Good Lawn Guide


This section is all about getting the most out of your lawn. We've put together easy to read information on lawn maintenance, mowing tips and pest control. And we've also included helpful hints like an annual spring renovation section so you can do all the things you should, to ensure your lawn is both healthy and looking good, all year round.

Now, don't be daunted. No-one expects you to read every single word. Instead, scan the topic headings below and scroll down until you come across the lawn care areas relevant to your needs.

Pest Control


Control measures at a glance:

 
Keeping your lawn well kept will really help the grass to ward off pests and diseases. However, every now and again our lawns need a hand in fighting off disease, insects and weeds. Here's some valuable tips:

Conduct regular fertilising, irrigation and yearly renovations
Water in the early morning rather than in the late afternoon or evening
Ensure your mower's cutting or mulching blades are sharp for less grass wound sites for disease entry and pest attack.
Consider doing a soil test once a year
Don't mow too low - keep grass height above 2.5cm from the soil
Weeds... the biggest pest of all!
As the old saying goes, 'prevention is better than cure' and that means ensuring your lawn remains in good condition. However, even the most pristine lawn can be targeted by weeds once in a while. If there are too many to hand-weed, apply herbicides - but always follow pack label directions.

To be most effective, you need to get them while they're young and growing. Otherwise, they'll rebirth the following year. The five most common problem weeds for lawns are listed on the weed control chart below.

: . Pest Control

Control measures at a glance
Keeping your lawn well kept will really help the grass to ward off pests and diseases. However, every now and again our lawns need a hand in fighting off disease, insects and weeds. Here's some valuable tips:

  • Conduct regular fertilising, irrigation and yearly renovations
  • Water in the early morning rather than in the late afternoon or evening
  • Ensure your mower's cutting or mulching blades are sharp for less grass wound sites for disease entry and pest attack.
  • Consider doing a soil test once a year
  • Don't mow too low - keep grass height above 2.5cm from the soil

Weeds... the biggest pest of all!
As the old saying goes, 'prevention is better than cure' and that means ensuring your lawn remains in good condition. However, even the most pristine lawn can be targeted by weeds once in a while. If there are too many to hand-weed, apply herbicides - but always follow pack label directions.

To be most effective, you need to get them while they're young and growing. Otherwise, they'll rebirth the following year. The five most common problem weeds for lawns are listed on the weed control chart below.

 

Weed Control Chart

Name of weed

What they look like

How to get rid of them

Bindii

A common broadleaf weed with 12 or so tiny delicate leaves per cluster. Bindi's have multiple prickly seed heads that are painful when stepped on.

Kill off young seedlings just before Spring using a herbicide with active ingredient 'Bromoxynil'.

Clover

A prolific broadleaf weed, clover has three leaves and creamy white flowers. Its leaves are soft and usually dark green and its very common in spring and summer.

There is a wide range of natural & chemical sprays available at nurseries and hardware stores.

Onion Weed

Grows rapidly upwards with from 3 to 6 long thin leaves coming from the one weed. It has pinky-white flowers and a deep bulbous root system that is extremely hard to kill.

Check the labels on weed killer sprays to see if it is formulated for this weed.

Paspalum

It is a tall coarse-leafed grass with distinctive sticky seed heads. It establishes itself in thinned areas of lawn in spring and summer.

Herbicides with DSMA are ideal. Hand-weeding of established plants is also an easy, effective option.

Wintergrass

This grass weed is light yellow-green in colour germinates in the colder months and then emerges in spring. It usually dies out in the heat of summer but its prolific seeding ensures its return if not treated.

If you have a Wintergrass problem, use a catcher on your mower to collect seed heads. Herbicides such Endothal are effective.

Give insects the flick
Insects don't pose much of a threat to your backyard lawn, with the exception of root-eating African Black Beetles, leaf-eating grubs and the night-feeding 'lawn army worm'. Unlike docile worms which bring benefits to your lawn by aerating soil, the ravenous army worm can cause serious damage and is capable of killing off an entire lawn. Check with an insect identification book from your library. Purchase applicable pesticides from your local garden centre, nursery or hardware store.

Eradicating algae, moss and parasites
Algae or moss on the surface of your lawn indicates poor soil drainage and aeration and can also be caused by excessive shading. If left untreated your lawn will begin to die off in affected areas. Natural and chemical sprays are available to treat the symptoms, but to deal with the cause, do the following...

provide good aeration, use sandy soils, core regularly, cut back on watering, reduce shading, and keep your soil's pH between 5.5 and 7.0.

The most prevalent parasite attack that your lawn may have to fight off is from Nematodes. These microscopic plant parasites attack the grass roots and cause yellowing and thinning in lawn cover. Identification is difficult and can usually only be conducted by a professional with suitable testing equipment.

One final word
Enjoy! For more detailed information on any of the topics that we've covered briefly within this guide, check out reference books from your library, seek out a landscaper or speak with a consultant at a garden centre, nursery or hardware store.

