As I’ve moaned about mentioned before, we’ve a fair bit of grass and mowing takes up quite a bit of time. It’s not good lawn, more mowed-down rough pasture but the clippings come in useful and it’s beginning to look the part. So, time to start really improving it.
There’s quite a lot of moss in the grass, perhaps 50%, and it’s got a build up of thatch which reduces the ability of the grass to resist periods of drought or winter cold weather. The underlying soil is poor and acid so I’ve been applying fertiliser and will be liming in the winter to raise the pH.
I’ve mowed it down as tight as I can – although in places I have to be careful of stones just under the surface so not as low as the mower can go. I’m now ready to scarify it to get that thatch and moss out. Now there are two ways to do this.
The first is to take a spring-tine rake and spend hours of hard-labour scratching out the thatch. To do the small patch in the photos would take about an hour and doing the whole of the lawn down to the gate probably a couple of days, assuming I survived the ordeal!
Mantis to the Rescue!
Lucky for me, Mantis make a lawn care kit as an accessory for their famous rotavators. It comprises 3 parts; a scarifier, an edger and a set of slicing-slitting blades.
It took longer to find the instructions from the ‘safe place’ I’d put them than to actually take the normal tines off the Mantis and put the scarifying set on. That done it was just a matter of walking backwards pulling the tiller as you do when rotavating.
The test patch took but a few minutes to cover as against the hour it would have taken manually and it pulled out an amazing amount of thatch and moss. To collect it all up, I ran the lawnmower over a couple of times and filled the bag in the photos with it.
Spiking the lawn
After scarifying the next job is to spike the lawn. This opens the soil and allows better drainage whilst reducing compaction. An ordinary fork will do, pushed in every 15cm or so, rocked and removed. Even better is a hollow tine aerator that removes tubes of soil. The lawn is then top-dressed with sand to keep the holes open.
Both the above are effective but take ages and it’s not really on for a large area when you’ve got a zillion other things to do. The slicing-slitting tool just makes deep narrow cuts in the turf which does the same job. Once again, just a few minutes was enough to do the test patch against an hour doing it by hand.
Feeding the lawn
Having cleared the thatch and opened up the soil, the final job was to give an autumn feed. Ideally you don’t want a lot of nitrogen for an autumn feed, it encourages soft growth which won’t be tough enough for a freezing winter. All we want is enough to help it along. We do want, however, a fair bit of phosphate to encourage root growth and potassium to help toughen the grass.
So I applied standard Growmore fertiliser with added superphosphate and then wood ashes that we have in abundance from the fire for the potash (potassium). Because it’s quite dry and no rain is forecast for a while, followed up with a good watering.
If you scarify etc. as I described, please be aware that the grass will look terrible immediately afterwards. It’s going to take a good month to recover but once it does it will be stronger, more resistant to harsh, freezing winters and hot, drought-struck summer.
As it happened, a passer by had seen me running the scarifier over the grass and asked where he could buy one. He keeps about 100 laying hens, free-ranging on pasture. He’s split a field into two and alternates the flock every six weeks. His problem is the build up of manure and the scarifier and slicing is ideal to break up that manure and help it rot down faster so the pasture recovers.
For more information on Mantis Tillers & Lawn Care Kits