Dead leaves smothering your lawn this Autumn?
If you’ve been to your local park lately, you may have noticed something different – and I’m not talking about rubbish bins full of empties left behind by cricket fans. It’s the influx of greenkeepers and lawn mowing council staff trying to do something about the state of the grass after a crazy summer of droughts and cyclones.
Unfortunately, the bad news is that your lawn at home isn’t in much better shape. When out lawn mowing and gardening, Crewcut contractors up and down the country have encountered lawns that are madly overgrown in some areas and sun burned yellow in others.
So, what can you do to rectify the ravages of summer, protect your lawn from Autumn weather and get your lawn in tip top condition ahead of winter?
Crewcut’s operations manager Pauli Horgan says that as the days get shorter and wetter, it’s a good idea to keep grass long so that it can soak up some rays, and to do your lawn a favour by letting air in to dry it out. He says a trap for young players is to cut off long summer lawn in one fell swoop at the end of the season.
“Cutting off the long blades will leave the earth exposed and open to root burn when the ground gets cold.”
This makes sense – imagine if you were enjoying a late summer nap outside when someone simultaneously turned off the sun and stole your clothes. It would be a horrible shock to the system.
Get yourself a stiff rake and go over any dry patches, to weed out the dead grass. Grass needs mowing less over Autumn because of the weakening sun but it does need to convert all the energy it does get into growth – there’s none to spare for dead weight. Pauli advises grooming and caring for the lawn to ready it for winter hibernation. Depending on where in the country you live, you will have to watch out for sogginess, frost and suffocation. The last applies to lawns nationwide, so don’t put that rake away even if you’re not doing any lawn mowing.
He says that Autumn leaves aren’t just a pain and an eyesore, they can kill:
“You need to keep all leaves removed or your lawn is being smothered, the fallen leaves are choking the grass growth.”
So even if your lawn mowing schedule drops back to two or three weekly, keeping on top of garden clearing is just as important to the health and appearance of your lawn. Blowing and raking leaves off the lawn also removes dead grass and gives your lawn maximum exposure to the sun. (And who doesn’t love having some fun with the leaf blower? Just make sure you herd the leaves into a green bag).
From Northland to Southland, no part of the country is now immune to extreme weather and its likely many of you will have a bog at your back door at some stage over the next few months. Aeration is the practice of jabbing short narrow holes into the soil that provide channels for the air, fertiliser, rain and water to get through. This applies to water that might otherwise run off and not be absorbed into the ground, particularly if you have clay soil, advises Pauli. Rather than have your daughter’s rugby team go hell for leather on your turf, call your local Crewcut team. They are less busy with lawn mowing over the cooler months and happy to help with any gardening advice.
Further reading for Autumn gardening:
- All about Autumn pruning
- Autumn gardening tips
- There's more to hedges than trimming
The lawn is going to need feeding ahead of the barren winter months and Pauli is a big proponent of including fertilising in his Autumn lawn mowing regime. The solution he advocates is a simple yet sustainable one.
“Mulching clippings into the soil is ideal at this time of year to enrich the earth. Make sure you use a mulching lawn mower, not just a catcher mower with the catcher removed – this will just leave clumps that will smother and kill the grass.”
A new unauthorised biography of Prince Charles claims he has four gardeners who “lie flat, face down, on a trailer pulled by a slow-moving Land Rover” to hand pluck weeds, because of our future king's hatred of pesticides. If you too dislike pesticides but are on a lower budget, your lawn will love to be rid of energy sapping, eyesore weeds that you could pull yourself or call in a Crewcut gardener.
It’s quite likely that you’ll also need to do some patching. Ensure you get the correct seed by taking a photograph of your lawn to the garden shop and asking an expert. Do not plant just before heavy rain (wash away) and do sprinkle top soil over the top and water daily for the first two or three weeks.
So, while serious lawn mowing takes a back seat from now until Spring, lawn maintenance is more important now than ever. After all, it’s when one’s vulnerable that one needs TLC and your lawn will need to be in its best possible health to face a hostile Winter and emerge strong again in Spring. Try not to forget about your lawn during those cold dark weeks ahead when you see it less and less, because it is suffering out there! Ultimately, grass is a plant and like any other it needs love and attention.