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24 September 2014

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You are in: Lancashire > Nature > Features > Ask the gardener: Lawns and grass

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Ask the gardener: Lawns and grass

Gardening expert Bill Blackledge answers your questions on your lawn problems...

Warton's Bill Blackledge is one of the county's most popular and sought after gardeners.   If it's green and needs watering, Bill can tell you about it.  He has been answering BBC Radio Lancashire listeners' queries for over thirty years, which means he's been there nearly as long as the transmitter!

His knowledge is encyclopedic. After training at the under the then Ministry of Agriculture, Bill spent over twenty years at the Department of Biological and Environmental Services at Lancaster University.  Now, he's a regular course tutor at Alston Hall, Longridge and Lancaster Adult College.

For three decades, Bill has travelled the county with fellow judges as a regional judge for North West in Bloom.

So, whatever the problem, we like to think Bill can sort it out... at least that's the theory!

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Matt asks...

I moved into a new house about 4 years ago which had been re-turfed by builders, who do not appear to have properly prepared the ground, as each Feb-March we now have hard leaved bluebells coming up through the lawn which then makes it very difficult to mow and is not particularly good to look at.  Is there a chemical way of killing off bulbs under a lawn without harming the lawn (perhaps painting something on the leaves?)

Bill replies...

I sympathise with the problem you have Matt and it is going to be very difficult to eradicate the bluebells from your lawn.  You mention using a chemical and one which you could use but, would be a pain staking task, is a systemic glyhposate weed killer such as RoundUp or Tumble Weed, and as you rightly suggested you would have to dab or paint the weed killer on the leaves of the bluebells ensuring that none of the weed killer comes into contact with your lawn.  The weed killer will then be transported through the leaves and into the bulbs and in time should kill the bulbs.  But this is going to be a very time consuming task and will take a number of years before all the bluebells have been eradicated.  Continually mowing your lawn will obviously weaken the bluebells but again this will take time to keep them under control.  I do feel that a lot depends on how large your lawn is and it maybe better long term to lift the turf and remove the bluebells bulbs before re-turfing.

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Keith Griffiths asks...

There are more daisies and buttercups than grass in my lawn. I would like to buy new turf and lay them on top to make an instant new lawn. But surely it can't be that simple. Your advice would be appreciated

Bill replies...

You will find Keith that if you do have numerous perennial weeds in your garden they will find their way through the new turf which you intend to lay on top of your old lawn. It therefore may be worthwhile using a feed and weed fertiliser to eradicate the weeds and, you could then reseed to try and rejuvenate your old lawn.  If, as you say, your lawn is completely void of grass and covered in weeds again, you are going to have to use a weed killer to kill the weeds before laying the new turf and I would recommend that you use a glyphosate weed killer such as RoundUp or Tumble Weed.  This treatment will not only kill the weeds but also the remaining grass and you will be left with just a brown area.  A major problem is that by the time you have eradicated the weeds we will be in the month of June and it is not advisable to lay turf during the period June to August.  I would personally if you do not want to be left with a brown lawn wait until early Autumn time before applying the weed killer and laying new turf.

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Natalie Dale asks...

I had a new lawn laid at the end of last year, I now have brambles starting to come through in some areas! How can I kill them off and not my new lawn? Help!

Bill replies...

It is not going to be easy Natalie to kill off the brambles but you can paint onto the leaves a systemic weedkiller such as RoundUp or Tumble Weed both of which contain the chemical glyphosate.  The weedkiller will be transmitted through the leaves and stems and down into the roots. It is very important that none of the weedkiller is in contact with your lawn and this will also kill your grass.  It is a difficult problem that you have and it would have been far easier before laying your turf to have removed the brambles from the soil.  Continually mowing your lawn will also weaken the young bramble shoots but I am afraid that this is a long term solution.

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Angie Blight asks...

I had  fine lawn turf laid 5 years ago, the following spring I could see yellow tufts everywhere, upon investigation it was tufts of rye grass spreading outwards, the turf man came back and relaid another lawn for me. Llast year I noticed the rye grass came back, so I got on my knees and dug them out, this year I am noticing that I have clumps the whole length of the lawn and lots of it, too much to dig up. What can you suggest I do to get rid of this grass as I want to spring feed my lawn but I don't want to feed this grass as well.

Bill replies...

I am afraid Angie that there is not easy answer to your dominant Rye Grass problem but, I do feel that it would be worthwhile to keep your grass mown very short.  This will encourage the finer grasses and will help to keep the Rye Grass under control.  It is important to feed your lawn to keep it in good condition but I am afraid it will also feed the Rye Grass.

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Vaughan Pearson asks...

I failed to adequately prepare a large area of ground before sowing the wrong sort of grass seed (I am looking for a slow growing drought resistant grass). The soil was not level and there were too many stones left near the surface. As a result it is tufty uneven and impossible to mow. I think I will need to start again and wonder if it would be appropriate for me buy and spread top soil, and re-seed. If this approach is feasible please can you tell me how to calculate the amount of top soil I will need to order and which grass seed I should sow?     

Bill replies...

If your soil is very stony and you intend to sow grass seed you will need to cover with at least three to four inches of top soil and one cubic metre of top soil will cover approximately ten square metres to a depth of three to four inches.  I would also work into the top soil some horticultural sharp grit sand - approximately three parts top soil to one grit sand -  to assist drainage.  You will be able to obtain top soil from local Garden Nurseries, Builders Merchants and Garden Centres  After levelling the top soil over your garden you will need to firm it down and then I would allow it to settle for approximately two to three weeks, this will enable any stones to be washed to the surface during rainy weather.  With regard to drought resistance grass seeds Sutton Seeds produce a grass mixture which is more drought resistance and the product is called Rapid Green Dry Spell Lawn Seed and more information on this product is available on  www.ferndale-lodge.co.uk  You will also find that a general purpose lawn seed which will contain dwarf perennial grasses is very hard wearing and also quite drought resistant.

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Ann Smith asks...

I've recently moved into a new house with a large established garden.  However, my lawn is covered with new growth from my neighbour's sycamore tree, how is the best way to get rid of all the new shoots? 

Bill replies...

I am afraid that there is no easy answer to your question Ann and although it will become laborious the best method is to gently pull the seedlings out of the turf.  If you use a feed and weed on your lawn this will assist in killing the seedlings but you will usually find that seedlings will start to shoot again.  On the question on mowing your lawn you will find it easier to use a rotary mower rather than a cylinder to mow off the seedlings.

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Dorothy Donaldson asks...

I weed feed and scarify my lawn but for two years now there has been dead grass appearing inbetween the good grass, I have tried scattering seed through the dead grass but to no avail. Should I now be thinking of re-turfing?

Bill replies...

I feel that it would be worthwhile Dorothy to try once more to revitalise your lawn and I would again give your lawn a good scarifying to remove any thatch and dead grass and, I would then mow your lawn using the box and then check to see how many bare patches there are on your lawn.  Gently fork the bare patches over, level out and then re-seed using a grass seed mix similar to the one which has been used for your lawn.  Within two to three weeks the new seeds should be starting to germinate and hopefully your lawn will be revitalised.

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Shirley asks...

Advice and preparation needed please... my back garden has turned into a mud bank as my long haired german shepherd is very energetic and took over my garden. How can I kill the remaining grass and cover it with stones to stop the mud? The kids would love to play out in the garden without wellies on!

Bill replies...

As soon as the weather improves Shirley you can cover all the grassed area which has been devastated by your dog, with a polypropylene ground cover material and its woven construction will supress the weeds and is water permeable.  This material can be obtained from Garden Centres and DIY Stores.  Once the area has been covered you can then apply your layer of gravel and you will need at least a two to three inch covering.

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Sue Bourne asks...

I was reading one of your answers about white mould on soil when someone went to clean back dead leaves etc in their greenhouse. You suggested cleaning back the soil and trying to aerate it more. I myself have just found a 2ft by 1ft patch of white bubbly mould on my soil but it is the soil in the ground by the side of the lawn. I can't aerate it any more as it's just like it's always been for years when I've never had any problems with the soil.

Bill replies...

If Sue you have had this white mould on your soil for a number of years and no problems have occurred I would not worry unduly as quite a number of fungal growths are harmless to plants and also the soil.  The green algae and lichen growth which you quite often see in shady areas of gardens is often caused by soil compacting and this is when aerating the soil is beneficial.

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Alistair asks...

I applied Evergreen Autumn Lawn Care to my lawn in October using a spreader. Unfortunately, I suspect I have applied too much in some areas as strips of yellow grass have now formed. Will this recover or do I need to treat it somehow? Should I wait for it to recover before applying more fertlisier in the spring?

Bill replies...

