Seasonal Lawn Care Advice

* How to make a big improvement to your greens,
* Step-by-step, season-by-season tips,
* Lawn care problems explained and solved.
Lawn care and pitch maintenance were my father's most important jobs. They varied from scything long grass to extensive front of house fine lawns and cricket pitches. And to that I've added my own experience with organic lawns.

Below I explain the routine of lawn maintenance - scarifying, fertilizer use, and cutting. My pages on these links have information on lawn weed control, lawn mowing machines, and how sensitive lawn care helps you
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First, the essentials of seasonal lawn care and how to maintain your lawn.

Seasonal Lawn Care Plan

Your lawn needs more than regular mowing to keep it in trim. You will also need to scarify and aerate your lawn and apply a lawn fertiliser from time to time. Find out more below...

Early Spring Lawn Care
  • Rake off winter debris and lightly scarify or de-thatch lawn,
  • Start lawn mowing with the cutting height set high,

Mid-Spring Lawn Care
  • Deep scarify the lawn and aerate,
  • Rake in a mix of compost and organic lawn feed,
  • Repair bare patches by adding grass seed to the mix.
  • Recycle lawn trimmings to compost heap,

Late Spring Lawn Care
  • Gradually lower cutting height,
  • Finish spring lawn care by removing the cutting box and mowing regularly,

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Summer Lawn Care
  • After dry spells give turf a good watering in the evening,
  • Maintain fine ornamental lawns by cutting once or twice a week,
  • During dry periods, raise the cutting height - longer grass is more drought resistant,
  • Longer grass utility lawns can be given a rest from mowing after midsummer,

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Autumn Fall Lawn Care
  • Feed with an organic fertilizer to strengthen your lawn for winter,
  • Raise the cutting height on your lawn mower,
  • The best time for aerating your lawn is now,
  • Deep scarifying can be done when enough time is given for re-growth,
  • Collect all grass cuttings for composting.

Winter Lawn Care
  • A couple of short runs will prevent gas powered mowers ceasing up,

Lawn Problem Solver

Lawn Compaction Causes Problems

Your turf should be springy, dense and deeply rooted, able to soak up water like a sponge, and include air for grass roots to breath. Never kill earthworms in your lawn as they serve to assist drainage and aeration. An over abundance of worm casts may be caused by a high soil water table.

'Keep off the grass' is a sign that aims to prevent compaction on fine lawns caused by traffic passing over. The pressure squeezes out soil air and your turf becomes impenetrable. Then after rain, water drains straight off the surface instead of permeating down to the roots. Your sods become formless and dry out hard. Your grass can become thin, with worn patches, lacking vigour, and vulnerable to invading moss and weeds.

Aerating Lawns Brings The Life Back

Aerating your lawn can be a major task if you don't have a power machine to help. Then you need to concentrate your effort first where attention is needed. This job is done annually in the Fall. Work on the trouble spots that you've identified or work on a different area each year. For larger lawns consider buying a power driven hollow-tine aerator.
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Light aerating can be achieved by sticking a fork into the surface to about 3 inches deep and in rows 6 inches apart. Gently move the fork back and forth before pulling out vertically. You will achieve a more thorough job by using a hollow tine fork. Hollow tines withdraw soil cores and let you brush in a sand / compost mix. Soil cores can be composted or mixed into your lawn feed.

Scarifying Lawns

Lawn debris - called thatch - from dead grass, moss and lawn trimmings collects around blades of grass. When left to fester it excludes light, reduces air flow and harbours disease spores. So the first aim of scarifying is lawn hygiene and removal of lawn debris.

Light scarifying can be done with a wire rake to remove moss and debris. But it is a tough job to do well and certainly good exercise for your arms and shoulders. You can find machines for scarifying below.

Deep scarifying goes further by cutting through the spreading grass stems. This grass pruning is important to encourage your grass to branch and root, keep it young, and to grow a dense sward.

Lawn scarifying is therefore essential for tip-top annual lawn maintenance and for re-invigorating a tired lawn. Some gardeners will do light scarifying or de-thatching, every month in the growing season and deep scarifying every mid-spring or early autumn. You should only deep scarify when your grass is actively growing.

Both manual and power driven scarifying machines are available. They have sharp hooked tines that cut through grass stems as well as remove debris. Power driven scarifyers (also known as lawn rakes) are a welcome aid for gardeners working on anything but very small lawns.

Scarifying can also straighten up the grass blades before cutting, although this is more properly termed combing.

Scarifying Versus Mulch Mowers

Mulch mowers deposit finely cut grass trimmings back on the lawn. These break down to release nutrients during the warmer months. On frequently cut fine lawns some gardeners will leave the grass box off because these clippings feed the lawn.

Thatchy Lawn Mulch However, ordinary rotary mowers or hover mowers (not mulch mowers) can leave course debris on the lawn as seen here. This adds to the thatch build-up. These lawns are in need of regular de-thatching but especially so in late summer.

Course utility lawns with longer grass are perhaps in greater need of scarifying than regularly cut fine lawns. This also depends on drainage conditions. You should examine the lawn surface close-up to determine the amount of thatch build-up. Check lawn edges and unhealthy areas from the grass blades down to root level.

Lawn Disease

There are many fungal infections that spoil lawns. The advice above will help you prevent and cure these infections plus the following:-
  • Collect all grass cuttings and follow the advice on de-thatching,
  • Don't rake infected grass onto clear areas,
  • Seaweed meal adds trace elements that harden grass to fight off disease,
  • Don't over-use nitrogen fertilizer,
  • Broad leaved weed killers have been blamed for some diseases,
  • Badly infected areas may need re-seeding - use disease resistant grass varieties,

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By Michael E. J. Scott.
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