42 Lawncare Questions Answered by Experts
The most frequently asked questions about lawncare
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The most commonly asked lawncare questions are answered below
By the team at DIY gardening
We asked over a dozen lawn care experts in the UK a total of 42 questions ranging from seeding and soil turning to aftercare and weeding.
Explore our list of the most common lawncare questions with answers from the professionals.
Spend a few hours correctly preparing the ground for your new lawn and you’ll save yourself so much time later on. Tasks that are easy when the garden is empty become problematic and time-consuming after the lawn has been laid.
Q) What’s the best way to lay a new lawn, turf or by seed?
A) Turfing provides you with an instant lawn but costs more (see how much professional turf laying costs here) while seeds are cheaper but the lawn takes longer to establish itself. The end result, taking a long term view, is the same. If the soil, nutrients and light conditions are inadequate, both types of lawn can fail.
Q) I have weeds in my existing lawn, how should I get rid of them?
A) You can use a targeted weedkiller that selectively kills off broad-leaved weeds without harming the grass. New seed or turf can then be laid within a few days. If your garden is infested with weeds, use a broad-spectrum product (such as Glyphosate) that will kill off all the plants, including the grass. A few weeks after application, you can dig the dead weeds out, turn over the soil and new lay seed or turf.
Q) When laying a new lawn, should I turn the existing soil over and by how much?
A) For both seed and turf, the existing soil should be dug to a depth of between 6 and 9 inches (100mm and 150mm) and turned over. This helps the roots to gain a hold and provides suitable soil aeration.
Q) Should I add anything to the soil prior to seeding or turning?
A) After turning the soil and assuming time permits, you can leave the soil for a week to settle, then treat any weeds that have formed with a targeted weedkiller. A few days after this, the turf or seed can be laid. Lawn establishment fertilizer can also be raked into the soil. If you feel the soil is too sandy, organic matter can be added to improve the nutrient value. If the soil is very dense and compacted, sand can be added to improve drainage. Most of these steps are optional but help to improve the condition of poor soil.
Q) When is the best time to lay turf or grass seeds?
A) Autumn is the best time as there’s usually plenty of rainfall in late autumn and early winter. Springtime is also a good time to lay a lawn but extra watering might be required to prevent the soil from drying out.
Q) How long does it take for grass seed to germinate?
A) This depends on the species as well as soil and weather conditions but in the UK, most seeds will germinate between 7 and 14 days.
Q) How often should I water my lawn after laying seed/turf?
A) For the first month, the lawn should be kept moist but not saturated, avoid creating puddles of water which may wash away soil or seeds. After the first month, water less frequently to encourage root development. Roots will not penetrate deep into the fertile soil if the lawn is overwatered all year round.
Q) Is there anything else I should consider prior to laying turf/seeds?
A) Consider rectifying any drainage issues and cutting back tree branches or anything else that blocks light from reaching the grass.
Watering is a key step if you want to grow the perfect lawn but too much or too little can harm the grass and cause you problems such as moss, disease, soil compaction and fertiliser run-off. Explore our watering FAQs below:
Q) How often should I water an established lawn?
A) During exceptionally hot weather, which rarely lasts a week in the UK, water an established lawn once every two days. One heavy watering is better than a light watering which will mostly evaporate and doesn’t encourage root development. Grass on slopes will dry out sooner so may need extra watering. During normal weather conditions, water the lawn based on its needs rather than an arbitrary plan. If the grass looks dull, has lost its springiness and the blades don’t stand upright after being stepped on, then it’s probably in need of water.
Q) What is shallow rooting and how do I avoid it?
A) When the lawn dries out, roots grow deeper where they search for moisture and also find much-needed nutrients. Persistent year-round overwatering of an established lawn encourages shallow root development, this leads to reduced nutrient uptake and a weakened lawn that’s prone to disease. Some gardeners overwater a lawn to compensate for poor-quality soil or lack of sunlight but such saturation is rarely effective and often detrimental.
Q) Can I water grass during the daytime in sunlight or will it scorch the grass?
A) It’s very unlikely that daytime watering will scorch the grass but most of the water will evaporate.
Q) When is the best time to water my lawn?
A) Early morning is the best time to water a lawn as the water won’t immediately evaporate. You can water lawns in the early evening although if your lawn is in a shady garden, excessive evening watering can lead to mould, moss and fungus outbreaks. Ideally, you want to avoid leaving the lawn saturated each and every night. To avoid mould and diseases, water in the morning although there’s nothing wrong with the occasional evening watering, for example during periods of exceptionally hot weather.
How and when you cut your grass can make a big difference to the final appearance of the lawn. Get it right and your lawn will look healthy and lush. Get it wrong and your grass will look weak, patchy and stressed.
Q) How often should I cut the grass?
