Last Updated: 08 June 2012

How you get it done: Lawn mowing and trimming

Your lawn needs a little pampering now and then to look good and resist the attentions of weeds, moss and disease. Follow the advice below and we can promise that the grass will never look greener on the other side.

Spring cleaning. Before you get the lawn mower out for the first time it’s a good idea to take a closer look at your lawn. Pick up any twigs, stones and other items that don’t belong on the lawn. But wait until the lawn is really green before you rake it, otherwise you could damage it. You can give the lawn its first cut when the grass gets longer than 40–60 mm.

Lawn mowing. When you mow the lawn it removes nutrients that the grass needs to grow and resist weeds. Set the cutting height a little higher than normal the first few times you mow in spring, as this will help it grow.

The lawn grows fastest during the early part of the season, so you should mow it once or twice a week. When summer reaches its peak the grass grows more slowly. After summer the growth rate picks up again, then slows down in autumn and stops completely when the frost arrives.

Cutting height. Never cut more than half the length of the grass blades when mowing. As a rule of thumb the grass should not be shorter than four centimetres.
Avoid mowing when it is very hot and sunny, as the grass is most vulnerable then. And of course it’s more relaxing for you to mow in the cool of the evening.

Cutting blade. A sharp cutting blade is important. If the blade cuts the grass cleanly it reduces the risk of the grass drying out or being attacked by disease.

Diseases can attack frayed grass more easily, the lawn may turn brown and weeds will find it easier to take root.

Scarifying. If your lawn is affected by moss you should use a scarifier to allow more nutrients to reach the grass.

Moss usually appears when the grass is not getting enough air and nutrients. By scarifying you remove the moss and sever the roots of grass, which encourages it to regenerate. You also clear dead plant material from the surface at the same time. 

Scarifying is most effective when the soil is a little damp and soft, usually in spring and autumn. The result will be a hardier lawn with greatly improved aeration, improved water penetration and fewer weeds.

Fertilising. How often you need to fertilise the lawn depends on the amount of wear it is subject to. However, three times a year is suitable for the average lawn: in spring to help the grass revive after winter, in late summer to support strong growth, and in autumn to provide energy reserves until next spring.

NPK fertilisers are the best to use. Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P) and Potassium (K) are substances that make the grass healthy and give it the energy to keep weeds and moss at bay.

Mulching. Mulching involves finely shredding grass clippings, which then provide nutrients for the lawn.

As you mow the lawn the clippings are thrown into the deck behind the blades, where they are cut a second time. The grass and leaf clippings are finely shredded, which reduces the need for fertiliser by at least a half. On certain types of soil if you mulch a lot of leaves there may be no need to use fertiliser. There is also no need to empty the collector or compost the clippings.

When using mulching, it is necessary to mow a little more often, however, since you should preferably avoid reducing the length of the grass by more than one-third. You should also avoid mulching grass when it isn’t growing (during high summer for example), as the decomposition process does not work well then.

Grass trimming. After mowing the garden all that remains is trimming. A trimmer lets you reach grass that is inaccessible with a mower. It is especially useful in confined spaces.

Follow the same rule as you did for mowing the grass: don’t reduce the length of the grass by too much, as this is likely to damage the lawn.

If you have a large area to clear and want to work in comfort then a harness is worth considering. Trimmers can also be fitted with a variety of cutting tools, such as trimmer cord, a grass blade or a brush cutter blade.

Watering. During long, dry periods you should water the lawn twice a week, using 10–15 mm of water. Make sure it is watered thoroughly. Otherwise the roots of the grass grow towards the surface and make it even more vulnerable to drought.

The water should be given enough time to soak in while it is being watered, otherwise the surface will form a sludge.

The best time to water in the summer is early morning or late evening, to avoid wasteful evaporation. If possible, use a rain meter to check how much water is reaching the surface of the lawn.

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