Maintenance

Lawns

Consistent maintenance throughout the year can ensure you have healthy and green lawn during all seasons. It’s not as difficult as you’d think. Ensuring it’s mowed regularly, fed and irrigated correctly during the year will ensure it’s always in the best condition. Keeping weeds and pests in check is important as they can destroy a well-kept lawn very quickly.

Winter maintenance

The secret in having a nice well-kept green lawn in winter is to start preparing it in autumn. It might seem your lawn is dormant in winter but it’s how the grass is cared for during this period which will make the difference to the overall health and beauty of it during the summer.

During autumn ensure that all the leaves and any other debris on the grass is conscientiously raked up and put in the compost bin. If the leaves are left on the grass, they will prevent the lawn from receiving proper moisture, nutrients, sunlight and air. While most lawns do not grow at all during winter, they can still die if buried under any kind of debris. Do not make the mistake and think that summer is the most important time for controlling weed growth, because the opposite is actually true. Weeds grow much faster in the winter than the grass, as the lawns are lying dormant during this time. If the weeds are not controlled and permitted to go wild over the winter, there may be very little grass left when the summer season comes along.

In late winter, just before spring, it is a very good idea to scarify the lawn (please remember only certain lawns should be scarified – contact us to learn more). One can rent a scarifyer or just use your own lawn mower. Set the mower on its lowest setting and mow the lawn. You will be horrified if it is the first time you have done this, as it will seem as if you are killing the lawn. It will be cut so low, you will be sure you have destroyed it, but in fact, this is very good for the lawn as it removes the dead growth and allows the lawn to breathe and receive light, all of which is fundamental to it growing strong and healthy. Once this has been done, cover the lawn with a fine layer of lawn dressing. This will protect the lawn from any frost and it will nourish the grass. Be sure to water the lawn twice a week until the grass has grown through the dressing.

Summer maintenance

To keep the lawn looking good at all times, it is essential that the lawn is mowed once a week in summer to maintain a lush green lawn. Set your mowers height at the beginning of the season and keep it that way throughout the season. Alternate the direction in which you mow each time in order to keep the grass uniform.

Irrigation

Watering is a very important component of lawn maintenance. It’s advisable to water deep and infrequently – in other words let the sprinkler run for a long time less frequently, than letting it run for short periods often. The roots will grow nearer to the surface to get to the water and make them very vulnerable to temperature change, as well as stress when the ground gets too dry if you don’t water deep enough. The grass could actually die if the roots are too near the surface in areas where frost or extreme cold is prevalent. Its advisable to water the lawn early in the morning as there is little wind and the water pressure is generally stronger. Water wil be lost due to evaporation if done in the afternoon.

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Fertilising

Fertilising the lawn regularly will keep it lush, green and healthy. It will prevent weeds from growing in the lawn if a lawn is very lush. Using 2:3:2 (available from most garden centres) on the lawn will keep it healthy and green. Spread the fertilizer evenly on the lawn before watering it, this will ensure the fertiliser gets washed off the blades of grass and into the soil. If left on the grass, it can burn the blades of grass.

Watering of your lawn

  • A lawn require about 25mm of water once a week
  • It is important to adjust this weekly watering according to the time of the year and the weather.
  • During hot dry periods, you can water your lawn more frequently, up to twice a week. During the winter, you can reduce the watering to once every 10 days. If it rain, it is not necessary to water your lawn and you can skip the water depending on the amount of rain.
  • Other things to consider when watering your lawn are the type of soil, the height that you mow your lawn and what type of grass covers your lawn.
  • Try to always water your lawn early in the morning.
    • Too much water evaporates when watering in the heat of the day
    • Watering late in the afternoon extends the dew period and excellent conditions are created for the spread of diseases.
  • On very hot summer days you can cool down your lawn for 5 to 10 minutes.
  • During winter, after frost, you can “wash” the frost of you lawn early in the morning with 5 minutes of water on your lawn.

It is important to note that these are only guidelines and you as owner need to develop a feeling for your lawn’s needs. Always remember that too much or too little watering can damage your lawn.

How to mow your lawn

  • Do not mow your lawn in the same lanes every time. Alter the lanes so that you prevent your lawn from getting “into a rut”. When the wheels of the lawnmower cross the same areas every time you mow, rust will form over time.
  • Mow your lawn regularly. Mowing once or twice a week in peak growing conditions will be sufficient. This will not only keep your lawn short, but also healthy
  • Do not mow your lawn when it is wet.
    • The lawnmower can easily spread diseases
    • You can get injured, especially with an electric lawnmower
    • It puts extra wear and tear on your lawnmower
  • If you mow your lawn in the late afternoon, when it is cooler, it puts less stress on your lawn than when it is done in midday.
  • Make sure your lawnmower’s blade is sharp to ensure that you get a clean cut and not tear of pieces of lawn. This will reduce the chances for diseases entering your lawn.
  • Which length to cut your lawn:
    • LM grass: the blade length of LM should be 6 – 7 cm
    • Kikuyu grass: in the shade the average length should be 5 – 6 cm and in the sunny areas, 3 – 4 cm.
  • Mow, using no more than one third of the grass blade. This will leave enough leafs so that photosynthesis can still take place. By watering and mowing your lawn correctly, you will prevent weeds and foreign grasses from taking over your lawn. Your lawn will also have the best opportunity to grow to its maximum potential.

