Spring lawn care routine and advice with Jimmy the Mower11 Apr 2022
Spring is an essential time to focus on looking after your lawn. After the low maintenance winter months, it’s important to pay careful attention to what your lawn needs in this key growth phase.
Implementing a maintenance and upkeep routine is a must to ensure your lawn is getting the care it needs to thrive throughout the year. This is why we spoke to James Broadhouse, aka Jimmy the Mower, about his spring lawn care routine and advice. As one of the most active influencers in the UK lawn care industry, Jimmy has extensive knowledge of all things turf care.
Seasonal lawn care is dependent on your climate and the type of grass being grown. However, countries with a temperate climate where grass needs to be cut regularly throughout the spring and summer months can benefit from these tips.
What is the first thing you do in spring?
I start by looking at the lawn to determine if it’s in the right condition. This means that the lawn must be dry and its overnight temperature must be above 5 degrees - don’t begin any work if it’s still frosty or wet.
Once you are happy that your lawn is ready, there’s one more step you need to do before you start cutting.
You must aerate your lawn. Aeration is key. This is because, over winter, while the grass is wet, walking on it compacts the earth down and removes all the air within the soil. We need to ensure that it’s aerated so that water and nutrients can get to the roots - this can’t happen if all the air is squeezed out of the soil.
Do you do any soil tests?
Because I work on pitches and cricket fields and have looked after the grounds for years, I can tell what the soil needs. So no, I personally don’t. But you can buy soil testing kits for your own garden.
Soil testing kits can tell you your soil pH - you’re looking for it to be neutral.
Do you rake or use a leaf blower on your lawn?
Leaf blowing in the last few years has become a major thing, particularly leaf collecting machinery such as vacuums and debris collectors.
Begin by clearing your lawn and any hard surfaces of leaves. Clear the first 6 inches to a foot depth of border and blow some leaves to the back. They will harbour good bacteria and will break down to form beneficial mulch.
Ensuring that you clear away leaves means you will prevent scarring on your lawn. This is the light patches that form when leaves stop light from getting through to the grass blades.
How should I prep my lawnmower for cutting?
Make sure it’s well serviced. If you didn’t drain the fuel at the end of last cutting season you need to drain it out now and put fresh fuel in. Change the oil, change or make sure the spark plug is working, and make sure the filter is working.
Ensure your blade is sharp, if it isn’t - replace the blade and then sharpen your old one and keep it as a spare. It’s important to have a spare in case you damage your primary blade. Make sure all the wheels turn freely and that everything is in good order.
What can happen if you have forgotten to drain your fuel in the winter?
If you didn’t drain the fuel, it can go a bit sticky in the carburettor. This is because the fuel goes stale and it starts to break down which leaves behind a sticky substance that can block the carburettor.
If that happens, enough fuel can’t get through to the combustion chamber and you can end up with the mower sputtering, coughing and not running properly - or at all. So it’s very important.
How often should I mow my lawn?
As often as you like! Mowing is a great activity - being outside, getting exercise, fresh air, and vitamin D from the sun, it just lifts your entire mood. You also benefit from improving the view from whichever window overlooks your lawn alongside gaining mental and physical benefits.
In terms of cutting height, the rule of thumb is no more than a quarter off in height. It puts the lawn under stress if you cut too much off. Once you cut it, two to three days later you can go again, a maximum of three times per week.
What causes uneven grass growth in the spring?
There isn’t a one-step cure for uneven grass growth. You can give it the best start possible by aerating, feeding and raking it to get rid of thatch.
This is because uneven growth is caused by different strains of grass growing within the garden. Lawns are not like sports turfs where you have one type of grass growing at the same rate and being cut at the same time.
How often should I water?
A common misconception is putting a sprinkler on for 30 minutes every night. This isn’t great for the soil or the grass itself because the water sits at the top inch and results in the grass having very shallow roots. This means that come winter - bearing in mind low temperatures and frosty weather - your grass can quickly become damaged.
Ideally, you’re looking to create good root depth, and proper watering is an important part of that. Aeration is vital for this as aerated soil allows water to flow deeper and reach the entire root system. This promotes growth as the roots can push further down into the soil.
Instead of watering for 30 minutes every evening, water for two hours, two evenings per week. This should be done later in the evening when the lawn isn’t under full sunlight. Longer and less frequent watering promotes deeper root growth, unlike frequent, shallow watering that only reaches the top layer of the soil and results in stunted growth.
Don’t forget the importance of watering - professional gamekeepers on golf courses measure their grass health by the length of roots!
