UK gardening help and assistance

Lawn care information

[originally on]

Looking after your lawn and creating the ideal environment for grass to grow can be challenging for the most ardent gardener. There are many factors that play a part in producing the perfect lawn that greatly enhances the appearance of not only your garden - but your home too. - Click on the below to find out more about the different aspects of lawn care.

mowing - watering - grass types - fertiliser - pH levels - weeds - moss - diseases - pests - soil compaction - aeration - thatch - scarification - canine friends


A good, regular mowing routine will not only keep your lawn looking neat but will also promote a healthy blade/sward. In order to achieve this the lawn needs to be mown at least once a week when growing (normally from March to October) - if the grass is growing quickly enough - twice a week in the summer.. altering the direction/pattern of mowing from time to time will also help.

It is important to remember that grass will be stressed if more than one third of the height of the blade is cut in one session. The height it should be maintained at; without sudden harmful fluctuation; depends on the type of grass and season. In times of drought leaving the grass higher than normal will help to combat conditions.

Mowing a lawn too short and at infrequent drawn out intervals will diminish the health of the more attractive grasses and will encourage less favourable inhabitants of your lawn - hardier grasses, weeds and moss are amongst those that will take advantage of these conditions.


Good management of your lawn, with aeration, scarification and appropriate feeding throughout the year to improve root structures will help your lawn cope with times of drought. Unfortunately some weeds, such as clover, are more tolerant of drought conditions and can be troublesome at these times. If you are able to water your lawn, then it is important to ensure that your actions benefit the grass.. some things to remember are :
  • Try to water in the cooler times of day to avoid evaporation (morning/evening).
  • Water when the lawn is hard and has lost its springiness.
  • Water enough to soak the soil to a depth of around 4 inches minimum.
  • Not enough water frequently applied will favour weeds and shallow grass root development.
  • Give enough time to allow the soil to dry out a little before watering again (to stop water-logging and allow air exchange to the soil).

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grass types

There are many different grass types serving different needs. Those wishing to have a super luxurious lawn would opt for the Bent and Fescue type of grass - the drawback being that they can withstand very little wear and need constant attention.

If however you want a lawn that you want to use and won't wear out as easily - the Meadow and Ryegrass's may be some that you would choose. Often in this type of lawn you would find some of the Bent or Fescue grasses as well to add a luxurious touch.

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Grass requires essential nutrients in order to remain healthy. The key constituents of a fertiliser we employ are nitrogen (N), phosphate (P) and potassium (K) - with other trace elements that are also essential. The mix of N P and K is normally expressed in percentage terms in order (ie NPK 25-5-12) which means that the distribution of these nutrients is 25% nitrogen, 5% phosphorus and 12% potassium.

It is very important that application of feed matches the growing and maintenance demands of grass throughout the season. For example a high level of nitrogen (which is exhausted more rapidly than the others) would be used in spring to help growth and development of sward compared to the autumn when increased amounts of phosphorus, to improve the root structure and potassium to improve hardiness/disease resistance may be used. Different soil types, grasses and wear also influence what treatments should be used. Also beware of overfeeding - to much applied too frequently can store up problems for a later date.

Slow release fertilisers are designed to react to temperature and moisture levels, but are controlled so that they do not release too much nutrient at any one time - so do not need special watering in and prevent sudden/surge growth of your grass.  

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soil compaction / aeration

Soil compaction has various causes - from children playing on the lawn to regular pathways formed from accessing sheds etc. Compacted soil prevents essential air and nutrients from reaching the roots.

Aeration reduces soil compaction by perforating the lawn with small holes or slits. There are different types machines that can be employed to perform this operation. They can also use various types of spikes (known as tines) to aerate the lawn - some are like knives while others have hollow cores and leave cylinders of soil on the grass. Depending on the degree of compaction and frequency, either solid or hollow tines can be used.

Aeration is one of the most important operations that can be performed on turf – as it is essential to improve air exchange and relieve water logging (a common contributor to moss and disease problems). It also maximises irrigation of the grass roots - especially important in times of drought.

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thatch / scarification

Thatch forms on the top of soil and at around ¼ inch thick is fine for your lawn - providing a protective layer, reducing water loss from evaporation. However any thicker and it starts to present problems, harbouring disease and badly affecting overall soil performance.

To address this the lawn should be scarified - a powered scarifier, that rakes up the thatch is best used on anything but the smallest lawns in order to achieve this as effectively as possible. Regular scarification of your lawn (normally in the autumn) will help to maintain this fibrous layer and allow the benefits of water and treatments to take full effect.

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pH levels

In order to make the most of nutrients available it is essential that the pH level is somewhere around 6.0-6.5 pH - being slightly more acidic than alkaline. Good fertilisation programmes will ensure that these levels are achieved and maintained.

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There are numerous type of weeds (often defined as plants growing in the wrong place) that can affect your lawn. If your lawn is well cared for, mown and watered properly the grass will be healthy and dense enough to ward off the threat of weed infestation. However, the threat of weeds will always be present as seed can blow in the wind, be carried on footwear, brought in by birds or dormant waiting for an opportunity to grow. Treatments with herbicides/pesticides may be necessary - but emphasis on creating a healthy lawn less dependant on chemical application should be the goal.

