Fun Fall Container Gardening
Gardening experts – they’re all the same! They preach what to do, how to do it and what not to do – so if things go wrong it’s always your fault, your lack of due expertise, skill or knowledge. But sometimes it is absolutely right to do the unforgivable – to blame the tools and not the person using them. Well, almost…
If you have a garden shed full of tools and machinery, chances are that some of them are lawn-related. And if not, this short article may persuade you to pop along to a good supplier and buy one or two essentials. But once you do, be sure to follow these tips to get the best from your investment and to give your lawn the very best care. Let’s start with the best-known lawn tool, the mower.
Even a basic mower is capable of a clean and even cut that minimizes damage and trauma to the grass; but it may need a little help from you. As well as setting the correct cutting height for the season (try never to remove more than one third of the grass leaf), you need to keep the blade sharp. Most people only get round to this once a year, but grass blunts leaf blades, every time you mow.
So, to keep the mower performing the way its designer intended requires blade sharpening at least twice a month in the height of the growing season. Oiling the small joints (and cleaning the mower under the deck) should also be done regularly, but the big jobs like an oil change can be left to the annual service (or a rainy day for a keen DIYer).
Now to the most simple of tools, the garden fork. How many gardeners use theirs on their lawn? Well, let me say loud and clear – don’t! Yes, you’re absolutely correct to be aerating your lawn, but never, ever by sticking a garden fork in and wiggling it around. Aeration requires the creation of vertical air holes without disturbing or further squashing the surrounding soil. So, don’t use your garden fork (unless you have absolutely perfect soil) – the curved solid prongs can do more harm than good. Instead, a simple hollow-tine fork will create air channels by removing slender cores of soil; and for big areas you can hire or buy a powered machine.
Lastly, a tool that many won’t have but one you can easily hire – the scarifier. “I don’t need one – I use a springbok rake…” Oh dear – another mismatch of tool and job. Scarifying is the equivalent of pruning (not just, as many think, primarily a moss removal process). Our native lawn grasses need pruning to stay at their best, but a simple rake does nothing more than remove a little moss and give the grass a gentle comb.
By using a scarifier, and using it properly, you actually discourage moss from taking hold – a kind of proactive moss control. You reduce the thatch and improve the thickness of the sward, which makes it harder for the moss to grow and thrive (and weeds come to that)
You see, getting the best from a tool is a partnership – and so we can’t ever truly blame the tools alone when things go wrong. So, for these and other tools such as fertilizer applicators, don’t buy until you’ve first learned what they are for (my book Modern Lawn Care will help you) – and then be sure to read the instructions on use and maintenance too.
David Hedges-Gower is the UK’s leading lawn expert and has more than 36 years of lawn and turf experience. Professional grounds people, landscape specialists, commercial property developers and leisure gardeners – have benefited from David’s enthusiasm and knowledge.
David is a National Trust advisor and was formerly advisor to Homebase, he is a regular on BBC Radio and a favourite on the national horticultural lecture circuit.
David’s fantastic new book on Modern Lawn Care extends his love for and knowledge of the topic. This is the first comprehensive and authoritative guide to lawn care for over 40 years!
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