We are now in uncharted territory being locked down at home.
Despite the weird feelings of being out of routine I am enjoying more time to do some gardening and other DIY around the home.
The wild patch in my back garden is about to be made spick and span.
Looking on the bright side gardening at home brings much joy to many. Autumn is a great time to garden too.
We have had record sales of winter vegetable seedlings from the garden centre over the past couple of weeks prior to the lockdown as many were preparing to give themselves some food security at home this winter as well as an activity to do at home over the coming weeks.
This week the garden column is looking at lawns, there is nothing that can complement a house and garden more than a healthy, lush looking lawn.
A quality lawn can enhance your property and is an inexpensive way to improve the look of your home.
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There are tried and true methods to having a healthy lush lawn for yourself, that are not hard but involve seasonal, timely work.
Lawn grasses establish best either in autumn, from March to the end of May, or in spring from September to November.
The soil is still warm and autumn rains will soon moisten it completely.
In areas where early severe frost can occur seed should be sown in spring from September to November.
As long as preparation is thorough and water is applied as necessary, a very good lawn can be established now.
A really good lawn can be obtained only by intensive soil preparation before sowing; once the lawn is established it is difficult to level off an uneven surface or eradicate undesirable grass and weed species.
The first step is to remove all existing pasture type growth.
Most grasses and perennial weeds are effectively controlled with glyphosate-based sprays such as 'Grosafe Glyphosate', 'Yates Zero' or 'Roundup'.
Harder to kill species such as blackberry, onion weed and English ivy can be removed with the use of 'Roundup Tough'.
The spray is taken in through the foliage, then translocated to all parts of the plant including the roots and rhizomes.
Visible effects are a gradual wilting and yellowing of foliage, and brown-off may take 7-14 days or longer depending upon growing conditions.
If topsoil has been brought onto the site it is advantageous not to sow immediately but to leave bare for about 2-3 weeks allowing any weed seed present to germinate which can then be sprayed with an appropriate weedkiller depending on the weed type.
It is important at this stage to consider drainage.
Most grasses prefer a well drained loam or sandy loam soil rather than heavier wetter soils.
Good drainage means better penetration of water and air to the grass roots.
It also means moss and hydrocotyle weed, which can thrive in moist lawn areas, are less likely to invade the lawn.
On some very heavy soils it is wise to import some sandy loam soil, spreading it over the area 8–10cm deep and incorporate it into the topsoil. In extremely wet situations permanent drainage may need to be installed.
If soil is added, you may need to destroy any secondary emerging weed seedlings.
It is worth putting time into preparing the soil to the correct levels and contours.
For small areas a rake, fork and spade will suffice but for larger areas a rotary hoe will save time.
The soil should be worked up to a depth of about 8cm using a rotary hoe or garden fork until the soil is a fine tilth.
Any lumps or clods should be removed or broken down.
Level and compact lightly, making the surface as even as you can to avoid "humps" and "hollows".
The area should be left to consolidate for a week, walking over the area for grading, raking and destroying weeds plus watering or rainfall will help with this process.
If the soil is still soft and spongy all over rolling may be necessary.
To avoid too much compaction only roll or tread the soil when it is damp, not wet. Rake the area again after rolling or treading.
Grass health and fertiliser
Like all plants, regular feeding will keep grass in good health and the turf thick and more resistant to the invasion of weeds.
Fertilising in spring and autumn with a specific lawn fertiliser such as 'Tui Lawn Force' will ensure grass remains strong and healthy.
In heavier soils it is beneficial to also fertilise with Garden Lime once a year.
Garden lime should be applied in August or September, 2-3 weeks prior to the application of 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 has the benefit of 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.
When sowing a new lawn use Tui Lawn Force New Lawns, this specific fertiliser has been formulated for application when sowing seed and for young grass.
This blend will ensure that you get strong healthy growth without burning the young grass or seed.
Selecting and sowing seed
There is a wide range of seed blends available to suit the particular requirements or the situation.
A lawn seed which has proven highly successful in Whanganui is the 'Tui Lawnforce Superstrike' range.
It is a treated grass seed which offers protection from birds and contains insecticide to protect against insect damage, but it is not coated offering a significant advantage in germination percentage and speed of grass establishment.
This range of seed comes in a range of blends to suit different property conditions these blends include 'shady places', hot n dry', 'easy care', 'all seasons' and 'hardwearing'. Information is available in the garden centre on these blends so you can decide which one suits your property best.
A calm day is best when sowing grass seed, as the seed is small and light.
To assist in achieving even sowing it is recommended that you divide the seed into halves and then spread the first half in one direction and the other half at right angles to it.
After sowing, the soil surface should be lightly raked, on light sandy soils a light covering of 'Tui Lawn Preparation Mix' is recommended.
This will help to retain moisture and help to prevent seed washing away during watering or rain.
The soil surface should be kept moist with light watering until seedlings have germinated and are well established.
Water the lawn less frequently as the seedlings grow stronger, this encourages the roots to grow deeper.
It is very important that young germinated lawn seed is kept moist otherwise it will die.
If watering may be a problem it would be wise to sow your lawn in small sections over a few weeks.
This may seem more intensive but it is better than having patchy germination over the whole lawn because of inadequate watering.
Watering should be cut down to once a week and when grass is 3.5–4cm high it should be mown lightly and clippings removed.
Ensure that your mower blades are sharp for a clean cut.
The first mow should not remove more than 10 per cent of the height of the grass.
After the third or fourth mow the cutting height can be gradually reduced.
After the first or second mow the lawn should be fertilised with 'Tui Lawn Force for New Lawns', again using the recommended rates on the bag for new lawns.
If flat weeds such as dandelion, cape daisy and plantain and others are a problem spraying with 'Yates Turfix' will provide good results.
Putting in the hard work now will have you relaxing and enjoying your lawn in the months to come.
Stay safe, stay home and have a good week.
•Gareth Carter is General Manager of Springvale Garden Centre