Gardeners who didn’t want to venture out in the freezing weather at the beginning of the month may now be looking at a moss-ridden, lumpy lawn with scatterings of bald patches, a world away from the velvet carpet of grass they desire.
But there’s still time to give your lawn a boost, even if it might look a bit forlorn now, or consider re-seeding or turfing if you think it’s beyond hope.
If you have loads of moss, it’s worthwhile applying a moss killer before you scarify, and wait a few days before raking it up.
Improve badly draining soil by aerating the lawn, driving a garden fork into the ground all over the lawn when it is moist, making holes to a depth of 10-15cm (4-6in). I once bought a pair of lawn-aerating shoes, but they kept falling off so I went back to the old faithful fork.
Others use hollow-tine lawn aerators which remove plugs of soil from the ground, but they are hard work and aren’t very good on stony soils or heavy, dry soils.
The holes you make allow air and water to get into the grass roots and should then be filled with a mixture of sharp sand and organic soil conditioner to stop the holes from closing up.
If the soil is heavy and air is forced out due to excessive rain, spread a large bucketful of sharp sand per square metre over the surface, working it into the holes with the back of a rake.
Feed the grass with lawn fertiliser available at most garden centres. This can be done by hand, applying approximately two grams per square metre, and water it in.
All lawns need good drainage and oxygenation, so scarify it with a springtine rake to remove thatch - dead grass that mats beneath growing grass - and moss. For larger lawns, it’s worth renting a petrol-driven lawn scarifier to do the same job.
Some lawn dressings incorporate a slow-release fertiliser but if this isn’t the case, add a little amount of general lawn fertiliser (not containing weed or moss killer) before applying it. Make sure you brush it evenly over the area or it will become patchy when the fertiliser kicks in.
A few weeks later, if your lawn is still patchy, oversow it lightly with a quality lawn seed.
Once it’s ready to cut, make your first few cuts, keeping the blades set quite high. If your grass is already long, give it a few cuts over a number of weeks, lowering the blades a little at a time, so that you cut the grass length down gradually.
By summer, you should be mowing weekly, stepping up to twice a week when necessary, but don’t mow the grass shorter than 2.5cm (1in) high and keep on top of weeds in the lawn. Annual weeds which emerge in any bare patches will be removed by mowing.
Of course, in the unlikely event that we have a sustained period of warmth in the summer, go easy on the mowing and don’t worry about letting the grass go brown because it will recover.
When you mow during drought, leave the cuttings on the lawn to stop the roots drying out and help keep in the moisture.
Continue to feed the lawn monthly through the summer, then you can apply a high-potash fertiliser in the autumn to keep the grass in good condition in the cooler months.