I would not worry too much Alistair over the strips of yellow grass on your lawn and providing that the strips of grass have not been scorched and turning brown I am sure that when you apply your spring fertiliser your lawn will fully recover.

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Gavin Smith asks...

We moved into our house in January last year and as our landlord had sub-divided his end of terrace property and built a second house, both ours and the newly built neighbour's backyards were a building site. In March of last year he laid turf in both gardens and we had a beautiful lawn. I hate admitting foolish naivety, but having found an article online that suggested not mowing until the grass had taken properly, we left the grass to get rather long before the first cut and at this stage the grass was so long it was falling over, which was nice and thick, soft, and great for the kids etc ... but I think that is where our problem started. Raking was difficult as the roots appeared to be easy to pull up, so a lot of cut grass was left amongst the still relatively long lawn.
Subsequent cuts started showing that there were patches underneath much of the parts where the longer clumps had "fallen over". Over the recent winter period our back lawn is VERY patchy with these little clumps/tufts of grass. Next to each tuft is  a patch of literally nothing (ie. mud/soil)

Through all of this, our neighbour's lawn is fantastic, so the substrate is probably not the problem and I feel that by us leaving the grass to get too long and falling over, resulted in the areas underneath dying off in places. Is it worth trying to seed in the sparse areas in March and how should I go about this ... or should we cut out and replace a few strips in the worst areas? My biggest problem is that with the property not being ours, I do not want to spend too much money and also do not expect the landlord to fix what is probably a problem cause by our naivety.

Bill replies...

There is an old saying Gavin 'that the grass is greener on the other side of the fence' and this seems to be the case with yours and your neighbour's lawns but all is not lost, and what I would do early springtime - weather permitting - is to mow your lawn with a rotary mower which is far better for cutting back the coarse tufts of grass.  You will then need to rake off any dead grass and clippings and the bare patches of soil can then be gently forked over, levelled out, and then re-seeded with a grass seed that will grow similar to your existing lawn.  You will probably need a utility medium grade seed which can be obtained from Garden Centres and DIY Stores.  Any other sparse areas on your lawn can also be overseeded.  The grass will germinate in approximately two to three weeks - depending on weather conditions - and when the germinated grass seed is approximately one inch it can be mowed over.  It is however important that once you start mowing your lawn in March time you should try and mow at least once or twice a week during the growing season, ensuring that the blades of the mower are sharp as this will stop any damage to the newly grassed areas.

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Susan Robertson asks...

Can I lay turf 6 weeks after treating the area with sodium chlorate?

Bill replies...

Sodium Chlorate is a total weedkiller Susan and is often used to clean up scrub land and gardens which have been badly infested with a wide range of weeds and the weedkiller will be persistent in the soil for a period of six months.  Therefore, if you applied the weedkiller early December you will be able to lay turf again early May time - six weeks is far too early.

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Carol Barker asks...

I know you've answered numerous questions regarding clay soil under lawns. You have suggested laying layers of aggregate, grit, topsoil etc and also putting in flexi pipes which you suggest are expensive. How do you know whether we should go to this expense, or are other methods expensive? We have red clay soil all over the garden which pools when we have a lot of rain, however the lawn does quite well in the summer.

Bill replies...

Having red clay soil all over your garden Carol is, to say the least, very problematic but, over a period of time improvements can be made by adding aggregate organic material and sharp grit.  With regard to flexi pipes I do not feel that in your case this would be advantageous and it is also expensive.  It is going to be very difficult for heavy rain falls to penetrate clay soil and then to be drained away by a flexi drainage system.  Unfortunately there is no easy solution to your problem but, there are a wide range of plants which tolerate poorly drained soils and these plants will also assist in absorbing any excess water.  Suggestions for plants are as follows: Ornamental Rhubarb (Rheum), Rodgersia (variety Tabularis which produces large circular leaves two feet across and also creamy white flowers), Candelabra Primulas, and Astilbe species.

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Glenda Smith asks...

Please help! A section of our garden has become infected with mushrooms (growing amongst evergreen shrubs, perennials and also the lawn). At any one time there looks to be hundreds of tiny mushrooms, which we remove by digging them out. They seem to grow at a very fast rate. This problem only started this year. What can we do?

Bill replies...

You will usually find Glenda that autumn time is the season when you see an abundance of fungi fruiting bodies i.e. toadstools/mushrooms etc.  These are common in woodland situations but they do also appear in people's gardens.  The mycelium strands of the fungi (roots) feed on any decayed material and also the nutrients leeched from the fallen leaves and needles of trees and I feel that this is what has happened in your garden - where the mycelium strands are feeding on the decayed roots below the soil surface.  I am afraid that there is nothing much that you can do to eradicate the problem but, you are doing the correct thing in removing the mushrooms as they appear - this will stop the spores spreading on the soil surface.  The fungi will not do much damage to your plants and you should find that come Christmas time they will have disappeared.

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Marie asks...

Last year I had new lawn laid. It is now lumpy, patchy yellowy and just down right awful what can I do to get a lush lawn next spring?

Bill replies...

There is not much that you can do with your lawn at the present time Marie it is far too wet and also at this time of year you would do more harm than good (December).  It does seem odd that your newly laid lawn is very lumpy and this leads me to believe that the ground was not completely firmed and levelled before the turf was laid.  If there are only small divots in your lawn you can level these out with a dressing of top soil and, also in early springtime you can give your lawn a good weed and feed.  If however your lawn in very lumpy you may need to lift the turf, level the soil on your lawn and relay the turf but I would get a second opinion from a Garden Contractor.

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Beverley Dixon asks...

I had my lawn well drained in April, applied new topsoil in May, sowed out in June, began mowing early September everything was looking well, but from mid October, grass is yellowing and rushes are 4inches high. Drains are working well, what can I do?

Bill replies...

Yellowing of the grass and rushes appearing in lawns Beverely are symptoms of water logging but this does not seem to be the problem with your lawn which has recently been drained.  You say that new top soil was applied in May and your lawn sown in June.  When applying any top soil for a newly formed lawn you are far better working into the top soil at least twenty five per cent of a sharp grit sand to ensure free drainage. A very fine textured top soil can quite easily become compact and therefore not free draining and this again could be a cause for the yellowing of your lawn.  It is difficult to give you a precise answer but your will need to fork out and remove the rushes and you will also need to apply early springtime a good top dressing with a lawn fertiliser.  During the winter months it would be worth checking to see if there is any standing water on your lawn and, if you are still having problems next spring please email me a photograph of your lawn to BBC Radio Lancashire and I will try to help.

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Fiona MacKinnon asks...

How do I get rid of rushes growing on my lawn they seem to be spreading very fast.

Bill replies...

I am afraid Fiona that there is no chemical which you can use to kill the rushes without damaging your lawn.  With rushes growing in your lawn the signs are that your lawn is very badly drained and I am afraid that long term to overcome the problem you will need to re-drain your lawn.

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John Fitzmaurice asks...

My back lawn has started to deteriorate, and there are now three large black patches which appear to be mud.  One of the patches adjacent to a square stone erected in the heart of the garden has myriad insects running about in it.  I've sprayed the patch with ant killer but am not confident that this will be successful.

Bill replies...

I feel that what you need to do with regard to the black patches in your lawn John is that if the areas are reasonably dry if would gently fork them over - level the soil out - and re-seed.  Autumn is a good time for re-seeding and within two to three weeks the grass seed will have germinated.  I realise that you will have little time to spend in the garden and this is probably the easiest method to try and re-vamp your lawn.  If you do have any more difficulties do not hesitate to email me again at BBC Radio Lancashire.

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Lucy Brown asks...

I'm looking for a moss killer for my lawn but want to make sure that this won't harm the birds and other wildlife which feed on and around the lawn.  Are most weed killers on the market safe for this purpose or should I buy an organic one? 

Bill replies...

I would use a liquid moss killer on your lawn Lucy but nobody can be 100% certain that it will not harm birds and wildlife but applying in a liquid form is the safest method. There are other alternatives which you can use to cut down the risk of moss appearing in your lawn.  a) try to avoid 'scalping' your lawn - do not cut too close - highering the blades slightly on your mower will suppress the moss.  b) feeding your lawn regularly over the spring/summer period will stimulate grass growth c) moss thrives in poorly aerated and badly drained soil and spiking and aerating your lawn will assist.

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Chris Bowman asks...

I laid 4 circles of turf in the front garden in mid july. The ground was well prepared and for two months the turfs flourished. However, I recently noticed the grass at the centre of the three largest circles becoming very soft and brown. There was quite a lot of thatch present so I've just given them a rake with spring tined leaf rake which brought a lot of the grass out in clumps. I had allowed the grass to get to about 8" long before I cut it and the cat has a habit of flattening it. Will simply reseeding help?

Bill replies...

