Mowing should begin this month in earnest. The initial three or so mowings of the season should be with the blade set higher than usual (about 4 cm (1.5 in) on a domestic grass lawn.
This should be reduced each mowing, so by the end of the month, it can be reduced to around 3 cm (1.25 in) but not less than 2 cm. Only the finest quality grass lawns will need to be cut shorter than this.
Daffodils that have been naturalised in the lawn (shown left) can certainly brighten up the garden at this time of year, however you must leave the leaves and stems to die down naturally and not mow over them until all the foliage has dried and gone brown. Therefore it is best to plant them in a corner or under a deciduous tree or hedge so that you can just leave them to do their thing, and simply mow around them.
The main ground preparation for sowing new grass lawns are covered in our February and March sections. If you have not sown the grass seed yet, the final task is to lightly raking the area to create a fine tilth ready for sowing. The area should have a firm surface, free of all but the smallest stones. Do not cultivate any further than raking.
The type of grass seed mix to buy will depend on the kind of grass lawn you want. In practice this means that the heavier the wear it will receive, the more ryegrass should be in the mix.
To sow the area, first mark it out in strips 1 m (3 ft) wide. Calculate the amount of grass seed needed for each strip on the basis of 48 grams per sq metre (1 oz per sq yd), and sprinkle the seed evenly over each strip until the whole lawn is sown. Then rake the seed in lightly.
If the ground is dry and rain is not expected, the area should be thoroughly watered using a light sprinkler, so that the surface is not puddled and beaten down.
Signs of germination should appear after one or two weeks, depending on the mildness of the weather. Cats and birds should be kept of the sown area by placing a barrier of twiggy sticks, a criss-cross of string, or a layer of netting over the seeds.
If you are laying turf in April, the task should be completed before the warmer weather arrives. If the turves have not rooted into the underlying soil by the end of April, they will have difficulty in doing so unless plenty of water is applied (every day if necessary). If gaps start to appear between turves, fill these in with sifted soil, and give the whole area a thorough watering.
April is an ideal month to repair any damage to lawns and grassed areas. Worn patches in the lawn can be repaired by sowing grass seeds, so that the grass is well established before the lawn is regularly used in the summer. The bare soil should be vigorously raked or lightly pricked over with a fork to loosen the surface. Sprinkle on some grass seed mixed with sifted soil, and water in well. Any lawn edges in need of repair should also be dealt with now.
Leatherjackets will be re-appearing under the grass after the winter's inactivity. These are the larvae of the crane fly (daddy-long-legs), who feed below the surface of the lawn on the roots of the grass. This often leads to small patches of dead grass. The presence of lots of starlings on a lawn is usually a good indication that there are leatherjackets about.
You can apply a proprietary lawn pest killer or insecticide containing Imidacloprid to control them. However, Imidacloprid has been known to have a detrimental affect on Bees (ref), so if you really need to use it should be used with great care, i.e. not applied on a windy day. A much better alternative is to use nematodes specific to leatherjackets, such as 'Nemasys leatherjacket killer', which should be applied in the spring and then again in the autumn.
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