Lawn Maintenance


The benefits of mowing
Mowers that can mulch are most beneficial for your lawn. That's because they recycle grass clipping back into the lawn, providing valuable nutrients for sustained growth. What's more, the blades on mulching mowers are designed to break down the cut grass into very small pieces, then distribute them evenly over the lawn where they quickly break down without leaving a trace.

Mower cutting heights


Grass grows fastest and is at its healthiest, in the warmer months, so decreasing your cutting height down to 2.5cm won't affect it too much. During cooler months, grass grows much slower so it's a good idea to raise your cutting height a little so as not to damage it. As a general rule, it's wise not to cut your grass lower than 2.5cm. The big risk of mowing low is 'scalping' which browns your grass. Scalp your lawn repeatedly and you risk weakening it, allowing more weeds and diseases to take hold.

How often to mow


As a guide, you should mow once a week or at the very least, once a fortnight during Summer, and around once every three or four weeks n Winter. At other times, you'll probably vary between these extremes depending on how fast your own individual lawn is growing. Other seasons Infrequent mowing can cause a lawn to become "stalky" and less attractive. This is especially the case with popular grasses such as Couch and Kikuyu. So it is advisable to mow regularly, with sharp blades, to keep your lawn looking its best.

What kind of mower


The three most popular types of rotary-action lawnmowers today are mulching mowers, mulch or catch machines and cut & catch models. If you have a large lawn area, be sure to choose a mower that is powerful enough to handle the job. For small to medium-sized areas, it could be more beneficial to choose a mower that offers a mix of solid performance and low maintenance.

Watering advice


As most of us learned at school, Australia is the driest populated continent on Earth. But did you know that around 40 to 50% of annual residential water consumption in Australia goes in watering gardens and lawns. And unfortunately, we use about twice as much water as we need. To reduce your water bill and still get the job done, consider these important points:

For sandy soil, mulch regularly to improve its water-holding ability
Water in the early morning or late afternoon / evening - depending on local water restrictions and regulations - to maximise nourishment and reduce evaporation
As soon as the water starts to run off the surface, it's time to stop because you're beginning to waste water!
Check your nozzle and sprinkler regularly to ensure they work well & don't leak
Install an approved rainwater system and tank
Fertilising tips

Every time you mow the lawn and remove the grass clippings you're depriving the remaining lawn of rich nutrients it has extracted from the soil. That's why mulching is such a good idea. For those who don't mulch regularly, your lawn could benefit considerably from fertilising during spring and summer. Try to seek out fertilisers which supply the correct balance of the three major nutrients required for a healthy lawn with uniform growth. A mix of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium in a ratio of 3:1:2 is ideal.

 Annual Spring Renovation


On top of regular lawn watering, weeding and mowing, you'll get best results if you undertake an annual spring renovation programme.

As the States and regions of Australia vary greatly, try to conduct your once a year renovation before the onset of hot weather. Depending on where you live in Australia, that's anywhere from August to December.

When undertaking your spring renovation be sure to:

Remove the previous year's build-up of thatched material
Open up the soil via 'coring' to let it breathe
Apply fertiliser before the onset of a long hot Summer
Correct the surface level by adding topsoil where necessary
Regenerate any bare areas
Conduct a soil test
Spring Renovation Check-list

Dethatch your lawn


When organic matter builds up faster than it can be broken down it makes your lawn harder to mow, much more susceptible to wilting in hot weather and forms a barrier which can prevent fertilisers being of any benefit. The best way to dethatch your lawn is to set your mower to the lowest setting and get stuck into it! This controlled scalping will do the job particularly well for Couch and Kikuyu grasses and you should consider doing it every three years.

Core the soil


It's a good idea to turn your soil annually in order for it to continue to support lush, healthy grass. 'Coring' is necessary to deal with 'no grow' areas of your lawn with poor grass cover. You can buy a hand-held corer from hardware stores or hire a larger more powerful model.

Apply fertiliser


We've covered this important activity earlier on. Try and seek out organic natural fertilisers as they're far more beneficial for your lawn and garden.

Add top-dressing


Annual top-dressing is not necessary unless it's necessary to even up the level of your lawn. Over-dressing can actually be bad for your lawn and this is a crucial point that many gardeners are not familiar with. It's best not to add more than 1cm of top-dressing at any one time. For large holes, take up the grass, fill the hole, re-plant the grass and then water lightly for half an hour. A coarse 90:10 sandy loam mix is perfect. Top-dress in late Spring for warm climes and in Autumn for cool season grasses.

Regenerate bare areas


These areas are usually high-traffic zones and come about through excessive shade or because soil gets compacted then baked by the sun and blocks worms from oxygenating the soil to allow grass roots to take hold. Turn the soil, add runners from your lawn, provide plenty of water and don't mow these rejuvenated areas for around six weeks.

Conduct a soil test


If you're really serious about your lawn, ensure your soil pH and nutrient activity remains within optimum levels by conducting a soil test once a year. Then add a relevant fertiliser to improve your soil if necessary. If you keep your soil pH between 5.5 and 7.0 you'll reduce pest attack and provide a good level of nourishment. You can get test kits from hardware stores and nurseries.