Feeding your lawn

To enjoy a healthy green lawn, you need to feed your lawn frequently, once a year is not enough.

If you spend enough time and labor when planting a new lawn, you will reap the benefits in the years to come.

Just as a house starts with a good foundation, a new lawn starts with proper soil preparation. A house built on sand will crack and break apart. A lawn planted on poor soil and rock or building rubble will not grow properly.

Soil Preparation

  • What type of soil do you have in the area where you want to plant the new lawn? Do you have sandy, loam or clay soil? Is the soil full of rock and is the soil deep or shallow? These are the things you need to make sure of before you start with your preparation.
  • If the soil is sandy, it will help to work some organic material like compost into the soil. If it is clay soil, compost and river sand can help to prevent compaction. Rockey and shallow soil will need topsoil. You must mix the topsoil with the upper part of the original soil so that the roots of the lawn grow down and do not just stay in the topsoil.
  • It is not always possible to take a soil sample to a lab, but this can help determine what mix of fertilizer you need for the soil and if limestone is necessary.
  • If you cannot send a soil sample to a lab, it will be good to start with a balanced fertilizer mix like 2:3:4. The 2 is for nitrogen and more can always be added on a later stage when the lawn’s roots are established.
  • Test the PH of the soil. If the PH is above 7, you can use ammonium sulphate to lower the PH. However, if the PH is between 5.5 and 7 it is acceptable and there is no need for anything to be added. A PH lower than 5.5 will need some lime to get it higher. 250g Lime / m² will push the PH up with 1.
  • If you have the right soil and fertilizer, you must loosen the soil and level it. Make sure the water is not going to dam somewhere or flow towards the foundation of the house. Work the fertilizer and lime into the top 6 cm of the soil
  • If the soil is not level, the chances that you will struggle to mow it is very good.
  • Make sure all the weeds are removed. You want to start weed free. You can water the soil and leave it for a week so that new seeds can germinate. After this you can remove the new weeds as well.
  • Rake the area again to make sure it is even and the soil structure is fine.
  • When choosing seed, it is important to use the best seed available. Mixes are the best, because it will be less vulnerable to diseases. Make sure you use seed for shade if you have shady areas or something that can grow in sun and shade if the area is semi-shade.
  • If you sow the seed you must do it in the correct way. Fine seeds can be mixed with sand and sprinkled. Do not sow the seed with your hands.
  • Sow ½ of the seeds in one direction and the other ½ in right angles with the first ½ . After these seeds germinated, you can sow over the areas where the cover is not good enough.
  • Use the back of a rake and rake over the seed to cover it. Some will still be visible, but this is no problem. You can use a light roller without water to roll over the seeds.
  • You can apply a thin layer of growing medium over the planted seeds. This cover will help the seed not to dry out. Over the next couple of weeks you need to water the lawn every day. Use a fine sprinkler and just water the top 5 cm of the soil.
  • After a couple of weeks the lawn will be strong enough to be cut. Keep the information on the seed container and mow your lawn according to those directions.
  • When the lawn is well established, you can start with a fertilizer program.

When planting sods

  • The soil can be prepared in the same way as with seeds.
  • You can use a roller half full of water and roll it over the area to level it.
  • Make sure you use the right type of grass for your lawn. Kikuyu does not grow in shady areas, but is always available and not too expensive. LM is not always available and more expensive, but will grow in semi shade and full sun.
  • Use good sods and remember that sods with weeds will cause you great headaches in future. Make sure that you do not buy broken sods or old sods of which the leaves have already turned yellow.
  • Sods must preferably be planted on the same day as when they are cut. If this is not possible, you can keep the sods in the shade for one day and keep them wet.
  • Remember sods are thick and you need to lower your planting bed according to the thickness of the sods.
  • When packing out the sods, you must do it in brick style so that the corners overlap. It prevents the sods from slipping and it also helps drainage.
  • In South Africa the normal size sods will be one third of a square meter. Always buy a couple of extra square meters when you order your sods.
  • Take a roller half filled with water and roll the area until it is even.
  • Now water the area lightly.
  • Starting with the longest edge of the area, you must now lay the lawn like you will lay bricks.
  • When you plant on a hill, always start at the bottom and work upwards.
  • Lay the sods as close to each other as possible to prevent gaps.
  • If gaps do appear, fill them up with soil (preferably potting soil) as soon as possible
  • Once the sods are laid, you must roll the sods with a roller, fully filled with water to straighten out the rough edges.
  • You can seal the edges with top soil to prevent the lawn from drying out.
  • Remember to water the lawn every day for at least 3 weeks until the roots are established.
  • After 3 weeks you can mow your lawn on a high level.
  • Slowly mow your lawn a little shorter every week until the grass in on the level required for that lawn.
  • You can start with the normal fertilizer program a month after your lawn was laid.
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