Fun Fall Container Gardening
I promise you that time spent giving your lawn some special love this autumn will pay dividends through the winter and into next spring. It doesn’t matter whether your lawn spent the summer as an immaculately manicured and well-watered centerpiece, definitely not to be walked on, or as an anything-goes family play area; all lawns in the summer give out more than they get. So now, as life in the garden quietens down once more, we need to return the favour. And since we can’t roll up our lawns and send them to a health farm, we need to bring the health farm to the lawn.
And that health farm serves up the core trident of good lawn care – scarification, aeration and feed – but there’s a good reason to do all three now, and that’s because it is autumn…
Most of us will have been mowing a lot during the summer, and even if just clipping the very tips of the leaves, this will have gradually built up an additional accumulation of thatch near the bottom of the plants. Now, thatch is good; lawns need some thatch as an insulation layer. But controlling this thatch is important: too much will prevent sufficient air and water reaching the soil below, and will hold moisture that the moss spores will love!
Some people try to get away with a quick brush with a garden or leaf rake. And this will certainly remove some of the excess thatch. But a proper scarifying tool or machine has blades, and for a very good reason. Proper scarification isn’t just about clearing out organic debris; it’s also to prune the grass, and slicing through the shoots and stolons. This pruning is what encourages the grass to regenerate. And with luck the autumnal conditions will be perfect for the new plants that will emerge.
As with a really good massage, we need to get really deep if we’re to give our lawns a proper autumnal health treatment. And that means working on your soils. Nature throws at us many things these days, and whether we get rain, snow or even that elusive sun, they all have an impact on our soils – literally, as vital air space is squeezed out either by water-filled soil or by dry and shrinking soils.
The remedy is aeration. Once again, here is something many people try to do with the wrong tool, this time the garden fork. With its solid and curved prongs, the fork just messes up the soil without much aeration benefit. So instead use a hollow tine fork or machine. This carefully restores tidy air channels back into the soil but without disturbing and compacting the surrounding earth. And the channels remain open for longer (filling with sand isn’t always a necessity), creating space for strong root development and good access for fertilisers to work efficiently. The result – much healthier grass.
Like any plant, grass needs food and water; and that’s what we see when we look at the green blades, food and water stores. But that’s also what we remove every time we mow! So a light feed now in the autumn when the grass is doing its pre-winter growth spurt will really help to give it valuable extra strength. It’s not just us people who enjoy comfort food when the cooler weather returns!
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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