Grow A Summer-Worthy Lawn

A few actions in early spring will energise your lawn to be the best that it can be all summer long.

Spring scarifying of lawns, normally performed in August in temperate climates or in September in cold regions, has become a bit ‘old school’. This is because modern, evergreen, tuft-forming grass blends and lawn types like Berea or Durban grass traditionally planted in subtropical garden should never be cut too low and so don’t require scarification. So when beginning your spring treatment, just mow the lawn as you would normally do before following the next steps. Runner-type lawns like kikuyu and some of the tougher cynodon grasses can, however, be cut quite low and raked afterwards to remove and loosen the mat of old roots.


Spiking your whole lawn with a garden fork will aerate the compacted soil and stimulate root growth as it will let air, water and nutrients in, which in turn positively encourages top growth. Push the prongs of the fork into the ground to a depth of a least 8cm and wriggle the fork backwards and forwards to increase the size of the holes.


Healthy lawns need regular feeding every 4 – 6 weeks during the active growing season, depending on the type of fertiliser used.

The main object is to get strong roots stimulated by phosphate and lush green leaf growth stimulated by nitrogen. We have access to complete lawn food in the form of specialised chemical formulations, or slow-release organic formulations.

Read the instructions on the packaging and follow them with care. Applying more fertiliser than is recommended is a waste as it won’t give better results.

Top dressing

Lawn dressing can be used to remedy uneven surfaces. This is best done with a weedfree and sterilised commercial lawn dressing and not top soil, which will contain weed seed.

There are other reasons not to skip top dressing:

  • It incorporates organics back into the soil, improving its structure and stimulating microbial activity. Regard it as a compost boost for your lawn.
  • It invigorates new lawn growth, and you can see the improvement within 6 days.

How to apply lawn dressing:

  • A 30dm3 bag of lawn dressing covers about 3m2 of lawn, depending on the type of grass.
  • Never smother the area: the tips of the lawn should be visible through the lawn dressing.
  • Use the back of your rake or a wooden plank to easily spread the lawn dressing.


The fertiliser and lawn dressing should be watered in well after you have finished. Keep watering the lawn regularly until you see healthy growth, cutting down to fewer watering sessions afterwards.

Weeds and herbicide

Weeds are often a problem in lawns. If you have large weeds, you can remove them manually before starting your spring treatment. Alternatively, you can do the spring treatment first and wait until your lawn starts growing actively, then apply a broadleaf herbicide that is safe to use on lawn as most herbicides are more effective on actively growing plants.

For small lawns you can buy ready-to-use herbicide formulations. Use a pressure sprayer on bigger lawns. Ask advice at your garden centre for the correct product to use, as some grass types like buffalo grass can be sensitive to certain herbicides. The solution should be applied evenly across the lawn to cover the growing leaf blades to the point of run off. Several applications might be needed two weeks apart to kill off germinating seed.

Apply herbicide in cool and dry conditions on a wind free day to prevent drift onto other plants, and do not water the lawn for a period of three hours (or longer) afterwards.

Shade causes patchy lawn

Lawns like sun, but small gardens bathed in shade caused by walls or trees can still have a patch of lush lawn. Use lawnseed blends formulated specifically to overcome this problem. Simply sow or inter-seed those areas where other lawn types battle to form a mat – it is easy to do!

Handy tips:

  • Stick to a regular fertilising program throughout summer. A well-fed lawn can withstand weed and pest infestation much better than a neglected one can.
  • When watering, do it deeply and less often rather than lightly and more frequently.
  • Mow as often as you can and never remove more than a third of the leaf blade.
  • Ensure that the lawnmower’s blades are sharp.
  • Treat weed infestations as soon as you notice them.

The Gardener