Autumn Lawn Care
Autumn is an ideal time to examine the lawn for summer wear and tear, and carrying out gardening work in September will allow the grass to respond to treatment before soil temperatures fall too low.
'Thatch' (old grass stems) can build-up on lawns between grass roots and foliage. Regular raking (left) keeps levels at an acceptable level, but a layer greater than 1cm (0.5in) can impede water and fertiliser penetration. To remove such build-up rake vigorously but carefully with a spring-tine rake. For larger areas powered tools are available as single units or mower attachments.
Compacted lawns benefit from spiking to deter summer drought and winter waterlogging. For an average lawn aeration every two to three years should be adequate. Concentrate on areas that receive the most wear.
Small areas can be spiked with a garden fork (see photograph above right), spacing holes 10-15cm (4-6in) apart. On waterlogged soils use a hollow-tine aerator (see photograph above left) every three to four years. This extracts plugs of soil from the lawn. After hollow-tining sweep up the plugs then top-dress with a sandy mixture to improve air and moisture penetration.
Top dressing corrects surface irregularities and improves the texture of difficult soils, consequently encouraging greater rooting and thickening of turf. A simple mixture is three parts sandy loam, six parts sharp sand and one part compost or leafmould (by volume). Apply 2-3kg per sq m, working the dressing in well with the back of a rake.