Autumn Lawn Care

This year lawns have grown well with a mixture of sunshine and enough rain to keep them growing and green. Growth is now starting to slow down and it’s time to prepare the lawn for winter. Autumn lawn care is important if you are able or have time to do it, because it helps to prepare the lawn for winter and as a result the grass will grow away much better next spring. One job that does help to improve lawns is scarifying at this time of the year. Scarifying is basically raking the surface of the lawn to remove thatch, which is a build-up of dead grass, moss and plant material that has accumulated over the summer. If left in the lawn over a period of several years it forms a thick, spongy mat that is detrimental to healthy growth. To remove it you can use a wire rake, but by far the easiest method is to use an electric lawn rake or petrol scarifyer. Once the thatch has been removed it’s a good idea to feed the lawn with an autumn lawn fertiliser to strengthen the lawn and of course while the grass carries on growing you can trim it lightly as and when needed.

Readers Questions

Geoff Nutland from Wath near Ripon has emailed me about a yucca growing in his garden. This is the first time it has flowered and he would like to know how often it will flower in the future?

The plant in the picture that you emailed to me is a healthy specimen of yucca gloriosa ‘variegata’ with a flower spike developing from the rosette of leaves. It is often said that yuccas don’t flower until they are seven years old, but that’s just a gardening myth! They do however need to be well established before they will flower. The stout flower spikes are mainly produced in late summer or autumn and the buds open to produce pendent bell-shape white flowers that occasionally have a pink or purple tinge. When in full flower the spikes look very impressive and will last for several weeks. I suspect it was the hot, dry weather in July that triggered your yucca to flower this year and hopefully it will now flower on a regular basis, although they can be a little hit and miss, so don’t worry if it doesn’t flower again for a year or two.

Rowena Macinnes has contacted me to ask if there is anything she can do to encourage more berries on a sorbus vilmorinii. It flowers well in late spring, but the berries are sparse!

This is a lovely ornamental tree suitable for a small garden because it only grows to around 15ft (5m). Like other types of sorbus (rowan) it is grown for its berries which in this case start out red and gradually fade through pink to white and it also have lovely autumn foliage. If the tree is growing healthily and making new extension growth each year I wouldn’t worry too much as it is still a young tree. If growth is very slow and stunted the soil may not be suitable. Ideally this type of sorbus requires well-drained, moisture retentive soil that is slightly acid. In heavy clay or chalky soil the tree will struggle and produce a poor crop of berries. The only additional feed I would consider to what you have already given it is a dressing of sulphate of potash applied to the soil around the base of the tree in early spring.