Caring for your lawn over the winter: Julia Mulcaster from Oakington Garden Centre offers some advice
PUBLISHED: 07:00 05 January 2017
Understandably, given the colder and wetter weather, many people tend to ignore their lawns over the winter. They are then rather shocked come spring time when their idyllic patch of green – that key element of the British garden – looks a little worse for wear.
Maintaining a lawn is a year-round job (winter-proofing our lawns is an important skill to learn) and luckily there is now help and advice at hand.
One way to ensure a pleasant view from the window around March or April is through aeration, the practice of perforating the soil with small holes to allow air, water and nutrients to penetrate the grass roots. The main reason for doing this is to alleviate soil compaction. It is also vital that all traces of moss – or as much as possible – be removed.
“Normally you do it in the autumn,” explained Julia Mulcaster of Oakington Garden Centre. “You do need to aerate and take the moss off.
“Aeration is basically forking holes all over the lawn and, as you can imagine, it creates a bit of a drainage hole.
“You can get proper aerators that would do that for you, or you can actually get shoes with spikes on and walk over the lawn. It can be quite a time-consuming job if you’ve got a big area, but it’s worth doing.”
On the importance of moss removal, Julia added: “Moss spreads quite rapidly, so what you need to do is rake it out with a lawn rake. That’s quite a hard job – it’s good aerobic exercise!
“Raking is about the best way to remove moss. There used to be a lot of moss killers on the market, but they’ve been taken off gradually over the years.
“Sometimes you can get products with iron sulphate in it that will kill the moss, but even when you’ve done that, you’ve still got to rake it out or it will turn black.”
Aerating your lawn and removing moss can be a tiring job, one without any noticeable short-term benefits. Julia said: “At this time of year, what it’s really doing is building better roots – it’s not growing anything on the top.
“So the more air and sunlight it gets, the better.”
Sweeping up leaves is another task that must be performed. “It’s very important because leaves can smother the grass,” said Julia, “and it will stop the sunlight getting to it. What you’ll then find when you clear up all the rotten leaves in the spring is that the grass underneath will be yellow, so you really need to get rid of those off the lawn.”
Do people often leave their lawns untouched during the winter, believing there’s nothing that needs to be done? “Yes,” replied Julia. “I think people don’t really want to go in their garden when it’s rainy and cold and windy, but you do pay the price for it in the spring.
“If your grass starts to die because it hasn’t had any sunlight and goes yellow, it’s more likely that weeds will seed themselves in the patches where it’s stopped growing – so you’re actually creating more work for yourself in the long run.”
In the event that you do find your lawn is yellow in the spring, Julia has some advice on how to fix it: “In the spring you can start feeding it again and you can also put down some more grass seed and that will fill in the patches. But you’re just making life more difficult for yourself.”
Julia offered some further tips: “Apart from using Autumn Lawn Care, which has got a special kind of feed that actually feeds the roots, it’s really just keeping it dry. Not driving on it too much as well – if you have visitors who park on your lawn over Christmas, that can damage it quite badly.”
Has Julia noticed more and more people striving to take care of their lawns?
“Yes. I suppose people have got smaller gardens, so they don’t always have a lawn – but what they do have they tend to really look after. It sets the rest of the garden off if you’ve got a nice green lawn in the middle of it.”