Lawn Care Tips for March
Monday, 15 March, 2021
Posted in March Lawn Care Tips
Although the lawn should be cut every month of the year, this is the month that most people get the mower out of the shed and venture out onto the lawn.
Although the lawn should be cut every month of the year, this is the month that most people get the mower out of the shed and venture out onto the lawn. Before you start mowing, make sure that the blade is sharp, this would have been done if your mower was serviced over the Winter. A 'dull' blade will rip and tear the tip of the leaf, leaving it looking jagged and untidy. A jagged leaf tip will also allow disease into the plant. Any wormcasts should be brushed away, do this with a stiff brush when they are dry, if you don't do this the wheels and roller of your mower will 'squash' the casts making it an ideal site for weed seed germination. Adjust the height of cut so that you just 'top' the lawn for the first cut of the year, only a fraction should be taken off just to tidy it, any more than this will stress the plant and it will stunt. The first cut of the year normally highlights a problem of moss....more on that later! Box the clippings, if possible, so that they don't smother the lawn, it's not quite so important later in the season when the growth is stronger.
Moss is encouraged by many factors including: Poor growing conditions, high/low pH, mower scalping, compaction, heavy shade & waterlogging. Unless these factors are corrected, moss will always return. Moss killing can be carried out from Autumn until Spring, once or several times and this will stop moss becoming too invasive. The treatment works rapidly and the results can be seen on the same day as treatment. The dead moss can be left to deteriorate or scarified out. It would be beneficial to aerate (spike) the lawn after moss treatment to allow the soil to breathe. Mosskillers tend to scorch the lawn as we get into warmer weather so March is the final month that we carry-out this task until Autumn.
The lawn is growing rapidly by the end of the month but it may have sparse growth and weak colour, there's probably limited nutrition contained in the soil to take it through the Summer months so feeding is essential. In early March, a final application of a Winter feed can be applied, this will green-up the lawn without causing too much growth but will promote strong healthy root growth. This fertiliser can be termed as a late-Winter feed or pre-Summer feed.
Commencing at the end of the month, the main Summer fertiliser can be applied, we use two types:
- 3-month fast and slow release (which requires a follow-up treatment in mid-Summer).
- 6-month slow release which will last throughout the whole Summer. Ideal for general utility lawns, not suitable for fine turf.
There are advantages and disadvantages in both types of feed and we can advise on the most suitable. Both fertilisers contain slow-release nitrogen to encourage strong green growth, phosphate to encourage strong deep rooting (this will help survival in drought conditions) and potash to help build strength and disease resistance.
Now is the time to tackle leatherjackets, these are the larvae of the Cranefly (Daddy Long Legs) and can completely destroy a lawn by eating the roots during the Spring. The leatherjackets are deep in the soil during the Winter but as the weather warms-up they will come closer to the surface to feed on the roots. The damaged turf will show as brown patches which will die due to lack of root growth, very often birds will peck at the soil to get at the larvae and this will cause additional damage, the larvae can be spotted on the soil surface. The main period for controlling leatherjackets is September but a treatment in March/April is beneficial to help to keep numbers down. The March treatment can be applied when the soil temperature reaches 8-10 Celsius. The lawn needs to be spiked before application, this will allow the nematodes rapid access to the rootzone, the nematodes should be applied in a solution containing a wetting agent and then watered-in for the next couple of weeks.
Fusarium disease is still common at this time of year, particularly on fine turf, it shows as brown/orange spots of approximately 3-5 cm across. It tends to thrive in wet/humid conditions, lawns with heavy thatch and turf that may have been overfed with nitrogen. Although new grass will grow back into the diseased turf, it may not be of the same species so therefore changing the species composition, this will create a lawn of poorer quality. It can be treated with a fungicide or generally improving cultural practice.
Light scarification can be carried-out in March, this is to reduce procumbent growth, lift trailing weeds and remove additional moss. Heavy scarifying will cause stress to the lawn and cause it to stunt, especially heading into the warmer Summer months. Spring tines fitted to a scarifier are probably better than blades as they are much gentler at this time of year. Any bare patches can be overseeded but it's better to do this in April when the soil is warmer to aid germination, especially if it is small seed such as fescue and bents.
Various forms of aeration can be carried out throughout the year. March is the final month of 'Winter type' aeration whereby 3-4" solid tines or slitting/chisel tines can be used. Creating slits or holes into the soil will allow oxygen in and carbon dioxide out of the rootzone, allowing the roots to breathe. Water penetration will also be improved along with fertiliser application, allowing passage directly to the rootzone instead of lying on the surface. Slitting/chisel tines will prune the roots, therefore encouraging strong new root growth. This is the final month slitting tines can be used before September as this type of tine leaves a slit on the soil surface which tends to open-up in the Summer leaving a gaping hole which allows water to evaporate from it and allows the turf to dry-out around the edges.