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Lawn Care Made Simple

Posted By Duncan Idaho On September 1, 2009 @ 12:17 pm In Garden & Outdoors | No Comments

A well maintained lawn provides a beautiful setting for your home, a functional space for recreation and entertaining, and a forgiving surface for kids’ games.

For some, looking after a lawn can become something of an obsession, requiring regular pH testing of the soil and a level of vigilance against weeds and pests that would shame a homeland security expert.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. If you don’t suffer from a gardening-related obsessive compulsive disorder you can have a healthy, great-looking lawn simply by paying a little attention to the areas listed below.

Fertilising Your Lawn

Summer places extra demands on your lawn. Your grass will have to stand up to greater heat, lower levels of moisture and higher levels of use by football-crazy kids and BBQ-loving adults.

Spring, then, is the time to prepare your lawn for this onslaught and you should begin the process by applying a good fertiliser. Fertiliser will encourage your grass to grow strongly and form a denser lawn. A dense lawn wears better, prevents weed growth and reduces moisture loss from the soil. And it looks better.

What Fertiliser Should You Use?

There are a bewildering number of fertilisers on the market. Do you choose an organic powdered product like Blood and Bone, a chemical granular fertiliser, a slow-release lawn food, or a liquid, hose-on variety?

The actual format of the fertiliser is really just a matter of convenience. What you need to consider is the effect your fertiliser will have on three areas:

  • Leaf growth.
  • Root growth.
  • Disease and drought resistance.

Leaf growth is stimulated by nitrogen (N), root growth by phosphorous (P), and resistance is strengthened by potassium (K).

Using a fertiliser that is nearly all nitrogen will cause a rapid growth spurt in the grass leaves and a noticeable “greening-up” of your lawn, but it won’t encourage root growth. And it’s deep, strong roots that’ll help your lawn make it through those dry summers.

Unless you are trying to correct a particular problem, an all-round fertiliser with a balanced N:P:K ratio is the way to go. Check the packet, the N:P:K ratio should be listed – you’re looking for relative levels of around 11:4:8.

Note: For fertiliser to be absorbed, the ground needs to be moist. Read the manufacturer’s instructions – you’ll need to water either directly before, or directly after applying the fertiliser.


Anyone with a lawn is no stranger to this, but a little bit of advice could help you get more out of that summer-time chore.

Grass derives the vast majority of its nutrition through its leaves. As every school kid knows – leaves convert sunlight to energy. This nutrition powers not only the leaves themselves, but root growth too. The more of the leaf you cut off when you mow, the less food the grass leaves can produce and the less the roots will grow.

The best approach is to mow lightly and frequently, taking off only about 30% of the grass length at any one time. Remove more than 40% and your lawn’s roots will stop growing.

Your lawn should always still be green after you’ve finished mowing. If it looks yellow or ‘burnt’ you’re cutting too low. In spring, cut to about 5 cm – this height allows more sun to reach the soil, stimulating new shoot growth and allowing the lawn to thicken. In summer cut longer – 8 cm to10 cm. This extra length shades the soil more, reducing water loss and suppressing weed growth.

Clippings On or Off?

Leaving mowing clippings on the lawn provides a natural fertiliser and encourages growth. However, these clippings should be short (around 1.5 cm), both to aid the breakdown process and to avoid the promotion of moss and fungal growth. You don’t want clumps of clippings spoiling the look of your lawn either.


Even the best maintained lawns have weeds. In cases where they are not a great problem they can be removed manually using a knife or a hand fork and trowel. If they are more prevalent you may consider using a selective lawn herbicide which will kill the weeds but not the grass.

As with any gardening task – a little bit done often is the code to follow.


Thatch is the layer of dead grass that lies above the soil and around the leaf-base. It can prevent air and water reaching the roots and encourage disease. If your lawn feels overly spongy, thatch may be the cause.

Thatch can be removed with a metal rake. For larger areas, special de-thatching machines can be hired from equipment outlets.


Adequate water is essential to maintain the health and the greenness of your lawn over summer. Light soils need water every few days, clay soils about once a week. Aerating your lawn once a year will improve water penetration and thereby reduce water loss through evaporation. Aeration can be done with a garden fork or with a “corer” – a device which cuts small plugs (or cores) out of the ground.

Cornerstones of Lawn Maintenance

Fertilise, water, weed and mow. These are the four cornerstones of lawn maintenance. Follow them and you’ll have a green, great-looking lawn all year long.

For an organic take on lawn growing check out this video:

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