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Splendour in your grass; Tips to let you stay a cut above.

Every gardener would love their lawn to look like the Centre Court at the start of Wimbledon fortnight.

But by the end of August, after weeks of football, sunbathing and barbecues, most people's prized patches of green have turned distinctly brown.

However, by taking a number of simple precautions, you can stop your garden turning into a dustbowl.

Here's our guide to help keep your lawn looking great throughout summer and to give it a lively head-start next year.

Weed-control throughout the summer helps to keep a lawn healthy and stops invaders taking over.

There are plenty of weed-and-feed formulations available, in both granule and liquid form. Just choose one which you find easy to apply.

Most lawn weedkillers contain two or more active ingredients, each controlling a different selection of weeds. Check the label to make sure it'll do what you want it to.

If it doesn't rain shortly after you've applied the weedkiller, remember to water the lawn thoroughly to prevent it from becoming scorched and ending up looking a lot worse than it did with its weed problem.

Small infestations of weeds can be dealt with by hand, using a daisy grubber, old kitchen knife or a hand trowel.

A thorough watering - rather than frequent, light sprinklings - should help ensure that the grass receives adequate moisture at the roots. During the hotter, drier months you may also leave the box off the mower and allow it to leave the clippings on the lawn provided the lawn has been cut regularly. Short clippings will act as a mulch and prevent too much moisture-loss from the lawn.

Regular mowing is essential as a lawn which is allowed to grow too long soon looks scruffy and becomes sparse. Don't get too enthusiastic and remember that little and often really is the name of the game. If you take off too much, the grasses really suffer and weeds and mosses are quick to invade. As autumn approaches the work really increases if you've been neglectful.

Keep fallen leaves in check. If left to sit on the lawn they will cause it to deteriorate rapidly. A spring-tined rake works well but if you've got a larger area to deal with it may be worth considering investing in a bit of powered help. I swear by a petrol powered leaf blower which, provided your arm can stand the weight, makes swift and easy work of clearing the lawn of leaves and smaller fallen twigs.

There are also many garden vacuum cleaners on the market which suck up the leafy debris. And once you've rounded up all the leaves, don't let them go to waste, but turn them into leaf-mould for future use as a mulch and soil improver.

Scarifying or very brisk raking of the lawn also helps to revitalise it.

A newly scarified lawn always looks awful, so if you've never done it before, don't be disheartened - it'll look fine in a couple of days.

Scarifying helps to remove all the old thatch (organic debris which has built up at the bases of the grasses) and so ensures that water and air can penetrate easily.

Again, a spring-tined rake works well but for larger areas a power tool, bought or hired, will make the world of difference to the effect it has on your arm muscles, and the quality of the end result.

Aerating the lawn helps relieve some of the compaction that results from the heavy summer pounding.

Hollow-tine aerating removes cores or plugs of grass and soil. If you brush a sandy top-dressing mixture into the holes, this creates channels of drainage which then allow water and air to penetrate downwards and so encourage healthy growth and functioning of the roots.

An Autumn feed is beneficial too. Don't try to economise and use any old fertiliser. Choose one which is specially formulated for use on lawns in autumn.

It needs to have a high phosphate content (for healthy root growth) and low nitrogen content and should be applied after raking, aerating and scarifying.
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Copyright 1996 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Gardening
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:May 21, 1996
Words:673
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