Autumn turf care in the Polesden Lacey gardens

A bench casts a long shadow on a manicured lawn

Polesden's Head Gardener Jamie Harris takes us through the work that goes into looking after Polesden Lacey’s lawns during the colder months.

Autumn is one of the busiest times of the year for the garden team here at Polesden Lacey, and one of the key tasks in the garden at this time of the year focuses on keeping our lawns looking lush and lovely. 

Here in Mrs Greville’s garden we have over 30 acres of grassed areas to look after. This includes 4 acres of fine lawns such as the Croquet Lawn, and 34 acres of amenity grassed areas, such as Home Farm Orchard, and also areas of long grass and wildflowers such as down in the upper sunk garden. It’s the finer lawns in the formal gardens where we focus much of our time, as they need the most care.
 

Although the grass in the garden will continue to grow at a slower rate throughout autumn, it won’t yet be fully dormant.  September, October and November are therefore a great time to start the autumn turf care process and this can take many forms. We carry out these tasks every year to make sure the lawns are looking their best.

A close up of a field of pink and white wildflowers

Aerating 

Aerating a lawn is the process of improving compaction and drainage in the soil by making holes in the turf.  This will also encourage root growth and improve oxygen content at root level.  

It’s a process that can easily be done with a garden fork on small domestic lawns but here at Polesden Lacey we use a powered machine on our lawns as they’re much larger.  
 

Scarifying 

Scarifying a lawn involves scratching and scraping away at the surface to remove thatch (a build-up of dead grass and moss that can reduce light and moisture penetration to the live grass).  

It can be done with a strong wire rake on small areas in your garden at home but again here at Polesden Lacey we use a powered scarifier machine.  The thatch that is removed can then be collected and added to the compost heap – garden recycling at its best!

There are huge areas of lawn to look after, like the south lawn
The slope of the south lawn at Polesden Lacey, with neatly mowed lines

Feeding, seeding and turfing

Applying an autumn feed high in phosphates, to improve root development, is also a good idea at this time of year.  This feed will also stand the lawn in better stead to withstand the ravages of winter and also be stronger to hold its own against weed takeover.  A spring feed, which we’ll apply next year, is high in nitrogen which encourages lush, green growth.  

Autumn is also ideal for carrying out any re-seeding or re-turfing of worn areas of lawn while the temperatures are still not too cold.  Here at Polesden Lacey we will sometimes close areas of lawn off to allow these newly seeded or turfed areas to establish.

Turf care is one of the most time-consuming jobs for the garden team; we’ll be working on the lawns from September until November. 
 

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