the soil fed with a balanced nutrient programme around the year ensures that the grass is growing strongly and can smother the moss out. In the South East we are seeing an increase annually in temperatures to the extent that grass will grow all year around – it probably slows down a little in November / early December with the lower light level, but not that you really notice. Feeding is a mixture of providing the essential elements that grass needs to grow , but also feeding the soil, if we can encourage an environment for soil fungi and bacteria to flourish the soil will support the grass and without excessive growth the grass will be strong and less prone to disease
December soon came around and the first morning of the month has started with a relatively bright day after the misty fog of November .
Overall November had 50mls of rain – not a lot , but it came on the back of a wet November – and with the exception of a couple of frosts, the dull days kept surfaces damp and slippery . We also had some remarkably high day and night temperatures that kept the grass growing – and the Moss.
Most lawns I have seen remained relatively disease free, but for any golfers you might have noticed that some of the greens looked pretty bad where they had not been able to apply fungicides. Golf greens are under constant use ( COVID permitting ) and the grass is so much more stressed , and fed to keep it looking fresh , but then it is more susceptible.
With your lawn we try to avoid over feeding and look at the cultural practices to improve the soil which keeps the grass growth in balance. The last of the autumn application have now been applied, which was a mixed feed biased towards root growth and less top growth.
We are now using this period for maintenance and checking over the equipment to be ready for the New Year , also implementing plans for next year , and installing new software that I hope will improve communications with you. By early January we will be back to apply the Winter treatment and first of the year , which will be a combined lawn tonic and moss killer , this is also an opportunity to re-asses your lawn and make any further recommendations for the forth coming year.
If you are struggling to come up with any ideas for Christmas presents for someone we are offering gift vouchers that can be purchased in multiples of £50 – these can be used against any Lawn work we undertake for existing or in the case of new customers against any work following a survey – they only cover the county of Hertfordshire.
Merry Christmas & Best wishes for the New Year
Well we head into the darker days of Autumn , the clocks have gone back and nature seems to be curling up.
We had the wettest October I have known – I recorded 7 inches of rain if you take in the first 3 days of November, combined with a lack of sunshine some older lawns certainly suffered and looking quite pale, in contrast to newer lawns that have either recently been sown and had good soil structure and newer hybrid seed mixes still look pretty good and with relatively warm temperatures of 16 degrees during the day and a couple of evening recently still making growth and requiring cutting when it is dry enough.
It certainly ensured that any grass seed that was sown germinated well and very even and lawns re-seeded after scarifying are looking excellent.
The big negative of all this wet and dull weather is the incidence of moss – where grass is thin it is producing a lush green thick carpet, but a timely treatment with an iron based product now will keep it at bay – followed up again in early January.
Most important job in the garden now is to keep the leaves of the lawn – they can quickly become fixed and smother grass. Leaves depending on the species can take a long time to break down and if not removed they will sit on your lawn and kill the grass.
With leaves come worms and worm casts which are also a big problem , with the moist weather and the leaves they can become very active .
The late, great Spike Milligan once wrote “Today I saw a little worm wriggling on his belly, perhaps he’d like to come inside and see what’s on the telly”.
There’s no denying that, for gardeners, worms can be as divisive as Marmite. Before you start to worry about worms in your lawn though, let’s not overreact and feel like we have to eradicate them altogether.
Earthworms are not necessarily bad for our lawns as they are an important part of the eco-system. It’s fair to say the ‘pros’ outweigh the ‘cons’ when it comes to worms, as they recycle nutrients, feed on dead plant material and create natural aeration in the soil. That said, worm casts produced on the surface of our lawns (usually between autumn and early spring) can be a real irritation. The casts can cause turf surfaces to become muddy, slippery, unsightly and can create loads of potential ‘weed pockets’ with each cast.
There are numerous types of earthworms in the UK, but only a few varieties create worm casts. Casting worms eat the soil, digesting and extracting the goodness from it as it passes through their bodies. The casts, which are pushed up as they work through the soil, are the by-product of this process.