The Lawn in SummerAlison Marsden
Even with gardens getting smaller, the vast majority of Great British gardens will have a Great British lawn. But by the end of July many will not be looking quite so great, indeed they will take on a distinctly yellow, crispy look. So this month, I will talk about why that is not a permanent plant catastrophe and a couple of ways to keep your lawn greener for longer.
A key characteristic of grass that is important for how we cultivate lawns is that the stems grow from the bottom, at soil level, not the tip as shrubs and cottage garden perennials do. This is why we can mow frequently and the grass keeps growing, pushing up new green blades in a similar way to how our own hair grows. When the top growth dies and yellows in summer, the growing point remains alive and so, as soon as it rains or temperatures fall, growth resumes and new green blades of grass quickly appear. So there is no need to water your lawn to keep it alive – nature already has that covered.
One simple way to keep your grass greener for longer in summer is to reduce the amount of water lost through the leaves to balance the reduced availability of water taken up through the roots. Raising the mower blades to leave the grass longer helps to retain moisture and reduce stress on each plant. We are only talking about a couple of centimetres here and still mowing often enough to stop the grass sending up flower spikes.
I also suggest not being too averse to low growing ‘weeds’ in the lawn particularly clover which grows below the mowing level. Clover is less susceptible to drought stress and does not die off at the end of the summer, remaining a rich green all year round. A controlled distribution of clover also helps to store nitrogen from the atmosphere in the soil, making it available to the grass. Nitrogen is the nutrient that supports green leafy growth in plants so this too keeps your lawn looking lush.
If you decide to let your lawn grow into an impromptu meadow for the summer, then cut it all down in late summer before the grass starts to collapse into clumps making mowing, strimming or scything more tricky and potentially risky.
Happy Gardening from Alison
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