Lawn update – 3rd November

Autumn is well underway with tree leaves coming off in abundance, but winter is also creeping up as we have had some cold winds, yet temperatures have been fairly mild (but not for long periods as daylight hours are now shortening significantly) in the main. This is essentially keeping the grass leaf growing when it should ideally be starting to slow its growth and store much needed food in its roots (or stolons / rhizomes if present) ready for overwintering.

You will still see groundsmen and greenkeepers applying fertilisers (with relatively high nitrogen content!) at this time of year, but fundamentally this is poor practice as whilst it provides a visual boost to surface growth it weakens the ability of the grass plant to withstand wear and tear as growth is more ‘sappy’ and it also increases susceptibility to disease attack. Unfortunately many of us seem to have forgotten we are dealing with an outdoor natural plant and need to work with nature to get the most from it.

Anyhow, back to my lawn activity: Growth is slowly rapidly, so with just 2 cuts in October, there won’t be much mowing until growth starts to pick up again properly in spring 2018.

Friday 3rd November: (1330): Height of cut 40mm as it has been throughout the entire year.

  • Grass height – averaged 75mm (ranged from 50mm – 90mm)
  • Temperatures: Soil = 10.2C; Air = 12.0C
  • Clippings: 1/2 box
Mown Lawn: 3rd November

Mown Lawn: 3rd November

Some parts of the lawn are looking slightly yellow. This is typical and just part of the natural life cycle of a grass leaf as it dies off. To help reduce the effects of this then regular scarification / raking is needed to routinely remove dead and dying grass leaves from the lawn. Most lawn owners will not carry out routine scarification / raking, but it is a beneficial maintenance activity: This photograph and the following close up shows the consequences of not undertaking routine scarification throughout the season, especially during late summer / early autumn when growth is still good.

Yellowing area on lawn

Yellowing area on lawn

Close up of leaf death

Close up of leaf death

A light raking and then further tidy up with the mower will spruce this area up quite well. You do need to be careful at this time of year not to be intense with any scarification / raking as the grass plant cannot recover quickly (due to reducing temperatures and lower light levels) from what is quite a severe physical operation on relatively delicate plant material.

If you want a greener appearance then a light scarification / raking, followed by a tidying up of mowing and then a light, even, application of sulphate of iron (about 4 g/m2) should do the trick.

Summary of annual maintenance activities for 2017

For this year I have concentrated on regular mowing and hand weeding, supplemented by spring renovation work – forking, scarification, seeding, top-dressing and fertiliser application.

Edging of the lawn has been carried out a few times as has a light springbok raking of the lawn, but ideally these would have been carried out more frequently, whilst aeration / forking has been a neglected task for this year so this is certainly something I will need to focus on for over the winter when the ground conditions are suitable and for next year.

10th March was the first cut, and including the cut just carried out that means my lawn has been cut on 42 occasions this year:

  • March x 2
  • April x 6
  • May x 6
  • June x 8
  • July x 7
  • August x 5
  • September x 5
  • October x 2
  • November x 1 (so far anyway)

The aim was to ensure that no more than 50% of leaf growth was removed during any mowing activity, ideally getting this to the optimum of no more than 33% of leaf removal per activity.

There was only one occasion when this wasn’t achieved (On 16th August after a week away on holiday – average height of grass being 85mm with cut height of 40mm); there were 3 occasions when the average height was 80mm, thus being at the maximum of 50% removal of vegetation (i.e. 80mm less 50% equals the cut height of 40mm).

The majority of cuts were with the grass height at 60mm or below, achieving the optimum of no more than 33% leaf removal per cut.

  • 1/3rd or less removed (i.e. the grass was at 60mm or less prior to being cut) x 27
  • 1/3rd – 1/2 leaf height removed (61mm – 80mm) x 14
  • > 1/2 leaf height removed (actually at 85mm) x 1

I’ve analysed the average, minimum and maximum grass growth rates per day as well:

  • April = 3.25mm; 2mm; 4mm
  • May = 6.5mm; 5mm; 8mm
  • June = 5.25mm; 2.5mm; 10mm
  • July = 3.5mm; 1.5mm; 5mm
  • August = 5.75mm; 3mm; 8mm
  • September = 4mm; 3mm; 6mm
  • October = 3.75mm; 3.5mm; 4mm
  • November = only one cut so all figures are 2.5mm

Waste clippings from mowing the lawn: Following lawn renovation in April there were 2 occasions when clippings were left on the surface, i.e. ‘let fly’ because the sward was very thin and grass height averaged just 55mm so very little was actually cut off.

For the remaining 40 cuts the volume of grass cuttings is estimated as being 0.41m3. In practical terms this is equivalent to about 2 domestic recycling green waste wheelie bins (they are 0.24m3 each). Don’t forget this is from a lawn with an area of just 25m2.

All the above is useful data to help plan out a typical maintenance programme for a lawn. What else is needed is an assessment of the lawn to help compare and contrast with the assessment carried out in March: This can be used to judge the effectiveness of the maintenance work that was carried out over the year and identify what needs to be done for the following year to achieve a desired standard.

This type of comparative and contrasting assessment is ideal when engaging lawn care companies as you can objectively determine how well they have performed, or not, in maintaining your lawn.

Chris Gray, 4th November 2017