After reading this article, you won’t look at lawn care terminology like it’s hieroglyphics.
Good day everyone, and what a day it is. No, it’s not particularly sunny, nor am I blowing out any candles on a cake, but what I am doing is reflecting on a little moment of realisation I had *a few days ago (*that could be anytime between yesterday and my birth), and this little realisation went like this: apparently not everyone knows what I’m talking about when I’m discussing their lawn and how I plan on making it great again.
Yup. Believe it or not, I’ve only just noticed how some (okay, a lot) of my customer’s eyes glaze over whenever I start talking about turfgrass and its surrounding terminology. So here I am, just a boy, sitting in front of a computer, asking you to forgive me for any confusion I may have caused and for making you nod your head in agreement in that way us Brits do to save face. On behalf of all lawn care experts, I am sorry.
And I’m also going to make amends and use this article to clear my guilty conscience.
To help you better understand the lawn care gibberish I never realised I’ve been using, here’s what the most common terms actually mean.
(See, I told you it was a good day. Some might even say a seminal day in the history of humankind. Not many, but some.)
Sciencey Definition: For those that understand science, aeration is the process of removing plugs of soil to help oxygen, water and nutrients reach the roots of your lawn.
Layman Terms: For people who scraped through every exam, aeration is about making loads of holes in your lawn, which doesn’t sound like a lawn care must, but it really is.
Why Do It: Not only does it help prevent your lawn from becoming too compacted or developing a dense layer of thatch (both of which are bad news), aeration also helps your lawn get that green colour.
Sciencey Definition: scarification is the process of removing surface thatch from a lawn to open up channels for water, air and nutrients to get through to the soil.
Layman Terms: It’s like raking, but better. And the reason it’s better is because we use SISIS petrol machines that have super-sharp blades, allowing them to slice through any organic matter that might have died. But here’s the best bit. Our lean, green, scarification machines also create horizontal shoots (aka a denser lawn).
Sciencey Definition: the process of sowing new lawn seed evenly into an existing lawn to repair bare or thin patches of lawn.
Layman Terms: tossing a bunch of seeds onto your lawn, probably until your arm aches, which sounds like hard work, but if you’re looking for a quick and easy way to make your lawn look like a green shag pile rug, over seeding is totally worth it.
Why Do It: it’s not just about making your lawn look pretty, because over seeding also helps your lawn put up an epic defense against diseases.
If you’ve ever heard a lawn care professional say they can also do renovations, you’ve probably thought to yourself, “there’s no way I’m letting this chap install a new kitchen.” But that’s not what we mean when we say renovation. What we’re talking about is…
Sciencey Definition: performing a complete refurbishment in order to restore your lawn back to full health.
Layman Terms: making your scruffy lawn look great again by sowing new grass seed between the existing grass plants. That’s right. No removing or returfing, just some well-planned preparation and a proper dollop aftercare, which makes it way more effective and way less expensive.
Sciencey Definition: intelligently influencing the way the soil is structured so that it is less compacted and more productive.
Layman Terms: adding a natural plumbing system into your soil to easily control water and air flow, which is done by creating more space in your soil.
Why Do It: Not only does this create a safer, sturdier home for your turf roots and germinating seeds, it also improves the flow of air, water and nutrients to your roots — ergo, greener grass.
Sciencey Definition: the mixture of organic or man-made materials that promote lawn growth by providing your turf with essential nutrients.
Layman Terms: giving your lawn a yummy cocktail of nitrogen and potassium (and sometimes phosphorus) to help it recover from all stresses of winter – drought, freezing conditions, disease, pests, gardener neglect etc. – and get it all prepped for a glorious spring revival. Think of fertilisers as a sort of early Christmas dinner – the kind that leaves your lawn feeling full for weeks.
If you’re picturing a peloton of grass blades racing through the French Alps in the hope of claiming that infamous yellow jersey, I like where your imagination is at. Unfortunately, though, grass cycling has nothing to do with bikes.
Sciencey Definition: grass cycling refers to the aerobic method of handling grass clippings by leaving them on the lawn when mowing.
Layman Terms: when you mow your lawn, simply leave your grass clippings on the lawn instead of bagging them.
Why Do It: Not only is this great for anyone that a) hates manual labour or b) is running late for a session down the pub, it’s also great for your lawn because the clippings decompose quicker than Mo Farah can run a marathon, which means your soil will get to enjoy a bunch of valuable nutrients ASAP.
Sciencey Definition: loam refers to the ideal conditions for which turfgrass can grow.
Layman Terms: a soil mixture that has almost equal amounts of clay, sand and silt, which is what most types of grass go absolutely crazy for. If soil could be traded like footballers, loam would be Ronaldo (the new one, not the old Brazilian one with the funny haircut).
(Spoiler alert: I’m about to get GCSE Level science on you)
Sciencey Definition: a figure expressing the acidity or alkalinity of a solution on a logarithmic scale on which 7 is neutral, lower values are more acid and higher values more alkaline.
Layman Terms: Grass bloody hates it when its soil is highly acidic or highly *alkaliney (*I just made up a word), which is why we make sure all our lawns are somewhere in the middle.
Sciencey Definition: Pre-emergent herbicides should be applied to lawns as a preventative weed control treatment, while post-emergent herbicides are better used after weeds have germinated.
Layman Terms: If you’re worried about weeds popping up on your lawn this spring, try using the first herbicide I mentioned and, if there’s already a bunch of weeds on your lawn, hit them with the latter herbicide.
A Little Tip: if you’re having to fight off fully formed weeds using a post-emergent herbicide, make sure you’re making contact with the weed if you really want to kill it.
There’s no scientific definition here – it’s just what happens when you’ve forgotten to raise your mower’s deck and cut your lawn too short. But as nonchalant and innocent as this mistake may sound, it’s one of the worst things you can do to your lawn because it makes it mega-stressed (like a teenager about to do their A-Levels) and that weakens it so much we’ve actually seen scalping incidents that have almost killed the grass, which is crazy given grass is basically invincible.
Scientific Definition: a layer of living and dead plant material that’s become matted between your established grass and the soil.
Layman’s Terms: lawn thatch is a nasty mess made of part-living and mainly-dead plant matter that lays in the ground between the green grass you love admiring from your kitchen window, the root systems that you can’t really see and the soil from whence your grass came (apologies for ye olde English there, it just seemed right). It’s hard to see this stuff with the naked eye, but dig up a patch of your lawn and you can’t miss it.
Why Do It: the reason thatch sucks is that it stops water, air and nutrients to the roots, which can stop your grass growing. Thankfully, a dollop of aeration and a sprinkling of scarification is all you need to put your thatch in its place.
If you’ve ever heard me say, “sod,” you have to believe me when I say I wasn’t calling you a sod. I would never do that to anyone (within earshot). What I mean by sod is…
Scientific Definition: established grass that has been cut into strips and laid over bare soil to provide an instant lawn.
Layman’s Terms: they are strips of freshly cut turf that you can lay down and enjoy right away. Yup. There’s the grass, the roots and a layer of soil, meaning you don’t need to wait for anything to grow. It’s all done and ready to rock n’ roll.