A) The general rule is once a week but if you’ve been using fertilizer, you may need to cut it every 5-6 days. You should avoid letting the grass grow very tall then cutting it aggressively to a short height, this removes the part of the grass blade that’s needed for photosynthesis and stresses the lawn. Regular cutting throughout the growing season is recommended. If your grass is very tall, reduce the height via several cuts over a week or two until you’ve reached the desired height.
Q) How long should I let the grass grow?
A) Ornamental lawns with little foot traffic and grown in optimal soil, moisture, sunlight and fertiliser can be cut short, down to 2cm. Grass grown in less than ideal conditions, such as drought, shaded areas, gardens with plenty of foot traffic etc should be cut higher, between 5cm and 9cm. Low cut lawns look neat and tidy but the cutting stresses the grass so be flexible with your cutting height. Cut low when conditions permit and a little higher when for example, it’s hot and dry.
Q) What is the one-third rule?
A) You should ideally cut off no more than one-third of the grass blade in one go as this stresses the lawn. Excessive watering and fertiliser can cause the grass to grow so fast that it needs more frequent cutting rather than just one weekly aggressive cut.
Q) Should I remove the grass cuttings or leave them on the lawn?
A) Grass cuttings provide nutrients so they can be left on the lawn. If you let the grass grow very tall, you may find that the cuttings are rather long and create a thick mat over the lawn, this can problematic especially during a rainy spell. In general, clipping of one inch or less can be left on the lawn as they break down into the soil quickly.
Q) What is the best type of lawnmower to use?
A) Cylinder mowers create the neatest finish and are perfect for ornamental lawns where a perfect cut is desired but they aren’t ideal for uneven or rough/long grass. Rotary mowers are the most popular and versatile mower and are generally considered a safe option. Hover mowers are great for small, irregular shaped lawns but the cut is never as neat as a cylinder mower.
Q) Should I mow the lawn in the winter?
A) The grass shouldn’t grow enough in the winter to require regular mowing however, during warm spells that encourage growth, you can cut the lawn high. Avoid cutting saturated or frozen lawns.
Fertilisers are applied to the lawn to improve the quality of the grass, it’s colour and vigour. We suggest you first conduct a soil test so you know what your soil needs to be optimal.
Q) What is the best lawn fertiliser for a new lawn?
A) All good lawn fertilizers contain nitrogen which encourages growth and produces a deep green colour. New lawns could also benefit from phosphorous and potassium which help root development and improve the uptake of nitrogen.
Q) What is the best fertiliser for established lawns?
A) First, conduct a soil test to determine the soil’s pH and nutrient content, you can then supplement the lawn with fertilisers containing the appropriate amounts of nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium. As a general rule of thumb, fertilisers containing around 15% nitrogen and up to 5% potassium are great for established lawns. Phosphorous should only be used when needed as it can leach into waterways and most soil in the UK has suitable amounts of phosphorous anyway.
Q) Should I use water-soluble or pellet fertiliser?
A) Pellet fertilisers are usually slow-release so they feed the lawn for up to 8 weeks after application. They rarely burn or damage the grass and are perfect for large areas and those who don’t want to spend too much time tending to their lawn. The water-soluble version is mixed with the hose water or added to watering cans and provides an instant hit which needs to be repeated every month or even every two weeks. Soluble fertilisers provide the gardener with more control as the dose can be adjusted but there’s a greater risk of grass burn.
Q) Do fertilisers cause weeds to grow?
A) Yes, lawn fertiliser also causes any weeds in the grass to grow so you’ll need to periodically apply a weedkiller or use an all-in-one feed and weed product.
Q) How long must I keep children and pets off the lawn after applying fertiliser?
A) The answer depends on the type of fertiliser but in general wait 24 hours or until the lawn has fully dried. Foraging pets such as rabbits should have an area of the lawn where fertilisers are not applied.
Q) Can I use organic fertiliser?
A) Many organic fertilisers lack the required nutrients to encourage growth but seaweed extract is a popular alternative to traditional fertilisers.
You’ll find our list of the best lawn weedkillers here. Below you’ll find answers to the most common weedkiller questions we are asked:
Q) What types of weedkiller are there to choose from?
A) Selective weedkillers kill a limited number of weeds (usually weeds with broad leaves) but don’t harm the grass. You can buy products designed to be sprayed directly onto the weeds (ideal for spot treatments in small gardens) or “weed and feed” products that also contain fertilisers, these are great for larger gardens and are applied to the entire lawn.
Q) What is the best way to kill weeds in lawns?
A) We recommend using a general weed and feed product such as Evergreen 4-in-1 in springtime and also keeping a supply of Weedol Concentrate for occasional use throughout the year as and when you see weeds forming.
Q) Do lawn weedkillers also kill lawn moss?
A) All in one “weed and feed” type products often contain a chemical to kill lawn moss but the other active ingredients do not kill moss. Dedicated weedkillers will not kill lawn moss.
Q) How often should lawn weedkiller be applied to the lawn?
