An important task for gardeners during autumn and winter is lawn maintenance. To keep lawns looking green and healthy you need to both aerate the soil and condition it, and the best time to do this is when it is a bit cooler.
It is important to aerate the lawn, particularly if you have heavy clay soil. For a small lawn this can be done by simply driving a fork halfway into the lawn and wriggling it around. This opens up the soil and allows oxygen to get in, which is really good for the roots. It also helps rain penetrate, and in a dry climate like Australia's it is important to get the best value from every drop. For a small lawn aeration is good exercise but for a really big area it might mean hiring a core aerator machine. As a rule of thumb it is best to aerate lawns twice a year, once in winter and once in summer to keep the lawn healthy and in good condition.
Lawns usually prefer a slightly acidic or neutral soil. Check the pH level (the acidity or the alkalinity) by using a simple pH test kit. These are available from garden shops and hardware stores. A test result between 6.5 and 7pH is ideal and you need not do anything, but a 5.5 result on the other hand means the soil is slightly acidic and probably needs “sweetening”.
Two things that can be used for this are garden lime and dolomite. In this case dolomite is preferred because it also contains magnesium, and magnesium is necessary for plants to produce chlorophyll and photosynthesize. Most Australian soils are deficient in magnesium and it is readily leached from the soil. So dolomite has a double action as it lowers the acid level and also promotes growth. Lime on a heavy clay soil helps break it down from really heavy globs, so that it becomes crumbly. This makes the soil easier to work and also allows the roots to penetrate deep into the soil.
For slightly acid soil one should apply about a handful of dolomite per square metre. For highly acidic soil, double this amount and then water it in.
By following these simple steps your lawn will be robust, healthy, and you will get the best value from the rainfall. For a cool climate lawn, liming will also prevent moss growing as it does not like alkaline soil. In other words, you've created an all weather surface, and a lawn to enjoy in every season.
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