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Autumn lawn care
In this article we look at what you can do at this time of year to give your lawn some much-deserved care and attention.

There are many tasks to be done at this time of year that carry with them an underlying sense of conclusion or putting your garden to rest. Cutting back shrubs, raking and sweeping fallen leaves, and wrapping your more tender perennials in fleece to protect from frost, are all jobs we do to prepare our gardens for the oncoming winter.

Your lawn can also do with some care and attention at this time of year and while the tasks below can be carried out in either autumn or spring, many people find the physical exertion these tasks require actually lend themselves nicely to this season. The ground is softer than in summer and there is a contemplative aspect to the repetitive nature the tasks have, that compliments the crisp and still days that autumn can bring.

  • Nurturing element to lawn care: The lawn is easily marginalised in importance when gardening. Attention will often be paid to the flower beds and planters around it. But the lawn responds well to care and attention and there is a host of knowledge and expertise available for those who want to take the time to be better acquainted with it as an area to focus their efforts.
  • Good physical workout: As the temperature drops it’s nice to have a task that lures you outside to break a sweat. While you may start a scarifying task in a jumper and jacket, by the end of it you may well find yourself down to your t-shirt due to the energy the job requires.

Possibly not the most obvious of jobs to involve children in but there are certainly elements that will appeal to younger minds.

  • Top dressing the lawn involves weighing and measuring elements and making sure the feed is evenly spread.
  • Most kids don't mind getting behind a rake and having some tasks that require them not to be too exacting can be a good thing. Scarifying also results in mounds of dead grass called ‘thatch’ that can make prime material for bug hotels.
  • Aerating can entice many worms out of the ground. Core aerators pull small plugs of soil to the surface that can give a nice cross-section of the soil make-up of your lawn. With the correct supervision, a more active child may be happy to have a go at treading a fork into the ground at measured spaces before giving it a slight wiggle and pulling it back out.
  • You can use lightweight detachable tools and handles to work at a height that best suits your needs.
  • Raking and sweeping can be easier if you use an add-on fist grip style handle and an arm support cuff - particularly if you use one hand, have a weak grip or weak wrist.
  • There are a variety of grab and lift devices available, such as grab and lift rakes and grab and lift debris collectors that enable you not to have to bend down to pick up the thatch left behind.

Why do it? Over time your lawn will begin to build up unwanted reserves of dead grass and moss. As this happens, it prevents water and nutrients getting to the healthy roots and newer shoots growing around it. Scarifying is a way of removing dead and undesirable growth, otherwise known as ‘thatch’. It also breaks up grass stolons to promote new growth.

How to do it? Raking. One of the reasons this task is best done in autumn is that if done in spring hard raking may cause damage to newer grass growth and shoots. You should rake your lawn space thoroughly but avoid causing damage to the soil in the process. Once you have created your thatch piles, you can dispose of them in the compost to benefit your garden in the future.

Autumn lawn care garden rake

Tools of the trade

  • Spring tine rakes are the go-to tool that most of you will have in your shed already. They will cause less soil damage than a steel rake and their slimmer tines work well to clear debris as you work.
  • Scarifying rakes are also available and have long handles and vertical blades designed specifically for this task.
  • Electric scarifiers work similarly to a lawnmower. They can either be battery or cord powered and some will even collect the thatch produced in a bucket for you. These would probably be of use for those who would struggle with the more physical demands of raking and can come in lightweight models.
  • Petrol powered scarifiers are also a possibility but need storage space for petrol and would only be relevant for people with large lawn spaces.

Why do it? Aerating is a way of making sure that air and water can get to the roots of your grass. It is best done on areas that are compacted, worn or have a high clay ratio within the soil. Lawns benefit being aerated every 2-3 years. The process is also known as ‘spiking’.

How to do it? Simply make holes about 20cm apart and this will make sure your lawn is less likely to get waterlogged in rainy weather and that the grass roots can survive through drought.

Autumn lawn care garden fork2

Tools of the trade

  • Garden forks work well and allow you to simply walk around your lawn space and tread the tines in a semi regular interval. Give a slight wiggle to loosen the soil and remove before moving onto your next patch.
  • Manual hollow tine aerators are specially designed with a spring mechanism that removes plugs of soil as you go. This makes the task easier to achieve than with a fork and creates an effective result.
  • Motorised hollow tine aerators are either plug in or battery powered and do the bulk of the manual work for you. They can be noisy and may need careful management when operating.

There are also some additional tools which can help take some of the back work out of aerating and make it easier to carry out:

  • Aerating sandals that attach on to your shoes and have large spikes at the bottom to puncture your turf as you take a leisurely stroll around your garden.
  • Rolling aerators that you push or pull up and down your lawn. They have a hollow drum with spikes on that aerate the lawn as you go.

Once you have aerated your lawn, you can improve drainage and feed it by raking in a top dressing.

Bags of top dressing are available from most garden centres and consist of loam, sand and organic matter or compost that nourishes the lawn area and grass growing on it.

If you used a hollow tine aerator, firstly remove the soil plugs that are on your lawn. Then put 2kg of top dressing per square metre onto your lawn and, using a plastic leaf rake, rake into the holes provided. Any excess top dressing can be brushed into flowerbeds or placed on your compost.

One last piece of advice is not to leave it too late as these tasks are a lot harder to carry out once the frost comes around.

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