How to repair your lawn after winter
It is quite normal for lawns to look jaded after the wet and cold winter weather; there may be yellow and brown patches and the grass will have grown at different lengths. If the winter has been cold and dry, levels of light throughout the season will mean the damage is not too bad but if the winter is cloudy and wet you'll have double damage from less light and the grass plants may be drowning. But don’t despair – there are some simple ways to repair your lawn after the winter and give it a head start for the spring.
Many of us have the garden tools needed to look after a lawn, but as well as a mower the following are useful:
- A lawn rake with spring tines – used to rake out moss, dead grass and rake up leaves in the autumn.
- Sideways shears – to trim the grass from the edges for that finishing touch.
- A garden fork or aerating machine – used to make aerating holes in the lawn to improve the soil and drainage.
There are a couple of things you can do in the winter to help the repair process. Firstly, get your mower serviced and repaired early in the year before you need to start using it to make sure it’s in the best shape for maintaining your lawn. Chipped or blunt blades will bruise the grass and can cause straw-coloured dieback at the tips. Avoid walking on the lawn when the ground is frozen to prevent bruising the grass too.
What to do
It’s best to wait to start work on rejuvenating your lawn until late February or early March when temperatures have warmed slightly. After a few days of dry weather, start working on your lawn by vigorously raking the grass with a lawn rake. This will remove the dead grass (or thatch) and some of the moss which will have grown over the winter. Moss grows more quickly over the winter months as it is a ‘short day’ plant.
Once the lawn has been raked and is dry, make the first cut on the highest blade setting to tidy the lawn up. Remove the grass clippings and layer them up with coarser material in the compost heap. Remember not to cut the grass when it’s wet to help keep your mower blades sharp and in turn prevent bruised grass.
Look at the lawn levels and repair them. If the grass is ‘scalped’ by the mower (cut so short the grass is left with a brown and sheared appearance), the ground is too high. Peel back the turf and remove some of the earth underneath before replacing the turf. If the grass is missed by the mower, there is a hollow in your lawn, so peel back the turf and add some loam based compost or topsoil before replacing the turf and trimming it with garden shears to level the grass.
If the lawn is squelchy and areas always seem wet, aerate the soil using a garden fork or aerating machine. Put the fork into the ground to the depth of the tines and wiggle it to open the aeration holes. Do this over the whole lawn at about 15cm intervals. Mix equal quantities of compost and sharp sand together and scatter over the lawn before brushing it into the holes to aid drainage and improve the soil.
Once the grass is growing well and the daytime temperature has risen in the warmer months, you can use a spring and summer lawn preparation to feed your grass and kill weeds and moss as well. Remember not to add the lawn clippings from the next three cuts to your compost heaps as the weed killer previously used could affect the plants in your garden when the compost is added.
Some time and work spent on your lawn after the winter will stand it in good stead for the rest of the year and enable the grass to put up with any wear and tear that it will get.