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Lawns & lawn care

Help solve your gardening problem. Here are the answers to some commonly asked gardening questions about lawns, lawn care and looking after your lawn with hints, tips and advice.

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Parts of our lawn flood during heavy rain due to the predominantly clay soil. Can I improve matters by adding lawn sand? If so, when should I apply it?

Lawnsand is actually used for moss control, so I wouldn't use that.

You would need a gritty sand, such as plasterers' sand. This would need to be worked into the soil, so aerate the lawn with a garden fork or, better still, a hollow-tine aerator first and then brush the sand into the holes.

For good results, you'd need around 1.75kg per sq m (2lb per sq yd). This can be done in autumn or spring - but autumn is probably best.

I want to replace my lawn as it's full of hollows , bumps, moss etc. I've read various recommendations - kill it off, rotovate, fill in the hollows with sand etc. What is the best method and best time of year?

If the lawn is beyond repair, then I would certainly start again from scratch - making sure you pay attention to good soil preparation and levelling out to ensure a flat, bump/hollow-free surface.

How you do this much depends on time and money restraints. You could rotovate in the turf, but it does a half-baked job; you could kill the grass with Roundup, but this won't be effective until the temperature warms up - probably some time in March/April - and takes two to three weeks for the grass to die completely, you could lift the turf but it's a waste; or you could dig it in - depending on the size of the area. Personally, I always go for digging it in; using a glyphosate-based weedkiller to completely kill it is my second option.

The best time to prepare a lawn is early spring. Sowing seed or laying turf is best done in April or early autumn.

For a great range of quality lawn seed mixtures visit the Greenacres Direct website.

The best turf is supplied by Rolawn. Visit the website for more details

My lawn is suffering from red thread disease. Is there anything I can do to control it?

Most lawn problems get a hold when the lawn is under stress. Follow the indstructions below for other lawn problems: correct and regular mowing; correct feeding; watering during periods of drought; improving drainage.

There is now a new fungicide available from Bayer. Lawn Disease Control will prevent and cure common lawn diseases, including fusarium patch and red thread.

My lawn has developed a problem in the last few weeks. It looks like wet soot that is forming at soil level, not on the grass itself. What it is and how and when do I deal with it?

This sounds like dog lichen, which grows in the same conditions that encourage moss - that is damp, poorly drained and poorly maintained lawns.

It will be a problem where the lawn isn't mown or fed properly. So make sure the grass is growing strongly. Mowing is the most important factor - it should be done so that the grass is constantly at a height of 2.5cm (1in) - scalping the grass lower weakens it and ensures lichen gets a grip.

Feed regularly throughout spring and summer and give an autumn feed too to build up strength against winter damage.

Improve drainage and compaction in autumn by scarifying and then aerating with a garden fork or hollow-tine aerator and then fill in the holes with lawn topdressing.

You can try watering the soil with a solution of iron sulphate (1oz in 1 gallon of water to treat one square yard) - make sure you treat the whole of the affected area.

To make these treatments effective you must: scarify the lawn with a spring-tine rake to remove the thatch, then spike the area to be treated with a garden fork to make large, deep holes. This ensures the solution will get right down to the problem. A few drops of washing-up liquid in the water will also help.

I have found lots of mushrooms growing in my lawn. What should I do about them?

Mushrooms feed on dead plant material - they are nature’s recyclers - and it's likely yours are feeding on either compost added before the turf was laid, a rotting tree in the soil, etc, etc.

You could try watering on iron sulphate (1oz per gallon per sq yd). Another option is to treat the lawn with lawnsand. Even sharp sand helps open the soil, aiding drainage and compaction, which again may have some effect against the mushrooms (and moss!).

In time they should disappear once the organic matter supply has dried up.

I find the easiest way of removing them is to sweep them off with a stiff broom as soon as they form.

Are lawn weedkillers safe to pets?

All garden chemicals are safe to people and animals as soon as they have dried on the foliage. As this usually takes around four hours you should keep pets away from the lawn until after this time.

Rabbits and other grass-eating pets are best kept off the lawn for a week to be completely safe.

How do I eradicate leatherjackets from lawns?

If you want to use a chemical control, then the only one available is Provado Lawn Grub Killer.

A biological control may be the answer to your prayers. A nematode is available from a number of suppliers including Green Gardener and Greenacres Direct.

If neither of these appeal to you, then you will have to resort to the old method. That is, water the lawn in the evening and cover with blankets, carpet, polythene etc. Then get up at dawn(!), remove the cover and allow the dawn chorus to deal with the problem for you. No, I'm being serious - honest!

How do I control mind your own business and speedwell in my lawn?

Both are difficult to get rid of - as I'm sure you already know! You can try spraying with Roundup - but this will kill any grass it touches, too.

Probably the best treatment for either weed is to use lawnsand - normally sold to kill moss. Apply it to the leaves when they're damp. It will stick to the foliage and literally burn it off. You will probably have to repeat the applications several times to get rid of bad infestations.


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