If you now have bare patches on your lawn Chris you can gently fork the soil over, level the areas out and re-seed and autumn time is ideal for re-seeding lawns.  It is important to use a grass seed mix which is similar to the turf which has been laid.  It will take about three to four weeks (depending on weather conditions) for the grass seed to germinate.  The reason why thatch has been appearing on your lawn is due to the length of the grass and you will need to mow your turf shorter - approximately half to one inch.

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Peter McIntosh asks...

Last October I laid new turf, followed all the guidelines for laying properly, it was looking good till about May, then it developed brown patches of dead looking grass, some about 2 inches some about 10 inches round. We had lovely spring weather but the last couple of months have been very wet. I thought that although there is a fair bit of shade that the ground was quite free draining. What is the best and most long lasting remedy? I feed the grass as recommended, spring, autumn and during the summer as necessary.

Bill replies...

Having looked at the photographs of your lawn Peter I would be inclined to mow your lawn preferably with a cylinder mower which will help to remove any of the dead grass/thatch and then, I would feed your lawn with a high nitrogen lawn fertiliser which will encourage new shoots to grow.  After applying the fertiliser I would then give your lawn a really good watering.  After looking at the photographs  I do not think that your lawn is suffering from the disease Dollar Spot.

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James Harris asks...

My lawn is infested with ground ivy. I have tried Verdone, but with no success and, 2 weeks ago, Vitax Green Up feed and weed. The Vitax has had little effect so far, but perhaps a second dose is needed? Any advice would be gratefully accepted

Bill replies...

It is going to be very difficult James to kill Ground Ivy using one of the recommended weed and feed fertilisers and the only other alternative would be to paint the leaves of the Ivy with a systemic weedkiller such as RoundUp but, it is important that none of the RoundUp goes onto the grass.  It may also be worthwhile trying to pull out the Ivy and whilst I am sure that new shoots will appear these can be painted with RoundUp.  I appreciate that this is a thankless task and if your lawn is badly infested with Ground Ivy it may be worthwhile starting from scratch again - removing all the Ivy and then replacing with new turf.

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Jim Forteith asks...

My lawn is showing brown leaf-like fungi which I believe may be Lichen. I do not know how to treat. It has appeared in one lawn in sunny conditions and now appeared in a shady lawn.  Can you help? Thank you

Bill replies...

The leaf like lichens are quite a common occurrence on lawns which are badly drained and also in shady areas Jim and what you will need to do is to apply a moss killer to your lawn or lawn sand.  This needs to be applied approximately two to three ounces per ten square feet.  You will need to try and aerate your soil and I would also apply a general lawn fertiliser to give your lawn an added boast.  You also find that lichens appear if your soil is very acid and if this is the case a light dressing of lime can be very beneficial.

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Anthony V Bent asks...

Is it all right to mow the cuttings back into the lawn as a feed using a cylinder mower, and what height should the grass be on the lawn Bill.

Bill replies...

During a long hot dry summer Anthony there is a tendency to leave the box off the mower and allow the grass cuttings onto the lawn as this does improve drought resistance and moss is inhibited and also saves time in taking the box clippings away.  The disadvantages are you will spread weeds over your lawn and in time your lawn will become very spongy and more susceptible to disease.  Regarding to what height the grass on your lawn should be this will depend on the type of grass seed which has been used.  For a general utility lawn the height should be between one inch and one and a quarter inches.  A finer high quality lawn the height should be between half and inch to three quarters of an inch.  If you leave the grass too long i.e. one and a half to two inches there is a greater risk of coarse grasses appearing.

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Alison McGhie asks...

We moved in last summer and have a large garden that has not had any care for a number of years.  It is full of weeds, moss, bare patches and a large fairy ring that is getting bigger. It also has daffodil leaves growing through the lawn in a couple of areas, but with now flowers. We are looking to replace the lawn and have had a couple of quotes from gardening/turfing companies each one giving conflicting advice.  One says to spray the lawn to kill everything off, then a couple weeks later rotavate the area, add top soil to level (there are some severe dips) then returf.  The other company will strip off the old turf, then basically do the same as the other.  Surely spraying the garden with killer will damage the soil and hence make the new turf unlikely to take.  We are so confused and as this is obviously going to cost us a lot of money, we want to make the right decision. We would be most grateful for your advice - thanks

Bill replies...

You can spray the turf with a glyphosate systemic weed killer Alison such as Round Up, Bayer Glyphosate Weed Killer or Tumble Weed without damaging the soil but, spraying the turf will kill any perennial weeds which may be in your lawn.  Regarding the two methods which the contractors have suggested both are fine but as you have daffodils growing in your lawn you will be unable to spray your lawn until the leaves have completely died down as the weedkiller would damage the bulbs.

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P Edwards asks...

My neighbour and I have small mounds of fine earth in our lawns, in each of which there is a hole about 1/4" diameter. He has seen reddish-brown bee-like insects emerging from the holes. What is the problem, and how can we get rid of it?

Bill replies...

It looks as though that the insect causing damage to your lawn is the Mining Bee which makes its nest under lawns and pathways and the excavated soil is pushed to the surface forming small mounds.  It does look like and ant hill but there is a small crater at the top.  You will find that Mining Bees do not do much damage to lawns and all you need to do is scatter the mounds of earth.  If however the Mining Bees do become a nuisance you can dust with a general insecticide early April.

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Catherine Gordon asks...

We have just excavated our small back garden to remove gravel and hard core, prior to making a new lawn. The soil that has now been revealed (30cm below) is clay. Should we dig some grit sand into the clay BEFORE adding the layer of new topsoil? OR should we add topsoil and grit sand together? OR should we just add topsoil? Many thanks indeed.

Bill replies...

If you can work in any grit sand or gravel into the clay soil Catherine this will assist immensely in improving the drainage and will also be beneficial for your new lawn.  Regarding top soil you will need at least six inches before sowing seed or laying turf.  If you are laying turf you can add twenty five per cent of sharp grit sand to your top soil.

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Tricia Chapman asks...

We have a tarmac drive and would like it to be turfed. It will be a huge expensive job to remove all the tarmac. Is it possible and successful to lay top soil direct onto the tarmac and then turf it?  If so how much top soil is recommended?

Bill replies...

The amount of top soil mixture that you need for a lawn Tricia is approximately six inches but I would not recommend laying turf with six inches of soil on top of tarmac as I am afraid that you are going to encounter many problems - such as waterlogging.  You will I am afraid have to break up the tarmac and remove it before you can lay your top soil and turf.

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Alex Ball asks...

I'm a landscaper and have heard seen other 'professionals' laying new turf directly onto old turf. A 20-30mm layer of 'root zone' (50% topsoil 50% sand) was spread over existing turf and the new turf laid straight on to it. I've been keeping my eye on how the lawns established over the last year or so and it seems to be doing very well! any comments Bill?

Bill replies...

I have also seen landscapers using this method Alex and like yourself the lawns seem to be fine though problems could quite easily arise if there are numerous perennial weeds in the old turf.  I feel that it will not be long before these weeds appear in the newly laid turf.  I also feel that you do need a reasonable layer of root zone mixture to ensure that the old lawn is completely level.  Like yourself I am slightly sceptical of using this method but lawns laid using this method seem to grow quite successfully.

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Patricia Bayes asks...

I have just had new turf laid approximately five weeks ago and wondered when I should cut it for the first time please.

Bill replies...

It has been ideal weather for turf to knit together Patricia - it has been moist, damp and also warm and I am sure that it will be fine to mow your lawn.  I would however higher the blades slightly on the mower - you do not want to scalp your lawn with the first cut and if your mower also has a roller on the back this is an added bonus.

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Valerie asks...

My garden is always waterlogged, no matter what time of the year, we have recently had drainage in place (provided by the house builders), but this doesn't seem to take the problem away.  This will be the 4th year we have struggled to use our garden, please, your suggestions are much appreciated.

Bill replies...

It is difficult to give you a clear answer Valerie without knowing exactly how your garden is situated.  You say that your garden is waterlogged throughout the year which suggests that surplus water is coming into your garden or that your garden is situated at a very low level.  You also say that the builders have recently drained the garden without much success and I feel that it would be worthwhile to contact the builders again to see if the drains are functioning correctly.  I am slightly worried when you say your soil is always waterlogged - you may need to lift the level of the soil or consider having raised beds.  It is difficult to give a concise answer without knowing exactly the level of your garden regarding the water table.

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David Hurst asks...

I moved into a house last year, the lawn was almost all moss. I killed it off and re seeded it but the moss is already infesting the new lawn. I have spiked it, aeriated it, top dressed it and tried moss killer but it still keeps coming back. Is there a dressing I can put on the lawn hat moss really hates? It seems a lot of lawns in my area are suffering the same.

