Renovating a neglected lawn

Begin by examining the grass and weeds covering the lawn. If the dominant plants are coarse grasses, mosses and persistent weeds, the best solution is to lay a new lawn. If, however, good quality grasses make up the main part of the lawn, carry out the following programme of work. With care, the good quality grass can be made to re-colonize the whole lawn area.

Start renovating in spring before the grass begins to grow actively. Cut down tall grass and weeds to 5cm above ground. Use a rotary lawn mower, a scythe or a pair of shears, depending on the area to be cleared. Rake off all the clippings.

Remove all dead vegetation and debris – including any large stones – using a rake and brush. Mow the grass with the blades set as high as possible. Subsequent mowings should be carried out regularly, each time with the blades set a little lower. In summer, mow at least twice a week. Fit the grass box to the lawnmower, or rake off the clippings.

Feed and weed the lawn in late spring or summer, using a general lawn fertiliser first, and then a selective weedkiller, about a fortnight later. Some manufacturers supply a mixed fertiliser and weedkiller which does the job quicker and easier. Also apply a propriety moss killer or lawn sand to get rid of moss if necessary. If, after six weeks, some persistent weeds remain, apply a liquid weedkiller containing mecoprop and 2,4-D.

Apply another feed of lawn fertilizer in early autumn, together with a worm killer and a fungicide. Again, certain manufacturers combine all three ingredients in one. Remove coarse grass by hand.

A week or two later, spike the surface all over with a garden fork to a depth of about 7.5cm. This will improve drainage and aeration. Apply a good top-dressing of loam and sand; or well-rotted manure, garden compost or leaf-mould. Scatter this dressing over the surface at a rate of about ten handfuls per square metre and work it well into the surface using the back of a rake.

If the lawn is thin, mix in grass seed with the top-dressing at a rate of 15g per square metre. Rake off fallen leaves with can spread disease.

Re-seed or re-turf any bare patches which appear after the weedkiller applications have taken affect. The lawn should be in a satisfactory condition by the following spring, when normal lawn maintenance can begin.

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