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Winter Lawn Care

Keep off the Grass With the majority of lawns in the Britain currently covered under anything from a few centimetres of snow to double figures, the lawn is the last thing on your mind. Personal survival during this cold snap or trying to get along the pavement which is now covered in ice or fear of black ice whilst driving.

Under the snow, the grass will not stop growing, slow though the growth might be.

A one degree increase in temperature will double the metabolic rate of growth of garden plants so a really cold winter will assist in the promotion of growth of the grass plants and other garden plants as soon as the temperature warms up a bit.

My Father always used to put his Broad Bean and Runner Bean seedlings in the fridge for a month before planting them out. He did have green fingers and was keen on market gardening. He said that chilling the seeds prior to planting out in cold soils made the seed think that it was time to grow as the fridge was colder than the cold soil the seeds were planted in - hey peresto - the first crop of Broad Beans in the street and the longest time eating them, I seem to recall!

Last spring our post Winter Recovery of a Lawn was very popular with many 1,000's of page views. The science this year will still be the same as lawn care is indeed a science, practised by many a lawn owner and professional turf manager. What will change is the weather and environment, making the task easier or more challenging.

Under snow, it is common for turf grasses to develop diseases such as Fusarium Disease. Under the covering of snow, it is quite warm and disease pathogens can be incubated and encouraged to spread. Remember the disease triangle - Pathogen, Host and Environment. The Pathogen is always present in the turf grasses and soil as the soil is made up of millions of flora and fauna and micro organisms. The Host is the grass plant - the bit that the Pathogen will attack. What changes to make the disease triangle work is the Environment, and a slight increase in temperature can tip the scales in favour of an outbreak of disease.

It is not uncommon to view the lawn disease Red Thread Disease in the early spring months - a sign of poor nutrient status carried over from the autumn. The grass is telling you that it needs feeding.

Once we reach higher air temperatures and a general thaw, please be careful to keep off the lawn, even once the snow has gone. You will see a few resident snowmen built on lawns and in the park as these structures will take a long time to disappear and thaw. The upper surface of the lawn will have perma frost in it and at the point where the frost layer stops and the less frozen sub soil meet, any traffic on the surface of the lawn will move these independant layers of root zones and create a shearing action - like two pieces of glass mowing left and right over each other - the net result is root break where the two layers join. As the frost comes out of the ground, the upper surface will lift slightly. Frost makes water wetter so the upper surface of the lawn may be a little soggy until all the frost comes out. Our article on Can you mow the lawn when it is frosty?is a useful guide.

Do not forget to get the mower serviced, all ready and think about your feeding programme and lawn maintenance for the coming year. If budgets are tight and you need to nurture the old lawn mower to do another season instead of buying a new one, fertilising your lawn three or four times is paramount to ward off lawn diseases and to keep it looking great. It is rather quite resilient to everything that gets thrown at it, intensive wear, weather, neglect to name a few. Make this the year that you devote any spare time to your lawn - it is after all 'the carpet of the room outside.'

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