Bill replies...

If you do not have a very well drained soil David I am afraid that you will always have problems with moss on your lawn and it is a continuous battle to keep on top of the problem.  Moss thrives in very moist/damp and shady conditions and although there are products on the market which will kill the moss it is an ongoing problem.  I find however that it does help to higher the blades on your lawn mower - the taller blades of grass do help to smother the moss.

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Denise Hunter asks...

We have bought a property on a new development (2 years old), and the top soil is not so good.  We have been told that it should be replaced with British Standard Grade 1 topsoil, and that this should be done in October.  Is this correct?

Bill replies...

It is not easy to purchase British Standard top soil Denise and at the soil is also very expensive.  I personally feel that as long as you purchase some good quality top soil into which you can mix into some well rotted manure this will be ideal for your garden.  One of the problems with gardens on new developments is that the soil becomes very compact due to the continuous running over of bulldozers and diggers and with regard to your existing top soil I would rotate the top soil over and providing that the soil does not contain large amounts of clay I would work the original soil in with your new top soil and well rotted manure.  You will always find top soil/well rotted manure advertised in local newspapers but, it is well worthwhile to have a look at the quality of the soil before purchasing.  Regarding top soil being laid in October I myself have never heard of this before and, there are advantages of purchasing top soil/well rotted manure during the summer months as the soil will be lighter and easier to level and if you wait until October it could be very wet and damp and difficult to manage.  I would personally try and get everything in place during the summer.

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Angie Cornish asks...

I have tree shoots and what I've been told is Italian vine growing all through my grass, will rotivating stop this and how long will it take to grow new grass?

Bill replies...

I am afraid that you are going to have to remove the Rhizome roots and shoots from your lawn Angie and by rotovating you will only spread these roots and shoots all over your garden.  You will have to spend time digging over your infected area and removing these shoots before you can level the area and sow new grass seed.  It is going to be a thankless task but it is the only way to overcome this problem.

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Carol Muir asks...

I have looked after an elderly lady's lawn for a few years and it has always looked good.  I have put on weed, feed and moss killers in the spring and scarified it. I also treated it with autumn feeds.  2 years ago, when I went along in the spring I noticed a few sizable patches of grass had died off completely.  I seeded these patches (April) and told her not to let these areas dry out. The seed didn't take, possibly because of inconsistant watering.  I then seeded the areas again in September with better results.  The grass came up and was quite lush.  I cut the grass a couple of times but not short. I went along again last month (March) and found that all the areas I seeded have died off again.  Would there be a problem with the ground in that area.  The lawn is mostly in full sun, does not get a lot of traffic and up until a couple of years ago was in good condition.  Please can you advise.

Bill replies...

It seems rather strange Carol that the grass had died off twice in the same spot and I am quite baffled, if there had been any contamination of the soil the grass seed would not have germinated and it would have been helpful if you could have pinpointed exactly between September and March when the grass had died off.  There are diseases such as Fusarium Patch which causes grass to die and also damping off disease but this is difficult to ascertain with there only now being bare patches of soil.  What I would suggest you do is fork over the areas which have been infected and again I would re-seed some of the areas with a general seed mixture.  On the other areas I would returf the patches and check over the summer months the difference between the turf and grass and I would be grateful if you would keep me informed Carol.

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Phil asks...

After years of neglect and used as a cricket / football pitch my lawn is either worn or covered in moss. I would like to lay a new lawn using turf, but I am not sure how to go about it. Firstly, can I kill the moss and other weeds using a animal friendly product, as the birds are nesting and digging for worms. Also do I need to remove all the old turf once treated or can I lay the new on top?

Bill replies...

To kill the moss, weed and grass on your lawn Phil I would spray the whole area with a glyphosate systemic weed killer such as Round Up, Bayer Glyphosate Systemic Weed Killer or Tumbleweed.  You will need to spray on a dry sunny day and it will take approximately 10 to 14 days for the weed killer to act - and this weed killer will not harm worms in the soil/wild life.  You are then left with two alternatives firstly, you can rotivate the whole area - level the area and then lay new turf or, I do know of contractors who will just lay an inch layer of top soil on top of the old turf to level the site and then re-lay new turf.  Whichever method you decide to use you will need to ensure that the new turf is watered on a regular basis.

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Dee Smith asks...

In the January storm one of my 6ft fence panels fell onto the lawn. Having eventually moved the panel I now have a 6ft x 6ft square of straw! How can I revive the dead grass?

Bill replies...

The first job you need to do Dee is to rake out the dead grass.  It is however going to be difficult to revive the six foot area and the easiest method would be to dig the six foot square area over - level it out - gently firm it down and re-seed.

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Sallie asks...

We had our lawn returfed 18 months ago, the old turf was removed and grit dug in the the soil by the contractor (I feel rather a lot).  However last summer it started dying and now it is 50% brown earth.  We had a lawn contractor in to look at it recently and he said that we had leatherjackets.  Also he said that there was not really enough top soil.  So the solution was to get someone in to spray the leatherjackets and then 2 - 3 days later spread 1" top soil on top of the old lawn and then relay new turfs on top. Will this work? We cannot reseed the lawn as the house is rented from Easter onwards - and you can't rent a holiday cottage if you can't use the lawn.

Bill replies...

It is not the ideal method to use Sallie but I am aware the some contractors have used this method and the turf has been fine.  You biggest problem is going to be the Leatherjackets which has been a problem pest on lawns this year and it is important that your contractor gives the turf a thorough spray before spreading the top soil and returfing.  Also, if possible I would ask the contractor to go for at least two inches of good top soil before returfing. Hopefully this will help solve your problem before visitors arrive.

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Julie asks...

I have just put the weed and feed on my back garden but need to put grass seed down too as I have bare patches.  Have I done this the wrong way round and what do I do next?

Bill replies...

I would wait until the weed and feed has taken effect Julie and when the weeds have died back I would then mow your lawn and then you need to fork the bare patches over, level the soil out gently firm down and the re-seed.  After re-seeding I would give the seeded areas a thorough watering with a fine rose as this will assist germination.

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Sharon Plummer asks...

We have just moved in to a new house last year. We have a small garden which we dug up and reseeded last March. The grass in the middle has grown and the back, top and sides of the garden are mushy and no grass has grown there also there is black slime on it.  We were going to re-dig the garden and put down a layer of gravel or stones under the soil to improve the drainage but we just don't know if this will help! What should we do as we don't know if it is the drainage or what is the problem.

Bill replies...

The black slime is usually a sign of soil compaction and a poorly drained soil and if you can drain your front garden it would be beneficial.  You can use a plastic flexi drain covered over with a layer of gravel and then your top soil. One of the problems could well be the quality of your soil, if it is very heavy clay with very little top soil you are always going to have the problems of moss and slime on your lawn and it may be worthwhile looking at other alternatives such as hard landscaping or a gravel garden.

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Michelle asks...

We have a dog and of course they have to wee in the garden but she is causing yellow patches on the grass which I know burns the grass.  Is there anything on the market that we can use to prevent this or bring it back to green again. Being in a new house we want our garden to look new so we need help on this if there is any.

Bill replies...

I am afraid that there are no products on the market Michelle to overcome the problem.  The cause of the problem is the high ammonia concentrate in your dog's urine which is burning the grass and I feel that long term you would be far better replanning your garden - restricting your dog to one certain part of the garden or designing your garden to incorporate hard landscaping schemes such as paved areas - gravel areas and tree and shrubs.  You are always going to have problems with the scorching of the your grass.

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Graeme asks...

We laid turf last spring and was let down by both our supplier and gardener.  The turf was both patchy and had areas of clover on laying.  We now would like to treat our grass with feed and weed as spring is fast approaching.  Which variety would you recommend and should this be done before the first cut of the year?

Bill replies...

There is a wide range of weed and feed products on the market Graeme which kill a wide range of broad leaf weeds as well as feeding your lawn and the majority will include the weed killers 24D and Mecoprop.  Clover is not the easiest of weeds to kill and you may be better using a selective weed killer which will control both broad leaf weeds and clover and there is an advanced lawn weed killer which is ready to use and the product name is Bayer Advanced Lawn Weed Killer. (for more information on Lawn Weedkillers you can log on to www.bayergarden.co.uk)  Once you have eradicated the clover with this advanced weed killer you will need to feed your lawn with a recommend lawn fertiliser.

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Zac Barrant asks...

I recently fed my lawn with a feed weed and moss killer, over night the damp mist left the lawn quite wet, I walked across the lawn to inspect it following feeding before going to work, on my return I could see black foot prints on the lawn where I had walked over, have I over fed the lawn?

Bill replies...

