Watering, Mowing, and Looking After Your Lawn

Watering My Lawn

Lawns will begin to show signs of stress after approx one week without moisture. Lawns that require watering will start to lose their lush shiny appearance then dull before developing brown patches. Grass short of moisture also stays flat after you have walked on it. Just like a flower, grass wilts when it needs water. Here are some tips to make the grass more drought tolerant. Reducing how much you cut off the grass plant by raising the height you are cutting the grass will reduce grass stress in the short term by retaining more moisture in the plant.

If you can water make sure you water your lawn heavily once or twice a week rather than a small amount every evening. Watering too frequently keeps the upper soil moist and encourages the grass roots to grow towards the surface searching for water making them less drought tolerant. Getting the moisture deep into the soil encourages root penetration. Grass with long healthy roots can handle droughts better. Stay off the lawn when it is very dry as you may damage the grass. Avoid watering in the late evening. Early morning and mid afternoon are the better times.

Thatch on the surface and in the sub soil will absorb moisture stopping it getting into the soil and to the roots. Thatch should be removed by scarifying and aerating to allow moisture to penetrate into the soil and roots. Top dressing after aeration or spiking with a sand based top dressing will help keep the holes created open longer improving soil ventilation.

Wetting agents. Making your lawn more drought tolerant and curing Dry Patch.

Brown patches in the lawn can be caused by a fungus which makes the soil hydrophobic. Wetting agents can be used in periods of drought to reduce the effects dry patch can have on your lawn. (See dry patch in turf diseases.) Wetting agents are applied to the lawn and encourage the maximum usage and absorption of moisture by the soil and help treat areas of grass affected by dry patch. Dry patch can severely weaken large areas of grass in any lawn it affects.

Dry patch. Hydrophobic dry patch.

During periods of dry weather a fungus builds up around the soil particles and will have an effect of repelling the water droplets in the soil. A severe case of dry patch will result in the soil almost being unable to absorb water and any rain will run across the surface of the soil like rain on a glass plate. The grass suffers as moisture is not reaching down to the roots. Aerating your soil by spiking or hollow tine aeration combined with an application of a wetting agent to tackle the fungal disease will improve the water absorption properties of the soil and benefit the grass. Dry patch is an increasing problem in our dry windy summers.

Leaves and Shade.

Do not let leaves or any other debris remain covering the grass for more than a 3 or 4 days. If the grass does not receive light for a few days it will start to yellow and will die. If you have areas of lawn that are heavily shaded by tree branches the grass will suffer. Do not cut grass in shaded areas as short as other parts of the lawn. If you can raise the crown of the tree by removing the lower branches and let sunlight onto the lawn this will help. Trees will compete with grass for moisture and nutrients. Trees take less water and nutrients in the Autumn so that is the best time to give the grass plenty of fertiliser and moisture to help it develop. Collect or move leaves and debris as quickly as possible.

Mowing

Mowing is the key to lawn care so these tips can help make sure your not contributing to your lawn problems:

  • Try to alternate the direction of your cut
  • The first cut of the year in the spring should be on a high setting for a slight trim to tidy up the lawn and collect debris.
  • Gradually decrease the height until you are leaving the grass at about 1.5 + inches
  • Never cut off more than 1/3 of the grass at any one time.
  • If the grass grows long before you can cut it, holidays bad weather etc, remember the 1/3 rule.
  • If you have the time mow twice a week in the summer and once a week in the spring and autumn, once a week during dry periods.
  • Make sure the blade is sharp and the mower does not leak petrol
  • Do not fill the mower with petrol while it is on the lawn
  • Clippings should be collected
  • Get your mower regularly serviced including sharpening your blades

Mow around the edge of your lawn first to ensure you have a turning border taking care that the wheels do not drop off the edge and scalp the grass. Starting from one side mow and then turn at the far edge. Line your mower to slightly overlap the strip that you have cut. Empty the grass box regularly as a full box will leave clippings on the grass or clog the mower. Try to avoid mowing on frosty or wet days. Never cut the lawn shorter than 1.5 inches. In periods of dry weather raise the cut to allow the grass to retain more moisture and be slightly more drought tolerance.

Lawns in Shady Conditions

Grass under shade is prone to deteriorate if it does not receive enough light. Grass under trees competes for sunlight, nutrients, water and suffers from the drip off the canopy. Shade tolerant grasses also require at least 4- 5 hours of sunlight each day. Cut the lawn less frequently and do not cut too short. Fertilise in the autumn when the trees will not compete and take in the fertiliser. Regular over seeding with shade tolerant seed mixes will help to restore weak areas under any reasonable shade. Even shade tolerant seed requires some light. Over seeding is best carried out in the autumn to avoid competing with the trees for food on the soil

Lawn Recovery after drought

  • Consider applying a wetting agent to help the soil absorb moisture and save evaporation and run off of moisture
  • Scarify and aerate your lawn to remove dead thatch and open up the soil surface improving ventilation. Apply a fertiliser high in phosphorous and potassium to assist rooting but low in nitrogen to avoid surge growth.
  • Over seed sparse areas of the lawn in conditions of wet warm weather.
  • Apply a moss control to stop moss colonising during the damp winter weather
  • Raising the height you are cutting the grass will reduce grass stress in the short term by retaining more moisture in the plant.
  • If you can water make sure you water heavily once or twice a week rather than a small amount every evening. Watering too frequently keeps the upper soil moist and encourages the roots of the grass to grow towards the surface searching for water making them less drought tolerant.
  • Stay off the lawn when it is very dry as you may damage the grass.
  • Thatch on the surface and in the sub soil will absorb moisture stopping it getting into the soil and roots. Thatch should be removed by scarifying and aeration carried out to allow moisture to penetrate into the soil. Top dressing with a sand based top dressing will help keep the ventilation holes created open longer.

Controlling the rate of growth

Growth regulators are produced that slows down the rate that grass grows at. An application a few weeks before you go away on holiday for example, will slow down the rate of grass growth to the point that on your return your garden may look a little untidy but certainly won’t resemble a jungle!