Will your lawn mower be roaring into action this Easter?

Alnwick Castle bulb display
Alnwick Castle bulb display

Easter weekend is approaching and given good weather will provide for some the first real gardening opportunity of the year. If so the age-old advice remains sound; don’t go at it like a bull in a china shop. Set yourself limited targets and take frequent breaks to avoid the aftermath of muscular problems.

If dry conditions exist, I’d anticipate an orchestra of mowers roaring into action, some for the first time this year. If the lawn is your priority, don’t forget to walk over it beforehand, removing any winter debris that might affect the cutting mechanism, and raise the mowing level to begin with.

Lawns mean different things to different people, and every type can be accommodated. Some believe that the bowling green model, and near relative we find at the heart of ‘Best Garden’ competitions, are the tops because they’re smooth, weed-free and pleasing to the eye. Others adore the low maintenance demands of utility areas where youngsters can play. Yet others see an environmental value, mowing it at regular intervals for appearance sake, but allowing some wild flower development (weeds to the purist) to encourage bees.

There are advantages in having tended all three types. In striving for the perfect lawn you pursue monoculture, treating the green sward as a precious crop comprising thousands of grass plants. Feeding, watering, scarifying, aerating, top-dressing and mowing are part of the annual maintenance cycle. Competition from other plant species (weeds) is not acceptable. Selective herbicides applied in powder, granular or liquid form are most effective in dealing with any competition.

This fellow used these 2,4-D-based herbicides so often in those formative gardening years because it was standard sports ground practice that the distinctive smell can still be picked out on the breeze if anyone is using it in the vicinity.

But moss in a lawn is something else. Quite easily dispatched within 24 hours if you broadcast sulphate of iron over affected areas in daylight. Handy for clearing it from driveways and paths too. But the question to ask is: “Why did the moss appear in the first instance?” The search for an underlying reason begins when it reappears. It might reflect a need for land drainage. Shade from an overhanging tree canopy encourages moss, as does an impoverished soil and cutting the grass too close to soil level.

We manage the antithesis of a bowling green lawn and what enjoyment it brings. It has moss in abundance and that attracts different bird species. A collection of wild flowers it supports flourish in midsummer to the delight of bumblebee species, but it’s never allowed to become overgrown.