It is important when any weed and feed is applied to a lawn Zac that if it has not rained within 24 to 48 hours after the application you must water your lawn to avoid your grass becoming scorched.  Regarding your footprints this does happen quite frequently when you walk over a lawn when it is damp and misty and providing that the rest of the lawn in looking healthy I am sure these footprints will disappear in a few days.  Overfeeding your lawn can quite easily be done and it is important to apply the fertiliser at stated application rate.

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Bianca Crothers asks...

I have a small area part sun and part shade that needs turfing. The soil is mainly clay. I am thinking of camomile and thyme. Could you advise me on this, please.

Bill replies...

I am afraid that I am no expert on Camomile and Thyme Lawns Bianca but if you ever get an invite to Buckingham Palace I am told that there are Camomile Lawns for you to admire.  To be successful you will need a well drained soil as both Camomile and Thyme are not easy to establish in a very heavy clay soil and another disadvantage is that you will need to remove any weeds by hand - you will not be able apply a weed and feed as you would to a grass lawn.  Regarding Camomile and Thyme plants these will be available at Herb Nurseries and can be planted approximately four to six inches apart.

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Jane Mcgowan asks...

My front lawn is completely covered in moss. It is in the sun but we do have a silver Birch tree in it. Drainage is fine and we actually reseeded 4 years ago because of the moss and it is back even worse than before. Neighbours lawns either side of us are fine.

Bill replies...

What you need to do Jane is to apply a weed and feed/moss killer to your lawn which should kill the moss on your lawn and the added feed will give your grass an added boost. You will need to rake up the dead moss and this is going to leave you with bare patches of lawn which you should gently fork over, level and then re-seed.  It is difficult to understand why there is so much moss on your lawn if, as you state, your soil is well drained, but I would try to avoid mowing your lawn too close — highering the blades on your mower will help to suppress the moss and I would also use a mower which has a box to collect the clippings - this will stop small pieces of moss being dispersed over your lawn.  I hope these tips will help to alleviate your problem.

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Shalaine Aldis asks...

70% of my front garden is grass in heavy clay soil. I wish to get rid of it and turn it into flower beds. What is the best method? 

Bill replies...

If your garden is reasonably small Shalaine you need to skim off the turf and with your soil being very heavy clay you will need to work into your soil as much organic matter as possible - well rotted farm manure would be ideal as this will help immensely to improve the texture of your soil and if at all possible some decent top soil will also help. Regarding your flower beds I would concentrate on annual flower beds and use plants such as Geraniums, Petunias, Impatiens and Begonias as these will give you an abundance of colour during the summer months and once these have finished flowering and lifted in the Autumn time you can dig over your soil and work in more organic material.  If you continue with this process for several years it will certainly improve the texture of your soil and would then allow you to be successful in growing perennial plants.

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Amina Hassan asks...

I have heard good and bad about canada green grass seeds whats your thoughts? Can it be cut short?

Bill replies...

The Canada Green Grass is widely grown in America Amina and like yourself I have heard contrasting reports.  The grass mixture contains 40% Creeping Red Fescue which is a shade tolerant grass seed, 30% Kentucky Blue Grass which is a tough hard wearing grass and spreads by rhizomes and 30% Annual Rye Grass.  And, the Canada Green Grass is reputed to tolerate colder climates.   I do however feel that if we have another very hot summer this year the grass mixture will suffer and on your question of 'can it be cut short' the Kentucky Blue Grass and the Rye Grass within the mix will suffer if cut too short.

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Zoe Calvert asks...

Last summer I laid weed control fabric down in my front garden then covered the area with large shingle. Towards the end of the year grass began to grow through in certain patches. It is now growing a lot more. Any ideas how I can get rid of the grass without lifting all the shingle and weed control fabric up? Can I use weed killer on grass will it work?

Bill replies...

I doubt if the grass will have penetrated the weed control fabric Zoe and, what will have happened is that grass seeds will have blown onto your shingle, started to germinate and this is the reason why you have had small clumps of grass growing through the shingle.  You can use a weed killer to kill the grass and the weed killers I would recommend are those which contain the chemical glyphosate - RoundUp, Tumbleweed and Bayer Weedkiller.  You need to spray on a sunny but still day and it is important that you do not allow any spray drift onto any other plants.

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Bob asks...

Living in Redditch (red clay in a ditch) our lawn is patchy and mossy. We also have the added problem of mushrooms in autumn, growing from decaying roots from felled trees. If I hired a mini digger, would you recommend digging the clay out and replacing it with top soil before turfing? If so, to what depth and would you put a drainage hole in as well? Would you also put ash or aggregate beneath the soil? If my ideas are not the thing to do, what should I do to get a healthy green lawn? Thanks in advance.

Bill replies...

The text book requirements for a healthy lawn Bob are a 6/8 inch layer of aggregate and on top of the aggregate approximately two/three inches of a coarse grit sand or pebbles and on top of the grit sand/pebbles you will need approximately six to eight inches of top soil and if you need to put any flexi drainage in this can be incorporated on top of the aggregate layer.

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Lee Bates asks...

My garden currently has lawn area, approximately 11 square metres, surrounded with concrete/brick, the soil is clay and there is a lack of drainage - the rain water sits on the lawn for days after a heavy down-pour. The soil is consistently waterlogged during all of the winter and into spring.

Do you think that if I removed perhaps 10 cms of the soil all over and replaced with a blended loam/sand/organic material top soil and then re-turfed that this would prevent this problem? Or would you advise to perhaps install a french drain?

Bill replies...

Removing ten cms of soil and replacing with a well drained loam mixture is not going to solve your problem Lee.  I feel that if your soil is constantly waterlogged you will need to incorporate a drainage system before returfing your lawn and I would also try and work into the top soil and the clay some grit sand which will help improve the drainage. It is not going to be easy and before returfing I would check to see if your new drainage system is working and that it has stopped the waterlogging of your soil.

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Naomi Stone asks...

Our garden backs onto a sloping field and our grass is waterlogged for most of the year. Is it possible to drain the grass or should we use a preventative measure?  Many thanks!!!

Bill replies...

You will need to drain your garden Naomi and I would have the main drain running parallel at the bottom of the slope as this should alleviate surplus water coming from the sloped field.  Also you can situate some flexi drains approximately 9 to 12 inches deep in your garden and these again can run into the main drain.  These measures should help to overcome the problem but there are also other considerations - such as is your garden on a very clay soil as this can also cause water logged conditions.

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Derek asks...

When should you start cutting your lawn?

Bill replies...

Before you start mowing your lawn Derek I would higher the blades on your mower you do not want to be scalping your lawn on the first cut and and regarding when to start mowing your lawn I would wait until the ground has dried out a bit more (it's now early March).  If you start mowing when the ground is very moist the mower starts skidding and your are left with patches of damaged turf.

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Scott Barr asks...

We have just about finished with building our house on a large plot. The lawn used to be a nice lawn (so we are told by neighbours) but as it has been neglected for some years and was full of weeds and brambles, we had the digger driver skim off the top few inches to remove all this. We are now left with a third of an acre of soil which has clay around 6 inches under the surface. It tends to hold water. I want to get this back to a nice lawn and have been advised to rotivate the soil to get some air back into it, level it off and then seed it. What do you recommend and how would you rotivate and level it given the size it is?

Bill replies...

You will need to rotivate the soil Scott to break up the soil compaction and if at all possible I would work some sharp grit sand into the soil when rotivating as this will help drainage and also airation of the soil.  Once you have rotivated the soil you are going to have to firm the soil down and rake level.  With it being such a large area it may be worthwhile to contact a local garden landscaper who I am sure will have both machinery and equipment to level the area.

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Paul and Teresa ask...

Every time after prolonged showers/rainfall our lawn floods can you help please?

Bill replies...

Your lawn is showing the classic symptoms of soil compaction which has been caused over the years with people walking and playing on the lawn what you need to do Teresa/Paul  is to aerate your lawn (the term frequently used is spiking your lawn).  If your lawn is small you can use a garden fork which can be pressed into the lawn to a depth of four inches at six inch intervals or you can hire a solid tyme lawn aerator which will obviously be far less time consuming.  The aim of aerating your lawn is to break up the soil compaction which will allow air to the roots and for the water to penetrate and you can also top dress your lawn with a mixture of sterile soil/peat and a grit sand.

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Les Sims asks...

We laid new turf in a garden in October 2006. The turf died within 6 weeks, our suppliers now say that leatherjackets have caused this and they are spraying their fields now (February). Can you advise as I didn't think this is the time of year to deal with leatherjackets. Is it possible for these to kill 300 sq metres of turf?

Bill replies...