When should I plant new grass?
The best time to plant new grass is in March or April. First, wait for the severe frosts to be over. Then scarify and rake your lawn, aerate it, if you’re overseeding, put on some topdressing, water it, and away you go.
Should I topdress my lawn?
After you have aerated, you end up with a lot of holes in your lawn. When you topdress, you brush fine soil-type sand into the holes which support the soil structure but is more permeable than sand, letting nutrients and water through easier.
Is it essential? No, not really. But if you want an excellent lawn, I do suggest it as a priority.
Should I roll in my seed and compress it with the topdressing?
If you’re a professional groundsman, you probably would. If not, then I would say no. This is because if you scarify your lawn, you rake up the dirt, pull at the dirt in between and form a rough surface for the grass seed to tuck itself away in.
Should I overseed my lawn?
Yes, after scarifying to prevent weeds and moss. If you can, do it when the grass will germinate quickly - during April and May.
Is fertiliser important?
Once the grass seed has germinated, you can apply some feed.
In terms of what lawn feed, you don’t want something too heavy on nitrogen because the grass will become too nitrogen dependent. Too much is as bad as not enough, it will cause the grass to become yellow. Companies do specially tailored feeds - don’t be tempted to add more when you’re mixing it.
Feed correctly in the spring. In the summer, you can feed again and that will prolong your vigorous growth throughout the season. If you put too much in spring, the grass will have a sudden burst and will then die back. When this happens, people tend to get upset and feed more, but this is counterproductive. So it’s important to stick to the guidelines on the label of your fertiliser.
For domestic lawns, you shouldn’t be feeding more than twice a year. Professional grounds are a bit different as they’re growing on a sand base.
Ultimately, grass wants to grow. That’s what it does. You need to tame it and control it so it will grow how you want it.
What fertiliser should I use?
Slow-release fertiliser. 9-7-7 - the first number is the amount of nitrogen, the second is phosphate and the third is potassium.
Professional feeds have 25 for the nitrogen, that’s a crazy amount. A 9-7-7 is a low content, slow-release fertiliser which is great for spring. There is not a huge take-up of nutrients in the spring as the grass is waking up from dormancy.
Think about it this way, imagine waking up to a full banquet in the morning. It’s too much food, it’s way too heavy! Later on when you’re moving towards autumn - or the evening for us - you’ll require a bigger feed.
As you move into summer, you can add higher nitrogen levels for top growth and recovery as well as higher potassium to harden the lawn. Iron and magnesium help for growth and uptake of colour in the grass.
How often should I feed my lawn?
Twice a year - spring and summer feeding is great.
If you’re doing lawn renovations in the autumn, you can feed the spring feed again in the autumn as it’s low in nitrogen but high in potassium. This will harden the leaves in preparation for winter.
The lawn requires more different nutrients during the different seasons. This is similar to us - for example, vitamin D supplements during the winter are a good idea due to the lack of sunlight.
How do you control weeds/pests?
It depends on what you define as a weed.
If you have grass and have children or pets - you need hardy patches of grass. This means that any odd weeds like dandelions don’t really matter and can be spot treated.
Football pitches for example, if we took all the weeds out, we would have 50% grass and 50% bare earth.
It’s very easy to reach for a weed with a weedkiller but that in turn kills off a lot of the grass around it. But then you need to overseed those bare patches to make sure grass grows back. Ultimately, if your lawn is being used on a regular basis, then you don’t really need to get too hung up on it.
In terms of pests, what I find to be most destructive are those that eat the roots of the grass such as weevils and chafer grubs. What can also happen is that other small animals like crows will then pick at the grass to feed on the chafers. Getting rid of these with nematodes is a good idea - it’s definitely becoming a big thing in the industry.
Do you have any specific mowing tips or advice for spring care?
Keep fertiliser with high iron content away from hard surfaces like stone patios. This is because the iron can stain and create a rust appearance.
Always make sure your mower blade is sharp.
Whenever you’re cutting the grass, don’t take more than any ¼ off the overall length at any one time.
Better to mow frequently and take less off than it is to mow infrequently and take more off. Regular mowing encourages strong plant growth. The same goes for aeration.
You can aerate your lawn at any time, it doesn’t matter when in the season it is - you can aerate it. Lawns are compact as a general rule and if you’ve never aerated your lawn, it’s very compacted.
Enjoy mowing. Enjoy the process - it’s a pleasure, not a chore. You need to be grateful that you’re out there in the sunshine, walking around with the mower. It’s great to feel a bit of gratitude.