August 1, 2021

By Kate and Len Lucas

Everybody has a picture in their mind of an English country garden with a lawn at the front of the house, green, weed-free and perfectly mown. If you want a lawn like that then this article is not for you and we congratulate anyone who has one.

We don’t have a lawn like that and for a good reason. It is simply the amount of time required which we prefer to spend sitting on or near it. This article is for gardeners who have a lawn, would like to keep it and do the minimum maintenance for it to look decent enough for the neighbours to come round for a barbecue. Of all the things you could do three things are essential; controlling weeds including moss, keeping it green and mowing it.

Weed and moss control

Left untreated they will get worse and eventually that’s all you will be left with. When we bought our house the lawn was full of dandelions and moss. We bought a combined weed and feed as a granule and applied it with a new spreader in late September. The product worked well and we soon found that we no longer needed to treat the whole lawn for weeds or moss anymore. However, we were unable to cover the lawn evenly with the spreader so we switched to applying it by hand which we found much better.

Our single biggest problem arose several days after treating the lawn. The moss killer element is ferrous sulphate, which is very good at killing moss. However having walked all over the lawn and then walked over the patio the ferrous sulphate oxidised to iron oxide, which is of course rust, we then had almost permanent rust coloured footprints on the patio slabs. 

We sold the spreader later at a car boot sale and only use these granules at certain times.

The good news was that almost all the weeds and moss were gone and the grass was green. We are now able to treat the odd weed with a ready-made lawn weedkiller in a trigger sprayer.

Moss is a different matter and is not controlled by the lawn weed killer that we now use. We get it in bright green patches, which we do treat individually with the same granules that we gave up years ago. We now know where the patches are and can avoid walking on them. After treatment, we just rake out the dead moss by hand.

Lesson: If weeds and moss are bad in your lawn use an all in one granule but either keep off any paving slabs or change your shoes before you walk off the lawn. Please consult the manufacturer for the best time of year to treat the lawn.

We are now searching for a weed and feed granule which does not contain ferrous sulphate.  

Keeping it Green

It’s nitrogen that makes grass green. We use a Miracle-Gro formulation just for the lawn. It does not contain any weed killer or moss killer. It has a high nitrogen content and we apply it with a special applicator attached to the end of a long hosepipe and just water it on. We don’t need to worry about uneven treatment and getting a bit of the spray on the border doesn’t matter. We do not use it in very hot sunny weather.

Lesson: If you do not feed your lawn it will become anaemic. You don’t have to do it our way but whatever way, please feed it. 

Mowing the Lawn

This a subject all of its own. We are not going to judge between cutting your grass with a cylinder mower or a rotary kind. The important thing is to cut it regularly which usually means twice a week. 

If you leave the grass for too long it will produce flowering shoots which are much more coarse than the normal leaves and you will be able to tell the difference even after mowing it. You will notice it particularly with perennial ryegrass which is a common component of domestic lawns.

Lesson: Approach cutting the grass as a matter of routine every few days to stop the grass from becoming coarse.

We do these three things for our lawn and it looks ok but it does have its problems. Grasses that shouldn’t be there have found their way in like cock’s foot and creeping bent. We do not scarify it every autumn which is the RHS advice. However, we have not done it for several years so we think we will have to do it this autumn. It is not entirely flat and some parts probably need better drainage – that’s not to mention brown patches caused either by fungal disease or hedgehogs and foxes spending a penny.

So we don’t need a lawn like Wimbledon, but we would not stand in the way of anybody who does. 

Please always read the manufacturers instructions before you use any products on your lawn.