It is impossible for me to say without seeing your turf that is has died due to the infestation of Leatherjackets Les but, it must have been a very heavy infestation to kill your turf within a 6 week period.  If you have the same problem again you will need to peel back some of the turf to see how many Leatherjackets are feeding on the roots.  Regarding spraying there is a spray which can only be used by the commercial sector and this will be the one that your suppliers are using.  For the amateur gardener there is a new product on the market called Provado Lawn Grub Killer which will control Chafer Grubs and Leatherjackets but this is best applied August/September/October time when the grubs are very small.

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Mary Anne Reed asks...

Help please! I am distraught - due to so much rain over the last few months my dog (a young staffie cross and v energetic) -  has totally wrecked my back lawn - it is approx 20 feet by 30 feet in size - he has to go out in the garden 2/3 times a day. I have very large patches now with just mud and no grass at all - what can I do as fast as possible to try to get a reasonable lawn back by the summer?

Bill replies...

I can remember many years ago Mary when I got married my wife and I bought a labrador puppy which grew into a beautiful dog but like your Staffie Cross completely ruined the back lawn - holes, divets and bunkers, looking more like a battlefield than a back lawn.  After numerous attempts at re-turfing I eventually redesigned my back garden which is now paved areas and shrubbery.  If your own lawn Mary has been completely damaged you will need to re-turf and I would wait until the end of March/early April time.  You could do it now but it could be ruined again before the summer months.  If your Staffie Cross is going to be 'active' for many years you may need to consider alternative designs for your garden.

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Sandra asks...

I have had a lovely lawn for 4 years after it was laid. I have cared for it each year but feeding it. I have a very small circular lawn (approx 10 ft diameter). I think I may have killed some grass around one side due to applying too much fertiliser and weed killer in October. The area is near a tree and is now growing moss. I have raked out as much as I can but there are still small parts left and I have made some holes with my fork for drainage. The grass looks generally baldy but particularly on the one side. Please can you advise me what to do to kill the moss and successfully restore the lawn. Can you also tell me when I can start. Many thanks

Bill replies...

With regard to eradicating the moss in your lawn Sandra I would recommend a liquid moss killer which can be watered onto your lawn with a watering can, and moss killer can be obtained from Garden Centres/DIY Stores.  Once you have killed the moss (which will take approximately 10-14 days) you can then fork over the bare patches of soil, level the areas, and re-seed.  The grass mixture I would use is one recommended for shady areas and again, these mixtures can be purchased at large Garden Centres/DIY Stores.  I would start early March with the moss killer application and the grass seed middle of March (depending on weather conditions).

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Dave Shaw asks...

My rolawn turf was laid mid september 2006 on top of seven inches of topsoil. Apart from bare patches at the end of some turfs it has taken OK, but over the last few weeks I have noticed some of the grass beginning to yellow and this condition is getting gradually worse. Please advise on cause and course of action if any to be taken.

Bill replies...

If your garden is not badly waterlogged Dave it could just well be that your lawn is suffering from a lack of nutrients, now is too early in the year but early Springtime your lawn will need to be given a feed with a recommended lawn fertiliser.  It is probably the continuous rain we have had over the past month or so which will have leached the nutrients from your lawn or, it could be a fungal disease such as Dollar Spot which is quite common if your Rolawn consists of very fine grasses such as the Creeping Red Fescue.  But again you will need to feed as I have recommend with a lawn fertiliser early Springtime.

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Theresa Seaber asks...

I've been trying to find a grass seed for wet/damp soil but can't seem to find any, can you help?

Bill replies...

You will find it very difficult Theresa for any grass seed to survive under very wet and damp conditions and what happens is that your grass will start to turn yellow, you will also get algal growth and it is also the ideal conditions for the growth of moss.  Therefore if it is at all possible I would try and drain your garden before applying any grass seed.

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Maria Harper asks...

We are in the process of re-doing our back garden (app. 10M x 18M).  Approx. 50% of this is laid to lawn, which is currently in very bad condition having survived years of football, swings and trampolines while the kids were growing up.  We would now like to have a decent, level lawn.  We have been given conflicting advice as to whether it is best to level and then re-seed, or to start from scratch and re-turf.  Mindful of budget, we would like to chose the most cost effective way of creating a nice lawn.  We are amateur, but willing, gardeners.  Grateful for your advice!

Bill replies...

I remember those days very well Maria when my two sons were young I laid a lawn in the back garden - two days later the cricket stumps were up and all the children living in the Avenue (and my labrador dog) were using the lawn as a sports field.  Regarding your own sports field it depends how badly the lawn has been damaged and the most cost effective method would be to remove the old/damaged turf  - rotavate the soil - level the area and re-seed and the time for re-seeding will be early March time.  Another method would be to level the ground and re-turf which would be the most expensive option.  If you do decide to re-seed I would use a general multipurpose grass seed mixture.

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Sathyanarayana asks...

My garden is has a shadow cast by the trees behind my garden which is spoiling my lawn. Is there a type of grass which will grow in the shade?

Bill replies...

There are grass seed mixtures which have been specially developed for shaded areas and I am sure if you visit a large garden centre or DIY store the shady seed mixture will be available for you to buy.  Weather permitting  the time to sow your grass seed is early Spring.

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Ian asks...

My lawn has yellow patches, when I feed it through the season they go. I've read that household soap watered over the area will help is this a mixture of washing up liquid?

Bill replies...

If your lawn consists of very fine grass seeds such as the Brown Tops and Creeping Fescues your lawn could be suffering from the disease Dollar Spot which causes yellow golden patches.  In the spring and summer time Ian you will need to feed your lawn with a high nitrogen fertiliser which will eradicate the patches.  Again in the autumn time you will need to feed with an autumn fertiliser and this should help to control the Dollar Spot which only affects very fine lawn turfs.  Regarding your question of watering your lawn with a washing up liquid this will in no way help the problem.

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John Tattersall asks...

Same old problem! Every year (twice a year at least) I weed and feed my lawn, scarify it but the moss still persists, any solutions please?

Bill replies...

Moss on lawns is a constant problem John especially if your lawn is badly drained  and shaded by overgrown trees.  If your own lawn is badly drained the obvious solution would be to incorporate flexi drains which can be expensive and labour intensive.  The other solution would be to hire a lawn aerating machine which would spike your lawn and you could then apply a sharp grit sand into the aerated holes to assist in drainage - but this is a long term project and will need to be carried out on a regular basis - spring and autumn time.  When you commence mowing your lawn in the Spring you can hire the blades on your lawn mower and this in turn will help to suppress the moss.  A closely cut lawn will encourage the formation of moss.

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Lorna Brooks asks...

My lawn has white patches which were on the tips of the grass.  They have disappeared and I now have black patches where the white ones were.  They are very inkly black in look and texture.  I would be very grateful for your assistance as to what it is and how to treat it.

Bill replies...

There are numerous diseases which affect lawns during the autumn and winter months Lorna and the white tips on the grass could have been caused by the disease Red Thread which appears in the autumn time.  There are others diseases such as Fusarium Patch which in time will form brown areas and during very wet weather you could quite easily get black fungal growth appearing on your lawn.  There is nothing much you can do at this time of year and you will have to wait until springtime before you can apply a weed and feed to your lawn which I am sure will alleviate some of the problems which you are now having.

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Ian Dawkins asks...

Can I seed grass over existing grass to level my lawn?

Bill replies...

I would wait until early March before repairing your lawn Ian - it is too late in the year now for grass seed to germinate (November).  In early March level the divets out in your lawn by applying a top dressing of sterile loam/lawn sand mixture.  Once your lawn is level you can then apply the grass seed to the bare patches.

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Keith Holman asks...

After the heavy rain of the past few weeks, lots of mushrooms have grown in our lawn, including several Amanita.  As we like to let our dogs loose in the garden, do you have any idea to get rid of the mushrooms, hopefully without damaging the lawn

Bill replies...

I am afraid that there is no easy way of getting rid of the mushrooms on your lawn Keith other than by removing them by hand and you will need to do this to stop the fruiting spores from spreading.  The usual cause for mushrooms appearing on lawns is that the mycelium strands which is the body of the fungi will be living on decayed material - tree stumps/roots - which will be underneath your lawn and it is this time of year when conditions are ideal for the mushrooms to appear.  Unfortunately there are no chemicals available to eradicate the mushrooms.

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Mira asks...

Hi Bill, My lawn has got small black piles which look like mud, however I believe that they could be insect excrements. These keep on appearing in the mornings on the grass. Could you please tell me how I can get rid of this problem. Thanks!

Bill replies...

The black piles which are appearing on your lawn sounds very much like worm casts which, appear on lawns in the early spring and autumn and in moist damp weather.  The casts can be easily removed by brushing the soil over the lawn with a stiff brush.  With the new strict EEC Guidelines on the use of horticultural chemicals there is nothing available to kill the worms which are forming the cast - but during the summer months these worms are not active.