A) Once a year in the springtime or twice a year with the second application in the autumn. Spot treatments with a dedicated weedkiller can be applied as and when needed but are most effective during the growing season, avoiding the hottest parts of summer.
Q) How long must I keep pets and kids off the lawn after applying a weedkiller?
A) The answer depends on the type of weedkiller but in general wait 24 hours or until the lawn has fully dried whichever is longer. Foraging pets such as rabbits should have an area of the lawn where weedkillers aren’t applied.
Q) Does organic weedkiller work? Are there any natural options?
A) There are several ways to kill lawn moss organically but few that treat weeds. Vinegar is said to kill weeds but would need applying so often that it could damage the grass. Washed sand can smoother weeds but too much isn’t great for grass either. You can manually remove weeds and mow the lawn regularly to prevent the weeds from producing seeds. A healthy lawn, grown in sunlight with good soil, drainage, regular watering and fertiliser should suppress most weeds that would otherwise flourish.
Our preferred lawn weed killer, in concentrated form so you get more product for your money.
Below you’ll find answers to common lawn moss question. Be sure to explore our more detailed step-by-step guide to removing lawn moss and our list of preferred moss killers, including organic options.
Q) Can I use iron sulphate to get rid of lawn moss?
A) Iron sulphate (such as this) is a great way to kill off lawn moss and can be applied via a watering can or sprayer, it can even be mixed with and to form lawn sand. For large areas infested with moss, be prepared to law new seed or turf to fill the bare patches.
Q) Can I rake out lawn moss?
A) Raking or scarifying will pull out moss from established lawns but bare or patchy lawns may be damaged by the process. Also, you’ll need to establish why the moss formed in the first place and take steps to prevent its reoccurrence (i.e improve drainage or the amount of sunlight reaching the lawn etc).
Q) Are there any other organic ways to remove lawn moss?
A) Yes, several products contain naturally occurring bacteria that eats away at the moss while leaving the grass undamaged. As the moss gradually disappears over several weeks to a month or two, you can lay new seed which will grow in the bare patches. The moss even decays into a feed, perfect for growing new seed. Start with this product.
Q) My lawn looks brown after using a moss killer, what happened?
A) Excess iron sulphate can scorch or even kill the grass, however, if the lawn was mostly moss then the browning may simply be the moss dying off.
An organic “no rake” moss treatment product we recommend.
As the soil below the grass becomes more and more compact, often as a result of foot traffic and repeated top dressing, there’s less oxygen for the root system. Water and fertilizers are also more likely to run off rather than be absorbed into the soil. Aeration can improve compacted and heavy clay-based soils but not every lawn needs it.
Our detailed guide to soil aeration can be found here, below you’ll find answers to common questions.
Q) How often should I aerate my lawn?
A) There is no fixed schedule and some lawns never require aeration. For heavily compacted and dense, clay-based soils, consider aerating the lawn once every two years or at most once per year.
Q) What’s the best way to aerate the lawn?
A) For small gardens use a manual plugger such as this. For larger lawns, hire a petrol lawn plugger or use the services of a professional lawn expert.
Q) Can I use a garden fork or lawn spike shoes to aerate my lawn?
A) While forking and spike shoes break through the top layer of thatch, they compress the soil beneath so will never be as effective as plugging which is the industry standard for lawn aeration.
Q) Is there any other way to aerate my lawn?
A) In heavy clay-based soils, the introduction of course, washed sand can improve the drainage and reduce the likelihood of compaction. This is easier to achieve prior to laying the turf or seed.
Manual lawn plugger and aerator. Image credit.
Pet and Pest Damage
Both pets and pests can damage your lawn. Check out these answers to common questions:
Q) How to recover a lawn from dog urine scorching?
A) The urine from dogs is rich in nitrogen, so much so that it will kill the grass. There’s no way to recover dead grass so prevent the damage by training the dog to toilet in a specific area and heavily water any mistakes on the lawn before they kill the grass. As for scorching, rake out the dead grass, scratch the soil and re-seed the area. If you have enough space in your garden, grow some grass in trays and keep enough to hand so you can transplant it to the affected areas as and when needed.
Q) How to stop cats and foxes fouling and digging up the lawn?
A) Our preferred method and one we use just after laying grass seed is a water jet triggered by a motion sensor. You’ll need good water pressure at your tap but the device scares off any animals that enter the detection zone. Explore this product here.
Q) What should I do about anthills?
A) Most ant hills are harmless although they can sometimes lead to root damage. You can water the anthill with organic nematodes, these are microscopic organisms that feed on ants. When the ants detect the nematodes, they relocate to a new home far away from the threat. There’s more information on nematodes here.
Q) What other lawn pests should I be aware of?
A) Chafer grubs and leatherjackets are common lawn pests that consume and destroy the roots of the grass. You can treat them organically with the relevant nematode.
We Hope You Found These Answers Helpful.
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