In this blog we’re looking at the pros and cons of laying turf in winter.
COMMON AUTUMN PROBLEMS
Summer’s over, the frantic mowing schedule at last slows down and the hard work is over for another year. Well, maybe not – not if you believe the experienced groundsmen who will tell you that it just goes on and on! Now, I’m a complete advocate for year-round lawn care, so for me Autumn is just another chapter in the year. The trouble is that Autumn itself seems to be changing; it flits in and out and we’re never quite sure if a lawn problem is an autumn or a winter one. So, best to be prepared – and to understand which problems are a part of nature’s cycle and which we cause or worsen ourselves.
ARE LAWN PROBLEMS CAUSED BY PEOPLE?
We might feel that sometimes we’re fighting nature, but we do cause our own problems, both through our care and our use of the lawn.
A surprising problem is feeding – should we feed the lawn this late? There’s lots that could be said but the simple answer is ‘yes’. However, using a high nitrogen mix is a recipe for trouble (it is only used by many franchised operators as a quick fix with impressive but short-lived results). Any healthy growing lawn needs food, but at this time of year the weather can create conditions which fungal diseases love (red thread and sometimes even fusarium can thrive in in today’s warmer autumnal days and evenings), so we want to make sure we’re feeding the lawn and not them! Low nitrogen feed is best.
Scarification and moss control are great parts of your lawn care programme but get them out of the way early; a recovering lawn can be even more susceptible to disease.
Turf repairs…yes, whatever weather extremes the summer has brought, you’ll have wear and tear problems. As a result, seeding or even patching with turf is a common ambition – just get it done now so it can bed in and take shape before winter sets in.
SO, WHAT PROBLEMS DOES NATURE ADD TO THE POT?
Leaves – something that never goes away! Different quantities at different times of year, but always a potential problem – leave them down for too long and disease will soon take hold.
Wet grass….that’s right…..with autumn and winter come long periods of wet, damp grass and the result is disease and moss. Leaving your lawn uncut for long periods of time will just encourage the moss. So, keep your lawn scarified and the thatch under control (and don’t give up cutting!). Aeration and any improvement to surface drainage will also help.
Daddy Long Legs will be coming out of the ground about now, and this also attracts birds which peck and scratch around. The best way to treat them now is to spray about a month after they have re-laid their eggs.
Chafer grubs are on the increase. Thanks to warmer conditions they can stay closer to the surface, which means they can be sensed by anything that sees them as prey – birds, badgers, moles, etc. Treat as soon as possible.
Worms….OK, the gardener’s friend; they’re not much of a problem – but their casts can be if you’re going to mow over autumn/winter (and I suggest you do). Just wait for a dry day and sweep them off before you cut.
Phew – seems like the groundsmen are right! Maybe it’s really just a mindset thing; see if you can convince yourself that all the hard work is in the autumn/winter and that the summer is the easy bit…I don’t promise it will help, but it’s worth a try!
AUTUMN LAWN CARE AFTER A DRY SUMMER
Goodness – it’s September already! And as Autumn approaches, it’s a great time to reflect on the sort of year have we had so far, and what this means for our lawns as we say goodbye to the summer months and prepare for – well, who knows what Winter will hold this year?.
One thing we do know for certain is that our weather is constantly changing. When we think its trending in a certain fashion, it almost always surprises us with something completely different. But that’s part of what makes it exciting isn’t it? Wouldn’t it be dull if everything was easy and predictable?
Certainly, this summer bucked the trend of recent years – very hot, and very dry, right through into September! Some would say ‘it’s like the old days!’ And while that may be true, it doesn’t alter the fact that our modern weather patterns are never as predictable as the ‘old days’. In fact, rather than marking a return to old patterns, this glorious summer simply heralds the future when all our seasons are potentially more extreme.
LAWN CARE MUST REFLECT THE SEASON
And so, in the world of lawn care, we must adapt our programs accordingly, starting right now with this year’s autumn strategy. Each lawn is unique and your own autumn requirements may well be too. But here are a few tips to help your lawn adjust from the hot and dry summer to whatever lies ahead:
- Decide whether you want to scarify your lawn this autumn. If you do, programme it carefully around the other projects below
- Think about aeration. The dry summer will not have helped the soil maintain its air space, so hollow tine as much as possible between October and next March
- Give your lawn a nice balanced feed going into the Autumn
- Get any dead or bare areas over-seeded with a suitable, good quality grass seed
- Top-dress over any sunken or low areas
- Monitor your lawn for diseases. Red thread, for example, seems now to be having a much longer season than ever before.
- Keep an eye out for pest activity. And keep an eye on the birds – if they’re busy, it’s a sure sign that something may be lurking!
- Start to raise your mower height going through autumn. And keep your blade sharp!
- Continue to mow as often as the growth dictates, regardless of last year’s requirements
- When leaves start to fall, try and remove as quickly and as often as possible
PLAN AHEAD FOR AUTUMN AND WINTER
And remember, a written plan is great, even if it’s on an old piece of paper stuck up in the shed. Try and stick to it but take your time in deciding what to do and when. And with the unpredictable weather, always be ready to adjust and re-adjust, noting what works well and what doesn’t.
He, who fails to plan, plans to fail – especially when it comes to your lawn!
BUY AUTUMN/WINTER LAWN FEED
Turfonline were asked by Alan Titchmarsh and his team to help with a garden makeover for a family in Cumbria. Read the story here
1.TAKE A PICNIC INTO THE GARDEN
I love cooking and eating outdoors but can’t always be fussed with firing up the barbeque, especially on a hot day. What I do enjoy though, is taking a trip to my local farm shop and treating myself to delicious fresh bread, cheese, chutney, fruit , salad and locally produced apple juice, then taking everything home, spreading a blanket on the lawn and eating in the garden. It’s a favourite way to spend time with friends but on a quiet day I’ll download a speaking book onto my i-pod and enjoy my lawn for as long as possible.
picture courtesy of http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/2248635/mini-pork-pies-with-piccalilli-
2.LIE ON THE GRASS AND WATCH THE CLOUDS MAKE SHAPES
A great way to spend a lazy half hour with my seven year old grandson. It’s one of the few things we do together where he stays still and we chat about life in general.
My lawn is there all night long and it’s a wonderfully cool, calm and relaxing place to be on a clear night. I’m rubbish at identifying stars and galaxies but I still enjoy trying.
4.HAVE A WATER FIGHT WITH THE CHILDREN
Lawns and children are the perfect partners. Depending on the size of the lawn, it can lend itself to football, rounders, races or handstands but nothing beats a water fight on a hot day
5.PITCH A TENT AND SPEND THE NIGHT OUT OF DOORS
A great activity for children of almost any age. It seems a bit weird going outside to bed but believe me, you will become far more aware of the night time noises and wildlife in your garden you’ll probably benefit from all that extra fresh air too…I normally sleep like a log when I’m camping and I wake up happy (family and work colleagues will testify that I am NOT normally a “morning person”
Whatever your plans for this summer, remember that your lawn is free, you won’t have to travel far, you can go home if the weather turns bad, grass is one of the most child-friendly materials there is (I’d rather have green knees than grazed knees!), the dog can come too, it doesn’t cost a fortune for a cup of tea, it’s environmentally friendly, and , in short, it’s awesome.
If you need help and advice on keeping your lawn in good shape this summer, please ask us a question
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