4 fundamentals you must know when caring for your lawn
If you’ve recently decided to settle down and make a commitment to your lawn, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the sheer volume of opinions and considerations that whiz around the topic of lawn care.
But fear not, because according to Simon Rice from Australian Lawn Fanatics, you only need to think about four basic fundamentals if you want to transform your lawn.
If you can build yourself a habit of staying on top of these four cultural practices, you can send your lawn from a four out of ten, to an eight out of ten without too much trouble.
These four lawn fundamentals are: mowing, soil care, watering and nutrients.
Mowing your lawn
When it comes to mowing, there is one rule that you must adhere to ninety-five percent of the time. In fact, according to Simon, it’s pretty much the most important rule to remember when caring for your lawn:
Do not remove more than one-third of the leaf height in any one mowing.
As far as lawn rules go, this one is king. Sticking to this basic mowing law will go a long way to seeing the plant start to thrive.
When you mow too much height off of your lawn, the plant has to put a lot of its energy into growing new leaves. By only removing a third of your lawn’s leaf length you allow the plant to put its energy into growing its root system and developing new stem.
The one-third rule will also help prevent weed growth on your lawn by creating a more robust canopy and allowing less sunlight to penetrate through to the ground. Remember, a dense, healthy lawn will prevent weed seeds from germinating.
So, if you want to maintain your lawn at 20mm in length, for example, you need to be heading out with the mower when it gets to 30mm in length.
Remember, every lawn is different so there is no set rule for how frequently you should be mowing. However, if you’re sticking the one-third rule, you shouldn’t need a catcher. What you take off should be nothing more than a fine dust.
Caring for your lawn's soil
When we speak of soil quality, we’re talking about both the initial preparation of your lawn’s soil as well as its ongoing care.
It’s probably not realistic to expect that every residential lawn will have been prepared to the same level as a golf green, you might inherit a lawn with soil that has never been shown any love. However, if you have the opportunity to prepare your soil before planting a new lawn, you should take it.
Ideally, your lawn’s soil will have a 300mm layer of sandy loam laid when you initially prepare the soil. And while the costs of this undertaking sometimes might seem high (removing and carting existing soil can push the cost up), remember that poor soil preparation leads to more water, more fertiliser and a whole lot more work down the line.
One of the biggest problems that your lawn might run into over its life is soil compaction, making it hard for water to penetrate the soil and reach your lawn’s roots. Areas with a high level of foot traffic from people and pets are especially susceptible, packing down your soil and pushing out the air.
Aerate your soil with a sand-rich top-dressing when required to provide water and air penetration to your lawn’s roots.
Watering your lawn
One of the most common questions people ask is ‘How often should I be watering my lawn?’ And while there are no absolute answers to this question, there are some quick rules to remember to ensure your lawn is getting the right amount of water.
The number one watering rule is, simply: Deep and Infrequent. If those two words can be used to describe your watering habits, you’re on your way to giving your lawn the right amount of water.
Deep and infrequent watering will stimulate deep root growth by encouraging the plant’s roots to go and look for water. This makes for genuinely healthy turf, especially during periods of drought and extreme heat.
The frequency of watering depends mostly on the condition and makeup of your soil. Heavier soil that retains moisture and has more organic matter might see you watering five or six times per week. Soil with a sandy composition will see water infiltrate more quickly, which could mean watering twice a week.
As a rule, you’ll typically be watering with 25mm of water per week in summer as a base, then adjusting to your conditions from there. For example, if it rains adjust the amount of water down by how much rainfall you received. Similarly, if it’s hot you can adjust by the amount of evaporation your lawn may have seen.
If you’re not sure, do a Tony Greig cricket pitch test with a six inch screwdriver. If you can’t penetrate the soil up to the handle, it’s time to water.
And remember, while there’s nothing wrong with hand watering, an irrigation system will help with water efficiency and consistency. Especially if you find that you can’t always be there to water when you would like.
A well-designed irrigation system can take the guesswork out of watering your lawn. If you’re unsure about where to start with an irrigation system, have a chat with an expert.
We can simplify the idea of nutrients into three letters: NPK. Nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, the three primary nutrients that your lawn needs to thrive.
For the best long-term results, you need a fertiliser that has been designed for turf care. Turf fertilisers will have the correct NPK ratios for lawn while also containing good trace elements (eg. calcium, magnesium, iron, etc) to help retain its colour
We don’t recommend dumping huge amounts of soluble nitrogen on your lawn. Things like urea can get your lawn looking nice and green in a short amount of time, but they’re not the best whole meals for your lawn. It needs other nutrients too.
The best way to think about a nitrogen dump is like a sugar rush on the human body. Eating half a block of chocolate might make you feel like a million bucks for the short term, but you’re going to have to pay for it later down the track. Your lawn will feel like it’s having a sugar come-down after a big nitrogen hit.
Commit to applying good nutrients to your lawn once per month. Giving it small meals, regularly.
If you really want to get your lawn looking the way it should, the most important thing is to make a commitment to its ongoing care. Commit to mowing your lawn around once a week, watering once or twice per week, providing good quality nutrients once a month and aerating the soil whenever it’s required.
Committing to these four fundamentals will have your lawn looking and feeling its best in no time.