Autumn Lawn Care
From September through to November it is time for some autumn lawn care if we want strong healthy lawns for next spring and summer. A garden which acts as football field, playground and relaxation space for hordes of children is never going to reach the perfect appearance of a traditional ‘English Lawn’ and it would be unrealistic for us to expect it to, but there is equally no need to resign ourselves to a muddy, sparse or patchy lawn. Keeping the lawn in good shape might seem like an impossible feat, but a little TLC in the autumn will go a long way.
So what can we do to help our lawn along?
Autumn Lawn Care the Kids can Help With:
Picking up fallen fruit
Raking up the leaves and popping them on the compost heap.
Sow fresh grass seed.
Applying and brushing in top dressing.
Scarifying the lawn with a rake.
Applying lawn feed using a spreader.
Aerating the lawn with a garden fork.
Scarifying and aerating the lawn with a scarifier.
Mowing the lawn. As the days get shorter we can mow less frequently and at a higher setting. In September there can still be dry hot days and keeping the grass longer will prevent the lawn from drying out. Longer grass will also help to avoid the grass getting trampled too quickly in wet weather. By the end of November there is usually no need to keep mowing unless the weather is exceptionally mild.
Raking up leaves – the one aspect of autumn lawn care everyone is familiar with. As the leaves start falling it is a good idea to keep raking them off the lawn, as not only can they smother it, but in wet weather they can also be slippery – read hazard when combined with children zooming around chasing a ball! Providing your child with kiddie-sized lawn rake will ensure they don't get discouraged trying to rake leaves up with a full-sized and -for them- rather cumbersome tool. Fallen leaves can be put in the green bin in the UK, but an even better alternative is to put them on your own compost heap. Keep a few leaves to one side to create some autumnal garden crafts :-)
Weed killers. September is the last opportunity in most areas to apply a weed killer to the lawn to help control perennial weeds. Applying it later on in the year will have little beneficial effect. If you are trying to keep your garden organic (which is much better for the wildlife and the children!), your best bet to control the weeds in the lawn is to strengthen the grass as much as possible so that it is stronger than the weeds! KEEP ALL WEED KILLERS AWAY FROM CHILDREN.
Scarifying and aerating. This aspect of autumn lawn care will really make a difference to your lawn, especially if repeated each year and combined with a good lawn fertilizer. Scarifying will remove any build-up of thatch and moss from between the grass which is often done with a rake. Aerating basically means making lots and lots of small holes in the lawn to allow better ventilation between the roots (and also gives the worms a helping hand!), the traditional method is to use a garden fork – we use an all-in-one scarifier which does both the scarifying and aerating at once and is easy and quick to use ... my 11-year old handles it easily (under supervision of course!). September is the best month, but most areas can still be scarified and aerated in October and a few very mild spots can get away with it in November.
Adult only Autumn Lawn Care activities:
Mowing the lawn
Applying weed killer
Top dressing is something many gardeners and people with wonderful lush green lawns do as a normal part of their autumn lawn care programme as it helps to improve the soil. If, like us, your garden soil tends to be on the clayey side, then applying a top dressing is something I would especially recommend. Apply either a proprietary dressing or a mix of sand and loam evenly to the lawn and brush it in using a stiff broom.
Lawn Feed. If there is one kind thing you do for your lawn this autumn, then give it a nice feed anytime between September and November. Autumn lawn feeds are NOT the same as spring or summer feeds – they contain less nitrogen (which encourages fresh green growth) and more potassium and phosphorous, which encourage root growth and general hardiness. A good one to go for is the Evergreen Autumn formula. Apply the lawn feed after scarifying and aerating, but before top dressing. Your lawn will thank you for it :-) Use a lawn feed spreader to make the job easier for yourself and fun for the kids.
Early autumn is also the time to repair patchy lawns and either sow grass seed or lay new lawn ... and then keep the kids off it until it is well-established!
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