Lawn Repair Advice for Neglected Garden Lawns
Basic Lawn Repair of Neglected Garden Lawns
Begin by examining the grass and weeds covering the lawn. If the dominant plants are coarse grasses, mosses and persistent weeds, the best solution is to lay a new lawn. If, however, good quality grasses make up the main part of the lawn, carry out the following programme of work. With care, the good quality grass can be made to re-colonize the whole lawn area.
- Start renovating in spring before the grass begins to grow actively. Cut down tall grass and weeds to 5cm (2in) above ground. Use a rotary lawnmower, a scythe or a pair of shears, depending on the area to be cleared. Rake off all the clippings.
- Remove all dead vegetation and debris — including any large stones —using a rake and brush. Mow the grass with the blades set as high as possible. Subsequent mowings should be carried out regularly, each time with the blades set a little lower. In summer, mow at least twice a week. Fit the grass box to the lawnmower, or rake off the clippings.
- Feed and weed the lawn in late spring or summer, using a general lawn fertilizer first, and then a selective weedkiller about a fortnight later. Some manufacturers supply a mixed fertilizer and weedkiller which does the job quicker and easier. Also apply a proprietary moss killer or lawn sand to get rid of moss if necessary. If, after six weeks, some persistent weeds remain, apply a liquid weedkiller containing mecoprop and 2,4-D.
- Apply another feed of lawn fertilizer in early autumn, together with a worm killer and a fungicide. Again, certain manufacturers combine all three ingredients in one Remove coarse grass by hand.
- A week or two later, spike the surface all over with a garden fork to a depth of about 7.5cm (3in). This will improve and aeration. Apply a good top-dressing of loam and sand; or well-rotted manure, or leaf-mould. Scatter this dressing over the surface at a rate of about ten handfuls per sq m/yd, and work it well into the surface using the back of a rake.
- If the lawn is thin, mix in grass seed with the top-dressing at a rate of 15g per sq m (1/2oz per sq yd). Rake off fallen leaves which can spread disease.
- Re-seed or re-turf any bare patches which appear after the weedkiller applications have taken effect. The lawn repair should have worked and your lawn should be in a satisfactory condition by the following spring, when normal lawn maintenance can begin.
Lawn Repair for Sparse Garden Lawns
Garden lawns badly infected with weeds which have been treated with weedkiller may end up rather sparse. If growing conditions are perfect, the lawn may fill in on its own, but you can speed up the process. The best time is spring or autumn.
Once the weedkiller is inactive — generally allow at least six weeks — mow the grass and then rake it over to loosen thesurface. Sprinkle grass seed evenly over the entire area at a rate of 15g per sq m (1 oz per sq yd). Sieve a fine layer of good garden soil over the seed. Lightly roll the surface or use the back of a spade to pat the soil down. Keep the lawn well watered, especially in dry spells.
Aerating Stagnant Areas
Poor drainage, especially under an old or neglected lawn, is a common cause of poor grass growth. The surface may become very compacted with constant wear, yet soil just below remains constantly wet. Using a hollow-tine cultivator or aerator, take out small plugs of soil all across the stagnant area. Sprinkle coarse sand over and brush it into the holes. In this way, dozens of tinywill be made which will allow the trapped water to seep away.
Drought-Stricken Garden Lawns
Grass is surprisingly resilient to drought — there have only been a couple of long, hot summers in living memory in Britain when lawns have died completely, though both were fairly recent.
When moisture is low, grass does, however, become almost dormant, allowing certain weeds, such as yarrow and clover, which are better adapted to dry conditions, to take over. Also, annual meadow grass may die out more quickly than coarser grasses.
If the surface is baked and hard, first spike with a fork or aerator. Turn on a sprinkler for an hour or so during early evening or morning — watering in hot sun is a waste of time as it evaporates faster than it soaks in. (If the use of hose-pipes and sprinklers has been banned by your local authority, bath water applied with a watering can be of some value.) Repeat two or three times per week during very hot spells, but never water more than once a week during normal summer weather — you will encourage weeds and reduce the vigour of grass roots.
Sandy, free-draining soils are most susceptible to drought damage. Incorporate plenty of bulky organic matter to increase water retention before making a lawn.
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