Some of the many types of weeds are listed below:

  • Daisy - common weed, recognised by most - flat rosette leaves, flowers with white florets with yellow centre.
  • Buttercup/Lesser celandine - another common weed, distinctive yellow flowers. Lesser celandine variety hardiest. Dandelion - large leaves forming rosettes, yellow flowers.
  • Plantain - can be large, various forms with rosettes of ribbed leathery leaves varying in width according to type.
  • Clover/Lesser Trefoil - common problem. Small spreading plant with each leaf having three leaflets, flowers are either white/pinkish or yellow turning brown.
  • Chickweed - can be a problem in common chickweed form. Silvery appearance with oval leaves and small white clustered flowers.
  • Selfheal - spreading plant with clusters of purple flowers and oval leaves.
  • Speedwell - small spreading plants presenting severe problem with Slender Speedwell variety. Oval leaves with blue flowers (germander) or kidney shaped leaves with mauve coloured flowers (slender).
  • Thistle - not a common problem in maintained lawns, distinctive spike covered rosettes of leaves, with red or lilac flowers.
  • Sorrel - arrow shaped leaves, stalks have very small green flowers that turn red.
  • Pearlwort - dense matt of weed spreads out from rosette, with small narrow leaves.
  • Mind your own business (MYOB) - or known as baby’s tears, can be serious weed, bears tiny flowers with dense, spreading mats of bright green foliage.
  • Yarrow - hardy weed, fern like leaves, small white flowers form a cluster. Drought resistant.
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Moss typifies a plant that exploits poor turf/soil conditions - drainage, fertility, with shaded areas all can cause problems. Simply applying a chemical moss treatment in the spring and autumn will rarely be enough to prevent a re-occurrence - often a programme of actions will be required to improve the overall soil conditions. These include feeding, aeration and scarification.

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Some diseases may already be present in your lawn waiting for the right conditions/deterioration in the health of your turf before they can strike. As with weeds and other problems, good all round lawn care regimes, such as aeration, scarification and regular feeding, will help your lawn resist the outbreak of disease. We prefer to use these methods to address these problems - but inevitably to gain control of the problem chemicals will be required.

The most common diseases to affect lawns are:

  • Fusarium: Identified by small areas of yellowing grass of around 1' across in autumn and sometimes in the spring. It kills grass and can very seriously damage your lawn.
  • Red Thread: Attacks fine leaved grasses - with light pinkish coloured tinge being evident (close examination may reveal tiny red stalks coming from the leaves). Normally seen in the late summer - it is not fatal to your lawn and proper care routines will resolve this problem.
  • Dollar spot: Normally affects fine grasses. Identified by coin size patches of brownish turf which can link together to form larger areas. Fungicide may be necessary to treat this disease.
  • Lichen: Normally present when the lawn is suffering from under nourishment, poor drainage and insufficient light. Small plate like plants that curl upwards in dry conditions - are unsightly but unless in a very shaded location will not be a problem in a well cared for lawn.
  • Fairy Rings / Toadstools: Finding the occasional toadstools in your lawn may not be too worrying - but if rings start to form and grow bigger, serious problems could be present that are very difficult to combat. Fairy rings have three classifications, ranging from type 1 - the most severe to type 3 - being minor discolouration. Some form of organic presence in the soil may be a contributing factor - treatments may have some affect but in the very worst cases the infected area may requiring excavation and re-planting.
  • Dry Patch: Brown areas of grass where the soil particles have become coated in a substance preventing water from being absorbed efficiently (hydrophobic soil).
  • Rust: Turf appears to be a rust colour which can rub off onto clothes etc. Keeping the lawn mown and feeding appropriately will help.
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Pests that cause problems to your lawn come in many guises - a few of which are listed below:

  • Leatherjackets - Crane fly (daddy long-legs) lay eggs in the soil resulting in grubs that damage the grass root and stem bases, leaving brown/yellow patches on the lawn. Common and sometimes serious problem - birds seeking out the grubs can also cause damage to the lawn.
  • Chafer grubs - attack roots - less common than leather jackets, also cause brown patches on the lawn.
  • Moles - a dramatic and very much unwanted problem to encounter as a gardener - very difficult to control. There are a number of suggested ways to combat and repel moles - such as placing moth balls, smoking paper, disinfectant and creosote in the main run. Reducing the population of one of the main diets of the mole - the earthworm, is one way of reducing the threat - but often trapping and the services of a professional mole catcher offer the best solution.
  • Earthworm casts: Can cause problems with the cast providing ideal breeding grounds for weeds with weed seeds also be brought to the surface. Sweeping dry casts with a besom broom will help to reduce the threat. High populations of earthworms can attract moles to your lawn - your soil may need to be made more acidic, through appropriate feeding, if this is the case.
  • Ants - do not badly affect grass, but numerous ant hills can disfigure your lawn and cause problems when mowing. If the problem gets more serious, locating and exposing the nest(s) and applying ant-powder should help.

canine friends

Dog urine, due to the natural presence of nitrogen, can create brown patches on the lawn. This is primarily a problem with female dogs as they tend to 'water' the ground - whereas the males like to be different! Applying copious amounts of water as quickly as possible after urination will help - but re-seeding or new turf may be necessary.

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And don't forget - apart from the aesthetic appeal of a fantastic lawn - it's also doing its bit for the environment in trapping dirt, dust and converting carbon dioxide into oxygen.