It could be moles but I am sure you would recognise this problem.  If you could forward a photograph to BBC Radio Lancashire I will be able to solve your problem.

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Hec Barker asks...

What is the best lawn seed to grow on very wet ground consisting of mainly clay soil?  Last year I sowed seed with rye grass in it but at the moment there are some very large areas where the grass has simply disappeared!  I'm seriously thinking of getting rid of the grassed areas and using shingle instead, but I must admit that will be a last resort.  It's so nice to see a lovely green lawn.  Can you help please?

Bill replies...

It is going to be very difficult to establish a lawn with the conditions you describe Hec. And, I feel you will always have problems with moss on your lawn and over a period of time you will find coarse sedge grasses also appearing.  To improve the drainage you will need to apply tons of tons of coarse grit sand, which is going to prove very expensive.  But all is not lost, there are grass mixtures available for damp, wet soils and I feel it is well worthwhile to try these mixtures before going to great expense and hard landscaping schemes

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Anthony asks...

My cat keeps pooing on my grass - what can I use to stop him - please can you help?

Bill replies...

I feel the best method of keeping your cat off the lawn Anthony is by using the high tech sonic cat repellant machine.  These machines can be battery operated or plug into the mains.  You will need to situate the machine on your lawn and when your cat goes anywhere near the machine - the machine will give off a very high frequency noise which will scare the cat from the location.

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Gerald Hollos asks...

We have a very wet lawn that looks as if we are getting mould in it. How to I treat it?

Bill replies...

The grey mould on your lawn is one of the algal growths which thrive under very wet conditions and in a lawn which is poorly aerated and drained.  You can remove the algal growth by watering your lawn with a moss killer or using lawn sand.  Once you have killed the growth you will probably need to fork the bare patches over and re-seed.

I would also recommend that during the summer months you feed your lawn regularly with a  lawn fertiliser to stimulate new growth.

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Alan Holland asks...

I live in an acid soil area (West Sussex) and am now in a second year of hosepipe ban. My lawn is suffering with moss and I need to treat it. Do you know of a granulated moss-kill product which does NOT require watering-in? Scotts used to sell one but this now seems to be available soley for the contractors (Green Thumb etc). I know liquid moss kills are available but watering by hand would be hard work on a 3/4 acre lawn!

Bill replies...

I sympathise with the problem you are facing Alan - a two year hose pipe ban will certainly play havoc with your lawn. Under drought conditions coarse grasses - clover and moss - take over your lawn.  On the question of moss killers like yourself I do not know of any which do not need watering in 24 hours after applying.  I am sorry I cannot be of any more help and trust that you receive some of our 'northern' rain this year!

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Peter Moxham asks...

Bill - one of my lawns has suddenly got patches of moss on it, its showing signs on another lawn also. Best method to be rid of it ?

Bill replies...

There a number of proprietry moss killers that you can use Peter on your lawn to keep the moss under control. If you only have a few patches I suggest you use a liquid moss killer and water onto the infected areas.  Once you have killed the moss you will be left with bare patches - these need to gently forked over and re-seeded.

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Norman Hough asks...

I have some patches of black stuff growing on my lawn, what is it and how do I get rid of it?

Bill replies...

The 'black stuff' on your lawn is almost certainly the black algal growth which you find on lawns which are poorly aerated and badly drained.  You can easily remove the algal growth by watering your lawn with a moss killer or alternatively dressing with lawn sand which containers ferrus sulphate (watering within two days of application will be needed to avoid scorching).  Spiking your lawn in the spring and autumn will also help to aerate the soil and keep down the algal growth and regular feeding and top dressing your lawn will also beneficial

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Andrew Livesey asks...

Hi Bill, my lawn is fairly good once the growing season takes hold but is a bit patchy in places, it takes no traffic only from me cutting it and it's only 12'x12' would it better to re-turf it or is it possible to just scatter some seed on it ? And if so when is the best time to do it? many thanks.

Bill replies...

You have three options open to you... if your lawn is very bare and patchy I feel it would be better to start from scratch and re-turfing - using a high utility medium grade turf.  If there is only the odd one or two patches it is worth cutting these patches out and re-turfing these areas - again using a turf which will match your existing lawn.  The third option is to cut out the affected patches fork the patches over and re-seed - again using a seed mixture which will match your existing lawn.  Whichever method you use - now is the time (early March) to carry out the work.

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Derek Fort asks...

Hello Bill have you any tips to treat a moss filled lawn?

Bill replies...

The two methods you can use to remove from your lawn is to use one of the brand liquid moss kill products - which you can water onto the infected areas or you can dress your lawn with lawn sand - wich contains ferrous sulphate which, will burn off the moss. It is important when using lawn sand and no rain has fallen with two days of application - you will need to water your lawn to avoid scorching.

Both methods will kill the moss within two weeks, after which you will have to remove the dead moss, fork over the dead patches and re-seed.  Regular feeding your lawn throughout the summer months will ensure your grass is actively growing and do not mow your lawn too short.

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Geoff Wilson asks...

My garden has a lot of stones in the soil and when digging it over I removed as many as I possibly could, leveled the soil then sowed grass seed in to it. The grass is growing quite nicely but has become very patchy and have noticed still quite a few small stones in it since it has been raining for the last few days. My question is should I start all over again and remove these pebbles or re-sew the patchy areas? Thanks, Geoff.

Bill replies...

The heavy rain which we have experienced over the past few weeks will have brought the pebbles on your lawn to the surface and you will need to remove these Geoff before re-seeding your lawn.  What I would suggest you do is to remove the pebbles - any divots in your lawn caused by removing the pebbles will need to be leveled with a mixture of loam and sand and then you can re-seed the bare patches on your lawn. It is important that you do remove the pebbles otherwise you can damage the blades on your mower.

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Eamon asks...

Due to the daisies, dandelions and broadleaf weeds on my lawn, I have applied a "Weed/Feed/Mosskill. After 4 days it has grown considerably and the weeds are very "leggy". How do you recommend I approach the next steps of, mowing - should I use a high cut for the next few times? - Do I have to dig the broadleaf weeds out? - and finally raking out the dead moss, I believe that it is possible to hire a machine, similar to a mower, that automatically rakes the moss? Your advice will be greatly appreciated.

Bill replies...

When you apply a feed and weed to your lawn Eamon the weed killer is absorbed into the leaves of the weeds causing the weeds to outgrow themselves.  They become very 'leggy and twisted' and they will eventually whither and rot away.  The feed is based on a high nitrogen content which encourages your grass to green up and grow rapidly.  When you mow your lawn I would set the blades on your mower to approximately half an inch and, I would use a mower with a box which will collect any moss and debris.  It is well worthwhile to weed and feed your lawn through the summer approximately every six weeks.

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Rupi Vij asks...

My grass is not in a good state it has been neglected and had lots of dandelions growing and is uneven.  I put lawn feed and weedkiller powder on it a day before it rained and there are now 3 days later lots of brown patches and very little green. Have I killed the lawn and what can I do about it?

Bill replies...

I am sure the brown patches on your lawn has been caused by the weed and feed which has scorched and burnt your lawn.  The main causes for the damage could be applying too much weed and feed to your lawn and,  it is also vitally important that your lawn is well watered 24 hours after applying weed and feed.  The scorched patches should recover but, if parts of your lawn are down to bare soil you will need to fork these patches over and re-seed.

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Roy Jackman asks...

Why is some of the grass on my lawn sprouting seed heads? It is cut to about one inch but the stalks appear before the next cut.

Bill replies...

I am certain the grass you are having problems with Roy will be the annual meadow grass which flowers profusely.  What I suggest you can do to offset the problem is to lower the blades on your mower and by cutting your grass shorter this will help to alleviate the problem.  It will also encourage the finer grasses to grow.

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Mel asks...

How can I stop crows from digging worms up from my lawn and making holes in it?

Bill replies...

Over the summer months the most effective method is to use the high tech bird scarer which makes a piercing humming noise.  I find the man-made scarecrows seem to be only affective for only a very short period and you finish up with the crows perching on the head and arms!

If your lawn is also being frequented with other birds such as starlings you may have problems with soil borne pests such a Leather Jackets or Chafer Grubs and to overcome this problem it is well worthwhile to apply a dressing of top lawn in autumn.  This will help to keep the grubs under control.

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Edna Kenny asks...

Our new garden has been reseeded with lawn seed twice since April. It is growing very patchy and is predominantly full of weeds and thistles! Is it ok to spray with weed killer, as the grass is still growing? What do you suggest?

Bill replies...

I would Edna wait a few more weeks before spraying with a lawn weed killer - your new grass needs to be more established.  I would however be inclined to gently fork out the large weeds - such as the thistles before they have chance to flower and seed.

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Brian Neal asks...

