A Tutorial on Lawn Care

Controlling weeds without chemicals, when to apply grass seed and lawn mower tips

Judging by the number of lawn questions that I am getting at www.markcullen.com, it seems to me that the season of seeding, sodding and lawn fertilizing is here in earnest. For several years now I have been saying that late August and early September is the best time of the year to thicken an established lawn or start a new one. Many of my associates in the business have been saying the same thing.

The heavy dew in the evening, the cooler temperatures at night (generally) and the regular rainfall of late summer/early autumn combine to create the perfect conditions for grass seed germination and the ‘putting down of roots’ of freshly laid sod. Here is a short tutorial on late summer lawn care, offered in the form of answers to your many excellent questions:

How do I control Creeping Charlie, plantain, dandelions, etc. in my lawn without the use of chemicals?

Compete them out of existence by spreading fresh grass seed over the weed-infested area. Think of lawn weeds as competitors. If you give them the space in your lawn to put down a root, they will take the opportunity to thrive and multiply. Also, cut your lawn to 2 ½ inches or 8 cm and use a mulching mower. Mulching is not an option with manual reel mowers. Use a grass catcher on your reel mower to collect the clippings and add them to your compost pile.

How useful is it to dig or pull weeds out of my lawn?

A good weed puller can be useful when bringing weeds under control. But if you do not over-seed with fresh grass seed at the same time, you are often just postponing a bigger lawn weed problem. The ‘hole’ in your lawn that the weed leaves behind is an invitation for the remaining root to re-grow, and other weeds to put down new roots.

How do I sow grass seed in an established lawn for best results?

Spread a 2-cm (1-in.) layer of triple mix (one third top soil, one third peat, one third compost) over the area where weeds are thickest. Broadcast quality grass seed over the area at the rate of ½ kilo per 40 sq. m. (one pound per 400 sq. ft.). I spread the seed by hand but you may opt for one of those hand-held whirly gigs. In any case, just make sure that you spread the seed as evenly as possible and incorporate the seed with the triple mix by raking it in lightly and then stepping on it with flat soled shoes to get firm contact. Use only the best quality grass seed.

How should I cut my lawn?

Cut it high (at least 2 ½ inches, 8 centimeters) and use a mulching mower. The taller the grass blades, the deeper (and more drought tolerant) the roots will grow. The mulching attachment on your mower returns the natural ingredients in the raw grass clippings to the root zone of your lawn where they break down, providing nutrition and an insulating layer that protects against the drying effects of the sun.

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