We are officially into the first month of spring. It is a time of year when there is plenty to start doing in the garden. All things are showing signs of growth, especially the lawns.
The lawn graces almost every home in our city. They come in all sizes and are generally defined as that green area that is mown around the house. Some lawns can be likened to a bowling green, neatly kept, made up purely of grass species and not a weed in sight. Others are made up of large leaved cape daisies, dandelions and a number of varying grasses that rapidly spring up to different heights. A nice lawn complements house and the garden and contributes to increasing the value and saleability of a property.
The secret of a good lawn is preparation before it is planted, and maintenance when it is established.
For an existing lawn maintenance doesn't have to be too time consuming. A spray once a year with Yates Turfix, fertiliser and moss control once a year and regular mowing generally will keep a lawn looking good and feeling great to walk on - without prickles!
Best spray options for weeds
There are a few sprays on the market that will kill the broadleaf weeds in your lawn without affecting the grass. A spray once a year (more frequent if needed) will keep weeds under control and prevent the grass from being taken over by weeds.
Yates Turfix is effective against most broadleaf weeds including daisies, clovers, onehunga weed, catsear, chickweed, chamomiles, docks, thistles and dandelion.
If there are some hard to kill weeds such as cape daisy, hydrocotyle, creeping oxalis and clover then Yates Hydrocotyle Killer is a better choice.
The third choice of spray is Yates Woody Weedkiller. This is effective on onehunga (prickle) weed, clovers, convolvulus, docks, sorrel, cape ivy, thistles and buttercups.
If prickles in the kids' feet are the biggest problem in your lawns then use Yates Prickle Weed Killer. This controls onehunga (prickle) weed and other lawn weeds including thistles, plantains, daisies, cape daisy and pennycress.
Prickles
Although mentioned above in the list of sprays any child or grown up who loves the feeling of grass under their bare feet really wants the issue of prickles in the lawn addressed! The secret is all in the timing. For the most effective control of prickle weed (Onehunga) the spray must be applied before the plants are flowering. This means spraying in September or October when the lawn and weeds are actively growing before they start to flower in November. The spray should be applied to the lawn in warm conditions when it has been recently mown. It is important to apply the correct amount of prickle weedkiller to the area stated, and do not apply if rain is expected within one day of treatment as effectiveness will be reduced.
Grass weeds
Grass weeds such as paspalum can be a troublesome weed in a fine turf owing to its coarse growth. Along with other unwanted grass species they can be controlled by spot applications of Roundup in fine calm weather. When the weeds have died and shrivelled up it is necessary to sow the bare patches with grass seed.
Mowing
The biggest thing to ensure the long term health of your lawn is the mowing technique. Topping your lawn regularly and not mowing too short will keep your lawn more weed free. Having the grass taller makes it more difficult for shorter broadleaf weeds to establish. Scalping the lawn (mowing too short) makes the grass less resilient during dry weather and more prone to damage if crushed when under frost in winter.
Grass health and fertiliser
Regular feeding will keep grass in good health and the turf thick and more resistant to weeds. Fertilising in spring and autumn with a specific fertiliser such as Tui Lawn Fertiliser will ensure grass remains strong and healthy. In heavier soils it is beneficial to fertilise with garden lime once a year. Garden lime should be applied in August or September, 2-3 weeks prior to lawn fertiliser. Garden lime increases the pH of the soil which makes more nutrients in the soil available to the lawn to use. It also adding calcium to the soil which plays a major role in the physiology of the plant, strengthening its physical structure, increasing nutrient uptake and protecting it from disease.
What about moss in the lawn?
Contrary to general opinion moss does not always develop because a lawn is damp or shady and it cannot be controlled by liming. Moss often develops because the grass is weak and lacks nutrients, conditions which often occur under trees or in moist places. This is often amplified during the winter months when cooler temperatures lock up soil nutrients and reduced sunlight hours weaken growth.
The main aim of moss control should be to stimulate the grass once the moss has been eradicated. A fertiliser lawn treatment with iron sulphate such as Yates Fertiliser & Mosskiller is very effective. Now is the time to treat your lawn applying treatment in fine, calm conditions on to a damp lawn. Either moisten the lawn before applying or apply on a dewy morning. Best results are obtained when the lawn is mown 2-3 days before treatment. The moss will blacken as it dies. The lawn may also appear blackened at first but will recover to a dark green colour after several days. After two weeks the dead moss can be raked out.
Sowing a new lawn
The best way to ensure a good lawn is all in the preparation. If you are considering sowing a new lawn then pick up a Lawn Guide brochure available in garden centres, or ask for advice.
So make that patch of green around the house the envy of the street it's as easy as following the simple practices talked about above.
Happy mowing
This Week's Urgent Pest Watch
I have a note to those of you with peaches and nectarines particularly. Now is the time to spray for protection against brown rot.
Brown rot is that insidious disease that destroys peaches, nectarines and sometimes apricots and plums, just as they ripen. However, the key period to protect from brown rot is during and immediately after flowering. In situations where brown rot has been a problem, it is wise to put on three sprays about 10 days apart - the first one when the flower buds are closed and pink, the second in full bloom, and the third at 90 per cent petal fall. Use Watkins Fungus & Mildew Spray to ensure good control for brown rot. Do not add an insecticide in the first two sprays (because bees are active), however on the third spray at petal fall add Mavrik (a relatively bee safe insecticide) which will eliminate any likely insect pests. With this protection you should be able to get right through the season with no more spraying and no brown rot.

(Editor's note: Watkins Fungus and Mildew Spray has subsequently been banned for domestic use)

Gareth Carter is General Manager of Springvale Garden Centre