How do I remove dandelions from my lawn and prevent them coming back?

Bill replies...

If you have numerous Dandelions on your lawn Brian I would use a selective lawn weed killer which, will kill weeds such Dandelions, Docks, Plantain and Buttercups but will not damage your grass providing your soil is quite moist at the time of treatment - it is very important that you do not use the weed killer during drought conditions.  You can also use a general weed and feed, the weed killer will keep your Dandelions under control and the feed will give an added boost to your grass.  There are numerous brands available in Garden Centres and DIY Stores.  It is also wise to read the instructions thoroughly before applying the weed killer.

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Erica Haddon asks...

My lawn suffers each year from leatherjacket larvae. April/May time for about two weeks the crows shred the lawn and it looks like mini bombs have gone off. It all happens between sunrise and 6am. Any suggestions gratefully received.

Bill replies...

I would like to start answering your question by giving you some tips on how to control the Leatherjackets in your lawn.  The Leatherjacket is the larva of the Crane Fly (Daddy Long Legs) and the Crane Fly lays its eggs in late summer in the lawn - the grubs hatch out in the Autumn time and the will eat the roots of your grass throughout the Winter/Spring/early Summer - causing your grass to have swards of yellow patches.  It is important that you try and control the Leatherjackets in the early stages.  You can water your lawn in the Autumn with an insecticide or you can treat your lawn - again in the Autumn - with Autumn Top Lawn which, contains Carbaryl.  You will need to continue each year with this treatment to keep the pests under control and, this will cut down the food chain for the Crows.

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Jan asks...

I want to take a small lawn away and put gravel down because tree shoots keep coming up everywhere.  Could you give me some help?

Bill replies...

Before you put the gravel down Jan you will need to cover the area with a ground cover material which will stop your tree shoots and perennial weeds coming through.  The ground cover which I would recommend is a polypropylene cover and its woven construction is ideal for suppressing weeds and also is water permeable.  If you have been having a lot of problems with the tree shoots  I would play safe and would put a double cover of ground material down.  The materials I tend to use go under the trade names of Mypex or Phormisol.

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Margaret Naylor asks...

Our lawn has started to die in patches which get bigger. In the patches there remains no evidence of grass i.e. not just brown, they are completely bare. Sometimes there is a white 'film' over the patches when the grass is damp. We have tried feeding etc but to no avail. Is it beyond hope? Shall we re-turf? It's not a large lawn, about 40'/40'. Would the soil have to be prepared first?

Bill replies...

One of the common fungi diseases of lawns is Fusarium Patch which causes patches of your lawns to go yellow and eventually die - leaving bare soil and this sounds very much like the problem you have described Margaret.  It is not easy to control the disease but using an autumn top lawn dressing will help to prevent infection and also during the autumn time aerating your lawn will help immensely.  If your lawn is badly infected it maybe better long term to re-turf.

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Colin Wallace asks...

Hi Bill, I have just moved into a house that has a very large garden. However, it has not been developed and is completely lawn. I am trying to introduce shrub beds and a vegetable patch. The trouble is the soil has not been touched since the house was built, so it's still like a new build. The soil contains large stones, clay, builder's waste etc.
Should I dig the areas out and replace with top soil, just keep digging in manure, or should I do something else?

Bill replies...

It is a difficult task you have Colin and lot will depend on how much building rubble and large stones are under the turf.  If the stone and rubble are substantial with very little surface top soil the options you have are: to dig out the stones/rubble and replace with a good layer of top soil or, to build raised beds which can then be filled with top soil and can be used for planting shrubs and growing vegetables.  This is by far the easiest option of the two and is used quite often by people growing vegetables.

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Margaret Ince asks...

I have recenly had my lawn turfed, which has taken well apart from a few small patches on the ends of the rolls of turf.   What is the best way to rectify this?

Bill replies...

You will need to cut the brown patches out Margaret and replace with new turf which will need to be the same type as the one which has been laid.  You could re-seed the bare patches but the seed mixture would again need to be the same type.

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Zaf asks...

We had new turf laid on 23-6-06. We were told by the landscaper that they put down new hard wearing rolawn. We regularly water it. Now for the last two weeks weeds in the shape of mushrooms have started to appear.  After rain the next morning there are lots of mushrooms. When the sun comes out these die down. If it is damp, they stay. What could be the reason that these mushrooms are growing? Landscaper says it's nothing to worry about. It is a good sign that the soil is fertile. He does not tell us how to get rid of these. I shall be grateful for your help. Is it natural that in new turf mushrooms grow and how can I get rid of them? Thanks.

Bill replies...

The mushroom/toadstools in your turf Zaf will be growing on decayed material and matter which will be in your garden soil and it is at this time of year that they will appear and I am quite sure that it has nothing to do with the new rolawn turf.  There is no miracle cure to get rid of the mushrom/toadstools and the only answer would be - and dare I mention it - is to remove the turf and the soil to a depth of approximately one foot - replace with new top soil and relay the turf.  The good point however is that the mushroom/toadstools will do no harm to your lawn and they will only appear in large numbers during the autumn period.

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Brian Dawkins and Robert Macinnell ask...

How do you treat ants nests on lawns without damaging the grass?

Bill replies...

I sympathise with both of you with your problems with ants nests on your lawns and unfortunately there is not simple answer to your problem, and this years dry summer has only increased the problem.  To try and cure your problems you need to irradicate the ants nests which are underneath your lawns and to do this you will need to kill the queen ant whose job is to continuously lay ants eggs within the nest.  The ants you see scurrying on the lawn are the working ants and they take back food to the nest to feed the queen.  If you check where the working ants are coming out of the holes in the lawn and place in this area a mixture of Nipping Ant Powder and sugar the ants will take this mixture down to the nest and feed the queen and hopefully in time the nippon/sugar mixture will kill the queen stopping the egg production and the ants nests. I would also carry on using a general ants dust/insecticide to keep on top of the working ants.

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John Thompson asks...

We have cut our old lawn as low as possible, aerated it, scarified in all directions, brushed in sharp sand and re-seeded it, should we feed with autumn feed?

Bill replies...

If you have just re-seeded you lawn John I would be inclined to wait until early Spring before feeding, the reason being that I am slightly worried that adding fertiliser at this time of year will damage the germinating grass seedlings.  Better safe than sorry.

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David Kidd asks...

Now that October has started, is it too late to use a weed and feed product on the lawn? Following the wet weather, not only has the grass flourished, but so have some tenacious weeds.

Bill replies...

You are not too late Dave to weed and feed your lawn providing you apply the fertiliser within the next two weeks.  You will need to use the autumn weed and feed which contains a small amount of phosphate and potash.  The phosphate will encourage a vigorous root system and the potash will harden the grass off enabling it to withstand the cold weather.

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Justin Gordon asks...

I have a problem with weeds taking over my front lawn, and I have used a weed killer to get rid of them. The problem is that it has caused the area around the weed to turn brown in colour and nothing else has happend. Will this get rid of the weeds?

Bill replies...

The most popular type of weed killer used on lawns Justin is the powder/granule weed and feed.  The selective weed killer will kill a wide range of broad leafed weeds on your lawn but will not harm your grass and the fertiliser will give your lawn an added boost.  It is however important to apply your weed and feed on a dry dull day and you will need to water your weed killer into the lawn if it has not rained within 24 to 48 hours after applying to stop scorching. I feel this could be the reason why your lawn has been scorched.   

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Mrs T Tyldesley asks...

I laid a complete new turf lawn in November, which started to die back within weeks. I have today been told by the supplier that it has leatherjackets, I have checked and found at least 6 leatherjackets in a 12 inch lenghth of turf I have 44 m2.  He has said that he will replace the turf, but will I not end up with the same problem in 6 weeks time even if I pick them out? The soil underneath is so waterlogged that I will not find every one. Also what about the new plants I have already purchased and want to put in, it is a start from fresh project after building work. The supplier has insisted that he wants to know tonight what I want to do.  HELP.

Bill replies...

Leatherjackets are the larva of the Crane Fly/Daddy Longlegs Mrs Tyldesley and the Crane Fly lays its eggs in the lawn during early autumn time and when the eggs hatch the leatherjackets burrow into the turf and start feeding on the roots.  With reference to your problem I feel that it is important that your infested turf is removed from your garden as soon as possible and as you say your soil is waterlogged you will find that the leatherjackets will come to the soil surface and these can be removed by hand or the birds will eat them.  I am sure that your supplier will have treated any new turf to kill the leatherjackets but, it is worth checking the new turf to check if there are any leatherjackets visible.  Regarding the new plants that you have purchased leatherjackets usually feed on the roots of turf but have been known to eat the roots of small plants.

last updated: 16/05/2008 at 09:44
created: 20/10/2006

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