Although the weather is feeling decidedly chilly for the time of the year, during May the threat of frost will pass and, with spring well under way, David Coton is in no doubt that this is going to be a busy month in the garden.
At this time of the year your lawn will be suffering from inevitable wear and tear, and will be in need of some Autumn care and attention. Nathan James Dodd says that, before the temperature drops too much, you should put in place a grass recovery programme.
Start by removing any leaves when they get blown of the trees, you don't want them to form a covering of decaying vegetation suffocating the grass. This must continue throughout the autumn and, if the leaves have piled up, a pair of leaf grabbers might be ideal.
Scarifying to remove 'thatch' i.e. dead grass and other debris is an excellent start. This is especially important is you do not collect grass when you're mowing. You will be making it so much easier for rain and fertilizer to penetrate to the roots and less easy for diseases to develop.
Treat any moss with moss killer a fortnight before starting and then use a normal garden grass rake, not too vigorously. You may be surprised at the amount that is collected and added in layers with other organic material to your compost bin.
Aeration is probably the single most important task, not only in the autumn but throughout the year. Lawns need to be spiked in introduce air and allow water to seep through to the roots.
It's a good idea to concentrate on the areas that receive the most traffic and are therefore the most compacted. However aerating the entire lawn will increase its vigour and tolerance to both drought and waterlogging.
Spike the lawn making holes about 6ins apart (if you have a fork with hollow tines this will extract plugs of earth) and then brush in a top dressing of loam, sharp sand and organic matter.
Autumn is also a good time to flatten any bumps and level dips in the grass. Use a spade to cut around the area and then roll back the grass. Then either remove excess earth to level or insert some soil to rectify a trough.
During the summer, especially if the weather has been hot and dry, your lawn may well be very worn and in need of an autumn tonic. Fortunately, there's some very effective lawn care products that will provide a seasonal pick me up and return your lawn to pristine condition.
The best lawn fertilizers are slow release phosphate and potash rich, applied when the soil is moist and the grass is dry. With this type of formula there is no growth surge, the roots are strengthened in readiness for winter, and moss is controlled. Don't use a spring fertilizer as this has a high level of nitrogen.
Products in the 'Evergreen Autumn' range have a specially designed spout for even distribution or you can use a wheeled spreader specifically designed for applying granules evenly across the entire lawn.
Patches of threadbare lawn may have developed in specific areas, perhaps where the children's goal posts have been, or they can by caused by pets. Autumn is the perfect time to repair these patches and sow fresh seed, as the ground is still warm and rain will be expected in the coming weeks.
There are many grass seed mixtures on the market, some mullti-purpose, others designed to be very hardwearing and suitable for play areas. You can also choose seed that is tolerant of shade and drought.
Rake over the patch, breaking up the surface and removing any weed and dead grass. Spread a layer of potting compost, mixing it with the soil before levelling and firming.
Sprinkle seed over the area, working it into the soil. Lightly rake to level and firm the soil. Cover the patch with a thin layer of compost and water well. Moisture can be conserved by pegging a sheet of clear polythene over the top. This will also deter birds and should be removed when seedlings appear.
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