28 Feb 2020

How to maintain your lawns

From Afternoons with Jesse Mulligan, 3:25 pm on 28 February 2020

A luscious green lawn is the envy of many neighbours, but how one is achieved remains just out of reach for most. And as summer water restrictions take effect in large parts of New Zealand, brown back yards are becoming all the more common this time of year.

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Photo: 123rf.com

Grass expert and Hagley Oval groundsman Rupert Bool told Jess Mulligan his key piece of advice for New Zealanders at this time of year is to use common sense when watering their patch.

"A lot of the frustration I see around the place is people over watering lawns, or watering footpaths or driveways or whatever, so it's kind of key to get your sprinkler or your irrigation system set up so you are actually utitlising the water correctly and watering at the right times of the day where it's got a chance to soak into the grass.

"Sometimes watering right in the heat of the day can be very detrimental to your lawn in terms of putting a lot of stress on it and potentially some kind of diseases and stuff can happen from that. (Watering) at night is obviously the best thing to do for your lawns, late at night."

Pictures of brown landscapes in the upper North Island, Hawke's Bay, Wairarapa and Canterbury have been prominent in the new year due to the lack of rain in the regions. However, Bool says grass is resilient in nature.

"That's the key thing - sometimes lawns just go dormant rather than die.

"It's a natural thing and some people just can embrace the burnt off lawn and it's actually not too bad for your lawn to be honest because while it's burnt off, it's not building up thatch and all the other things that can be detrimental to your lawns, so definitely don't need panic over a browned off lawn."

How often you cut your lawn depends on a number of variables, Bool says, from the climate, the type of grass you have and soil.

"As a general rule of thumb, I think most home lawns perform best between one and two inches, which is actually quite long, between 20 and 30 millimetres is an ideal range for most lawns.

"A lot of people fall into the trap of probably shaving too much grass off their lawn and put it under unnecessary stress, so if you keep your lawn longer and it actually thickens up it can be just as nice and good to lie on."

In a perfect world, Bool says it is best to mow your lawn when it is dry, but if you can only do it when there is a slight dew or wetness to it then it won't be detrimental to its health. He also said it's good once in a while to take the catcher off your mower and leave the clippings on the lawn.

"All that nitrogen and all the nutrients that come from the clippings actually regenerate back into your lawn occasionally. If you're taking away your clippings all the time, you're actually taking away a lot of the nutrients constantly, so every now and then it's not a bad thing to leave the clippings on your lawn."

As for mowers, Bool says most new mowers will do a perfectly adequate job, but that the key to a nice clean cut is a sharp blade.

"Sometimes you'll see if you haven't sharpened your blades very often it will shred the leaf a little bit, so if you look at the end of your grass you'll see a little bit of rounding and that's because your mower isn't quite sharp enough."

If in need of a sharpened blade, Bool says a grinder or file would suffice, otherwise your local mower shop will take care of it for sharp a price.

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