Your lawn might be dormant, not dead
By Simon Wener, local garden maintenance expert
Don't panic - remember 1976 when we thought the lawns would never recover. They did and hopefully they will again.
The punishing heat and lack of water has left us with a disaster that used to be called a lawn.
Recent rains have settled the dust a little and a change in the weather gives us hope that rain may be on the way.
It is not only rain that we need but also a little know-how with the lawn to give it a horticultural kiss of life.
Large areas of bare soil and damaged grass especially need to be raked using either a mechanical scarifier or a spring tined rake. Remove the old grass throughout the lawn and lightly mow.
Fertilizing has been difficult this year as it has been impossible to apply during the drought. If the change in the weather continues and we do have some decent rain apply a spring/summer fertilizer evenly over the whole area.
Ensure this type of fertilizer is applied before the end of August. We do not want to encourage too much top growth into the autumn. An autumn/winter fertilizer can be applied after the end of August.
Do not be tempted - as the lawns are looking in a sorry state to apply more than the recommended rate. I think it is better to adopt a 'little and often' approach to fertilizer applications.
As the grass shows signs of improvement continue to cut lightly and regularly. If you are feeling very energetic the lawns will benefit from spiking. Evenly spaced holes punched into the turf to a depth of 10cms -(four inches in old money) about six inches apart.
The bare areas in particular that have been scarified can be spiked and top dressed with a proprietary lawn dressing at the recommended rate. Work the top dressing into base of the turf with the back of a rake or broom. An old fashioned besom broom is ideal.
Do this when it is dry - it will be difficult if the top dressing gets wet. Select a suitable quality grass seed and oversow as necessary.
Specific varieties of seed are available depending on your requirements. Shade tolerant, hard wearing or fine turf varieties are available and early September is a good time for seeding.
The morning dews provide some moisture and there is enough warmth in the soil. Seed should be germinating in a couple of weeks. I hope by the end of September the lawns are looking better.
Continue to mow regularly and five to six weeks after the first application of fertilizer make another application of autumn/winter fertilizer mid to end of October.
Autumn will soon be upon us, especially this year as it has been so dry and leaves that fall should be raked up and put on the compost. Do this regularly if leaves are a problem.
Continue to cut the lawns being careful with newly seeded areas and if the grass is growing it will continue to need cutting even up until Christmas.
Then you can put your feet up and prepare for spring.
You can discuss the issue of lawn care in the drought in this site's forum.
17 August 2006
He started gardening at the age of 19 and has continued his interest in specific areas in horticulture.
Simon ran a business with a greenkeeper for ten years carrying out specialist fine turf care and construction building and caring for bowling greens, tennis courts and cricket squares.
He is now involved with garden maintenance and turf care for clients in North London.
Many local people know him as he has been attending the Hatfield Farmers Market since the start in 2000 selling a range of perennials and grasses from the old Bell Bar Nursery.
"We try to provide an old-fashioned service based on knowledge and experience", he says.