Winter is coming. Chilly conditions are on their way, and you’re looking at a few long months of sitting by the heater, rugged up with a cup of hot tea in your hands.
But while you snuggle up indoors, some living creatures aren’t so lucky – your lawn for one. Instead, it will be stuck outside battling the elements, doing its very best to survive the frosty mornings, the lack of sunlight and the winter rains.
As a lawn owner, the month of May is your final opportunity to prepare your lawn for the long winter ahead. Its mild conditions provide you with the chance to strengthen your lawn, giving it the very best prospect of getting through the coldest time of the year unscathed. So what lawn maintenance should you be considering in May? Here are just a few things a good lawn owner will be sure to keep in mind.
It’s getting wetter all the time
May represents a transitional time of the year for the whole of Australia. In the more temperate southern reaches, rain will begin to fall far more heavily and reliably. In the tropical north, the last of the wet season rains will be leaving. No matter where you find yourself, May is a time when you should be mitigating the effects of heavy rainfall.
While generally regarded as a great thing for your lawn, rain can actually have some quite negative effects on the long-term health of your turf, particularly when it comes in downpours. The first is the leaching of nutrients – heavy rain can serve to strip your soil of the important nutrients it needs to survive and thrive. The second issue caused by excess moisture is that of soil compaction – where the water makes the soil settle down on itself to a point at which air, nutrients and even moisture can no longer penetrate the topsoil. This is particularly the case in high traffic areas where the weight of people and vehicles compound the problem.
These two issues both have simple solutions which should be put into practice during the month of May. First you should aerate your soil to ease the strain caused by compaction. This is as simple as getting a garden fork and making 5-10cm deep holes at regular intervals throughout your lawn, with a particular focus on high traffic areas. You can use a purpose-built rolling aerator which can save you some serious time, particularly on larger areas. Once aerated, use a good NPK fertiliser to replenish the nutrients that may have been washed away.
A little bit of extra height
The warm season lawns so common in Australia are called “warm season” for a reason – they much prefer the heat to the cold. Winter can be a tricky time for the likes of Couch, Kikuyu and Buffalo grass, and they need all the help they can get to make it through the period unscathed.
The main issue is that warm season grasses love the sun, and in winter there’s simply far less of it. The ability to photosynthesise and keep the engine of the plant running is severely hampered. For that reason you want to give your turf the greatest opportunity to capture the sun as you can. You want to grow the blades out a little, so that the photosynthesising area is larger.
Whereas you might cut your warm season grass down to 30-35mm during summer (depending on the variety – check your McKays seed specifications for more information), this should be extended to 50-70mm during the month of May, and throughout winter as a whole. The shadier the spot, the higher your mower should be set.
Lawn maintenance in May is all about preparing for the conditions ahead. As your doctor has always said, prevention is better than cure. By being smart about how you treat your lawn in May, you’ll be able to prevent the browning off that is so common for Australian lawns in winter, rather than attempting to cure it in the spring.
If you’ve got any further questions regarding proper lawn maintenance in May, don’t hesitate to contact the friendly team at McKays.