Winter has really tested everybody’s lawns this year. How did your drainage hold up? In this blog we’re talking about improving lawn drainage so that the plants can grow greener.
Most gardeners in Scotland will struggle with waterlogged lawns from time to time. It can’t be helped in our climate. Quite honestly, we’re lucky to have so much rain and snow to help keep our countryside green and productive. A little drainage goes a long way after heavy or prolonged rain. But how many of us can afford land drains? Not me that’s for sure!
You can help lawn drainage along though with some simple changes to your lawncare regime.
Get rid of thatch – it blocks the passage of water
A lawn consists of 3 basic layers. The soil that the plants grow in, the green bit that we see and a layer between the two that’s known as thatch. Thatch is made up of dead leaves, rhizomes, stolons and maybe some moss. They gather at the base of the grass plants and in time are broken down by microbes to make plant nutrients. However, if thatch accumulates faster than it can be broken down (and it usually does) it creates a dense mat that slows down water absorption.
Professional greenkeepers wage a constant war against thatch in order to keep the playing surface in good condition. Their method of choice is scarification.
Scarification is basically raking the thatch out of the lawn and taking it away to be composted somewhere else. It’s jolly hard work, unless you are lucky enough to have a mechanical scarifier.
Scarifying a whole lawn with just a rake is really hard work and it takes ages. Far better to hire a mechanical scarifyier or get help from a lawncare professional
Reduce soil compaction to help drainage
Walking on your lawn and enjoying it to the full tends to compact the soil. Ideally, plants prefer to grow in soil where there is a reasonably “open” structure. Just like a freshly dug vegetable patch or a newly ploughed field. There are spaces in between the soil particles that allow air and water to move around under the ground. Where air and water can move freely, plant roots can access everything they need to keep the plants nourished.
When soil is compacted, the spaces between soil particles get squished. It’s harder for air and water to circulate and it’s more difficult for roots to push through the soil.
Lawn Aeration creates new air spaces and allows the plants to thrive. It also allows excess water to pass through the soil much quicker. Stewarts Turf recommend hollow-tine aeration. It removes little cores of soil and really opens up the soil structure.
A lawn aerator like this one is relatively inexpensive at around £25.
It would take a very long time to treat a large lawn with it though!
To make aeration more effective for longer, follow up by topdressing.
What is topdressing?
Topdressing is a traditional lawncare job that seems to have become less fashionable in recent years. I think of it like this though. In the olden times, before mechanisation, everything took longer and was physically more challenging. So no-one did unnecessary work. If they didn’t think topdressing was beneficial – they wouldn’t have done it!
To topdress your lawn, all you have to do is spread a thin layer of special topdressing soil on top of the grass and then brush it into the holes left by aeration. Topdressing is a mix of 70% sand and 30% really good quality soil. It really does help improve the texture of the soil beneath your lawn. And let’s face it – your lawn isn’t like your veg patch. You can’t turn the soil over to improve its porosity. Topdressing is the only practical option – other than digging it all up and starting again.
Why a lawn care company is cost-effective for helping with lawn drainage
We’ve talked in this blog about some pretty labour intensive lawncare jobs. Scarifying with a rake is – well – unless you have a tiny lawn – it’s just not practical.
It is possible to hire machinery to make those jobs easier. You can hire mechanical hollow-tine aerators and you can hire scarifiers. Last time I looked it cost about £70 per machine per day and then you need to provide fuel, collect it from the hire shop and take it back afterwards.
You will probably find it’s a lot more cost-effective to ask a lawn care company for help. They have all the right machines and they know how to use them safely.
If you’re in East Kilbride, Hamilton or South Glasgow, The Lawn Advocates come highly recommended. Michael is an independent lawn care expert and he really knows his stuff. He’s not greedy with his charges either. Visit