mini gardeners

inspiring gardening projects for children

TLC for Family Lawns

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family lawn in autumn

If, like us, you have a lawn in your family garden, chances are it will have suffered this summer. Drout, football, picnics, running races, water slides, tennis, bbqs, swingball and the list goes on.

This was our lawn a week ago.  Slightly wild and in need of cutting, but it doesn’t look too bad on the whole. From a distance. But look closer and all sorts of horrors lurk beneath.

weeds in a lawn (plantain)

bare patches in a lawn

moss in a lawn

The weeds are easy enough to dig out with a hand fork but the moss is more widespread and worrying. Often a sign of poor drainage, the only way to control it properly is to treat the underlying cause. Which calls for scarifying and aerating the lawn and fortunately autumn is the best time of year to do this.

I started my mini-marathon of autumn lawn maintenance with a quick cut with the mower on the highest setting.

family lawn in autumn

Looked better immediately, although this was soon to change. We took a quick pause so my daughter could beat the bamboo into submission with a toy sword, a highly underrated and often overlooked method of controlling bamboo.

Then we started the scarifying; raking with a strong downward force using a spring-tine rake.

scarifying the lawn

Surprisingly hard work so I roped the whole family in to take turns, some being more enthusiastic than others. If the lawn looks appalling after you’ve scarified then you’re doing it right (don’t worry, it recovers within a week or so). We raked amazing amounts of moss out of the lawn plus “thatch”, a layer of dead plant material which sits on top of the soil.

It took us a week to finish the scarifying and we’re a family with well-toned arm muscles now.

lawn after scarifying

The next phase in the war against moss was to make holes in the lawn to improve drainage. I started off using this piece of garden equipment I just happened to have in the shed (it’s only been lying there waiting to be used for about 8 years).

aerating the lawn

This clever little machine leaves holes in the lawn by extracting plugs of soil. But to be honest it was quite hard work even though the ground was fairly soft and I was beginning to think this autumn lawn maintenance was turning from a mini-marathon into an ultra-marathon. So I soon switched to a normal garden fork and made smaller holes but with much quicker progress.

Then it was time to deal with the bare patches, most of which were due to plants growing over onto the lawn and blocking the light for the grass.

overhanging plants killing the lawn edgelawn edges reseeded

I cut back the overhanging plants, reseeded and covered the bare patches with netting so the birds wouldn’t think I’d prepared a tasty snack just for them.

So now the lawn is ready to face the winter. I’ll give it a high nitrogen feed next spring and hopefully it’ll be looking fabulous again next year.


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