Creating a healthy lawn.
Is your lawn looking tired? Are there more weeds than grass? Sometimes it’s better to start again and spring is the perfect time to start again to get a healthy lawn. We will go over the steps that you will need to follow to get a lush green lawn.
Evaluate Your Lawn
Before you tear all your lawn up, let’s try and see if there is some hope for you lawn. Start with applying weed killer to the areas that are overgrown with weeds. Secondly aerate your lawn. Aeration is simple technique which just requires a garden fork. Water your lawn well first so that the soil is damp. Basically taking your garden fork press it down so that the spikes go into the soil to a depth of around 10cm. Do this all over the lawn. Aeration involves perforating the soil with small holes to allow air, water and nutrients to penetrate the grass roots. This helps the roots grow deeply and produce a stronger, more vigorous lawn. The main reason for aerating is to alleviate soil compaction. Compacted soils have too many solid particles in a certain volume or space, which prevents proper circulation of air, water and nutrients within the soil. Excess lawn thatch or heavy organic debris buried under the grass surface can also starve the roots from these essential elements.
If once you have removed all the weeds and aerated the lawn and you still have more than 50% weeds you have no option but to start again if you want a lush green lawn.
The steps to starting again.
- Kill everything.
The best solution to killing everything is to cover the lawn with black plastic securing it in place with rocks or stones. We prefer not to use chemicals as who knows how long they will linger and they’re also likely to find their way down to your ground water.
Remove the black plastic when the grass is dry and brown (two to three weeks or longer, depending on the weather).
Remove the dead lawn and plant matter
With a steel rake remove the dead lawn and weeds making sure that you rake as deep as possible to avoid any of the old lawn shooting up again later.
- Improve the soil.
A wide variety of materials are good as soil conditioners due to their ability to improve soil quality. Some examples include biochar, bone meal, peat, coffee grounds, compost, coir, manure, straw, vermiculite, sulfur, lime, blood meal, compost tea, hydroabsorbant polymers, sphagnum moss, and biosolids. If you want to get really technical you can have your soil analysed by a lab which will show you exactly what you need to add.
- Till in the soil conditioners.
Spread the conditioners across the entire lawn. Then till them into the soil to a depth of about 12cm.
- Smooth the soil.
Level and smooth the soil with a broom rake. Then drag the rake to create “furrows.”
Grass seed needs smooth and level ground to get the best germination. And it needs good seed-to-soil contact. So first remove all rocks and debris, and then smooth the soil with a rake.
- Add a starter fertiliser.
Spread lawn starter fertilizer into the furrows with a spreader. Starter fertiliser is available at most garden centres. Follow the pack directions on the pack and don’t use more than directed. A starter fertilizer gives grass seed the nutrients it needs to germinate and grow quickly.
- Pick seed to match your conditions.
A good start is to take a look at our lawn grass seed comparison which will give you an idea of what lawn is best suited to your area, climate and whether the area is full sun or shaded. Remember to choose a lawn seed that also suits the traffic that the lawn will have. All the lawn seed we stock is suited to SA conditions. Avoid the so called Miracle lawns that are marketed. They promise fantastic things like they will grow anywhere are evergreen, and that you will have established lawns within weeks. The simple fact is if it looks too good to be true…. it probably is!
- Prepare the seed.
To ensure a good distribution, we recommend mixing your lawn with sand at a ratio of 4 parts sand to one part seed. This allows it to be scattered easily and you won’t end up with all of your seed in one place whilst other areas remain bare.
Pour the seed and sand into a plastic bucket and mix it thoroughly.
- When to Plant.
In colder climates, plant new grass seed in early spring as the lawns are just coming out of winter, or late summer. In warm climates, plant in late spring/early summer.
- Planting the seed.
Scatter the seed and sand mixture evenly over the area.
Turn the broom rake upside down and drag it side-to-side over the furrows until only 10 to 15 percent of the seed remains uncovered. Rake to cover the furrows. Cover the soil with a light compost mulch to retain water during germination.
Water regularly by placing an impact sprinkler in the corner of the lawn and set it to spray in a quarter arc. Then move it to the other corners. Water the new lawn generously right after the mulch application, but stop as soon as you see puddles forming. Then keep the soil moist to a depth of 4 to 6 in. for best germination. Keep watering regularly as the seedlings appear and grow. Gradually reduce the watering over a six-week period. Then switch to your normal watering routine. The trick is to make sure you don’t over water. The best germination of grass seed occurs when the soil is damp but not waterlogged.
- Making the first cut.
Mow the new lawn once it reaches a height of 7 to 8cm. Set your mower height so that it’s cutting just 1 to 2cm off your lawn which will mean that the mower height should be set at 5 to 6 cm.
To recap, these are the things you will need to start and maintain a new lawn -
Garden rake – available at a garden centre
Broom rake - available at a garden centre
Spade - available at a garden centre
Sprinkler - available at a garden centre
Lawn Mower - available at a garden centre
Black plastic (For killing the old lawn and weeds) - available in rolls at a garden centre
Lawn starter fertilizer - available at a garden centre
Sand to mix the grass seed with - available at a garden centre
Remove and compost any dead annuals that remained over winter. They won’t return and any self-seeding annuals will have left their seeds and done their job.
Prune and cut back perennials. Once you see new growth at the base of the plants, it's safe to begin removing winter mulch and pruning them down to ground level.
Some shrubby plants with woody stems (Artemisia, lavender etc.) need to be cut back each spring, because they only bloom on new branches. These are best pruned in the spring, to limit winter damage and to encourage the plant to start sending out those new flowering branches. It's best to wait until danger of a hard frost is past.
Depending on where you are gardening, some perennial plants will never quite go dormant, but they may still need tidying up. Spring is the time to trim back the tattered foliage and encourage new growth to come in.
Cut ornamental grasses to within a few inches of the ground.
Prune roses and remove the majority of the leaves, to shock the rose into thinking it was dormant and needs to wake up and start growing again.
Most spring blooming trees and shrubs set their flower buds in the summer or autumn. Pruning them in the spring, before they've bloomed, would mean pruning off this year's flowers. Take care when deciding which to prune.
Most evergreens should require little to no spring care other than some tidying up. Spring is a good time to fertilize evergreens, because they are actively growing at this time.
Early spring is a good time to do some weeding. Don’t forget to dispose of the weeds in a dustbin and not on the compost heap as they will grow back wherever you use the compost.
It's always a good idea to test your soil before you start adding things to it. If you amended your soil in autumn, check in early spring to see how balanced it is. Most plants enjoy a good feeding in the spring, when they're having their initial growth spurt. If you have rich, healthy soil, all you should need to do in the spring is a bit of top dressing with compost, manure or a complete slow release organic fertilizer.
Spring is the ideal time for dividing or transplanting. Try to do this as soon as possible after the plant emerges.
Spring is a good time to stake any plants that require staking rather than waiting till later when you’ll have to weave the plants into stakes.
Mulch does great things for your garden: conserves water, cools plant roots, feeds the soil and smothers weeds. Wait until the soil warms up and dries out a bit, before replenishing your mulch. Keep it away from stems and crowns of your plants.
Edge all your beds to prevent your lawn from crawling into your flower bed.
Our next posts will cover what to do with your lawn and preparing your veggie and herb gardens for summer.
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