April 13, 2017
As we move into spring, it’s often tempting to make the classic British mistake and assume that the weather is going to be lovely and warm. In reality, whilst it’s often beautifully mild in the mid-afternoon, over the last few days I have found myself scraping ice off the windscreen at dawn! These cold nights and diurnal shifts in temperature can restrict growth and still leave the plants vulnerable to mistreatment if we are not careful, so it’s really important to be wary.
By now there will be some broad-leaved weeds present, many of these being perennials or biennials that have over stayed their winter welcome. These are among the most common early weeds and are very visible – celandines under trees are a perfect example of this. They do flower prettily but will quickly disappear without much human intervention (so no back breaking weeding necessary!)
There are many selective weed killers available, although most are only available to professionals. However, these are mainly hormone acting and won’t have that much of an effect whilst we still have cold nights, so it is definitely worth waiting a week or two until the nights begin to warm up.
With the arrival of the dry weather the soil has begun to dry nicely underneath, meaning that now is a good time to aerate. The idea of this activity is to form cracks in the soil which allow air and water movement and also give roots an opportunity to better access into the soil. If aerators are used in wet conditions, the soil structure becomes damaged and the tines cause a smearing effect within the soil, effectively sealing up the holes they create and will take you back to square one.
By now we should be cutting on a regular basis but keep the cut height fairly high to help protect the plants from cold nights – the leaves help create a thermal protection layer (basically a nice, warm blanket!)
Where moss and thatch are still an issue, you can still be scarifying but you must ensure to be gentle as the conditions are very dry – if we do not get rain, the lawn may not recover very well.
As we transition into Spring, you should be applying significant amounts of nitrogen fertiliser – your grass will thank you for this as it is one of the most key nutrients required in order to promote growth throughout the warmer weather. Again, the dry weather may cause an issue if lower quality fertilisers are used, especially if they also contain weed killers. Make sure these are watered in well but if you are able to use a controlled release fertiliser, there will be no risk of plant damage.
With any new turf, it’s important to make sure that you are using fertiliser but stay away from any cultural activities such as scarification or rolling – these plants are delicate and need to be treated gently!