Your Quintessential Guide to British Lawns
Have you ever wondered what British lawn-care is like? Well, you've come to the right place. We've teamed up with our friend Josh at LawnCarePro in the UK to bring you the ultimate guide to British lawns. Tally-ho old chap!
The concept of a lawn was born in the British Empire, and in the UK, we're proud to have exported the obsession with perfectly-manicured grass to the rest of the English-speaking world.
As Ron has explained in his guest post for us, lawns used to be reserved for the nobility. But these days, most British gardens now have at least a small lawn, which we use to play football (with a round ball!) or cricket.
In this article, we'll explain a bit more about British lawns, and how we do lawn care on this side of the Atlantic.
What Do Modern British Lawns Look Like?
Unlike in the US, where the climate can be quite varied across different states, you'll find the same types of grass in most parts of the UK. However, this isn't to say that British lawns have completely different types of grass to in America. You'll find dwarf ryegrass and annual meadowgrass on most lawns in the UK, just like you would on a cold-climate American lawn. We just don't have many species of warm-climate grasses that you get in the states, such as Bermudagrass.
Fescue grass illustration
Also, red fescue and creeping/common bent are also very common on lawns in the UK. Fescue is a particularly common choice on manicured golf course-style lawns for its thin blades and very neat appearance, when taken care of properly.
The Keys to Professional Lawn Care in the UK
Below, we've explained some of the keys to making your lawn look great for those of us living in the UK.
1. Regular Mowing
Except in the winter, most types of grass we have in the UK like to grow really fast, at least when taken care of properly. Therefore, one of the main things we recommend people to do is actually mow their lawns on a more regular basis, about 2-3 times a week during spring and autumn, which is peak growing season.
By mowing more regularly, you avoid stressing out your grass when it's growing quickly, because you can follow the one-third rule - meaning you can avoid taking off more than a third of the height of the grass with each cut.
Also, by cutting regularly, you can mulch your grass clippings back into the soil without leaving a huge mess on your lawn, and without contributing to the thatch layer too much. Mulching is a great way to give your lawn the nutrients it needs on a regular basis, although we also recommend spreading fertiliser a few times a year.
2. Once-Yearly Scarification
This thatch has been cleared from the lawn, using a process known as scarification
Since we've been having increasingly dry summers in the UK, it's becoming more important to scarify your lawn every so often, to clear excess thatch buildup. By doing this, air and moisture can more easily get to your lawn's roots, where it's needed most.
We typically recommend hiring a proper scarification machine rather than using a rake, and doing this process in the autumn. This is because your lawn often looks quite bad for a few weeks after scarification, so it's not a good idea to do it in spring when you're just about to begin using your lawn all the time.
It's best to scarify in one direction on a quite aggressive setting (especially if you have more than 3/4" of thatch), then do the lawn once more in a different direction. And before starting, ensure to mow the lawn quite short, and bag up your clippings.
3. Aerating the Lawn
As well as scarifying, it's also a good idea to aerate your lawn every so often. Many parts of the UK, especially in the east, have soil with lots of clay content, which is prone to becoming compacted, especially in the summer.
To address this issue, we recommend using a hollow-tine aerator on slightly damp grass, to pull out plugs of soil and reduce compaction.
Even on regular or sandy soils, it's a good idea to aerate at least once or twice a year to improve airflow and encourage grass root growth. Also, aeration helps to make frosts much easier on your lawn, ensuring that your grass is able to hibernate during the winter without facing any issues.
4. Clearing Debris
Many gardens in the UK have relatively small lawns, owing to the size of the country. As a result, it's quite common for areas of grass to have overhanging broad-leaf trees or shrubs such as hollybush.
When this other vegetation drops its leaves, especially in autumn, this can very quickly lead to moss problems and other lawn diseases, due to the combination of dampness and low temperatures.
We recommend gardeners keep a very close eye on lawn debris in the autumn in particular, and clear away fallen leaves at least twice a week if possible. As winter sets in, it's also crucial to keep clearing up the debris, but at the same time you also want to avoid walking on your lawn when it's frosty, to avoid damaging it.
5. Top Dressing with Fertiliser
Although we recommend mulching grass clippings on most lawns to supply nutrients, cool-season grasses can greatly benefit from having the right type of fertiliser applied at the right time of year.
For example, in the spring, you can apply fertiliser with lots of nitrogen, to encourage healthy grass leaf growth. On the other hand, in the autumn, it's best to apply fertiliser with a higher concentration of potash and phosphates, which encourage lower growth, helping to prepare the lawn for frosts in the coming months.
Applying fertiliser is a straightforward process of top-dressing the lawn, and using a rake to spread out the fertiliser. You'll need to keep off the lawn for at least 24 hours before it's ready to use again.
Taking care of a lawn is very similar in the UK and US, in that in both countries, you're trying to provide your lawn with enough air, water, and sunlight at different times of the year, and you want to avoid stressing it out - especially when mowing.
However, here in the UK, our climate is typically very wet, and quite cool, except in the summer. We only really have cool-season grasses, and watering our lawns on a regular basis is rarely necessary, except during heatwave conditions. Because of our climate, it's particularly important to help your lawn "breathe" as much as possible, by clearing excess thatch, and keeping debris off your lawn.
Article contributed by lawncarepro.co.uk.