With any hobby, profession or industry there are always lots of buzz words, jargon or technical terms that tend to make things that are very simple, very difficult!
Now and again, we use some technical terms in our guides, so we thought it would be a great idea to share our top ten most used and tell you just exactly what they mean, right here, right now!
It sounds like a space term, but aeration is the simple process of getting air into your soil to alleviate compaction (more on that later). So how do you ‘aerate’ something? Well, aerating your soil can be done by using a pitchfork and driving it into the soil, which helps to remove some of the soil whilst also getting air into it. This is a temporary solution, but will work for most lawns that don’t suffer from major compaction. If your soil is majorly compacted, and by that, we mean there is 1. No growth occurring 2. You cannot rake the soil (the soil isn’t crumbly, it is hard and cracked) you may wish to invest in hollow tine aerator – which is a fancy word for a corer. A corer does what it says, it cores out the ground, lifting out little cylinders of soil which allows your seedbed to breathe. But aeration isn’t just about air, it opens up lots of possibilities for your soil to get back to its best. By opening up these core cavities, you allow air, nutrients and water to move around freely amongst the soil. This helps to build up your grass’ root system and strengthen the seeds from top to bottom – and that’s all grass seed can really hope for!
We think scarify should be pronounced as scare-ify, because all that moss should be scared when this process takes place! Scarifying your lawn for thatch and moss is a necessary process to allow existing grass to grow. If moss and thatch stay in or on top of your lawn, they stunt your existing lawn’s growth, so removing it is essential lawn care that will allow your grass to thrive. Scarifying equipment exists in terms of a good old rake, or an electric scarifier. By raking, or using this machinery, you rip out / remove the moss and thatch instantly, relieving your lawn of all that meddling moss and leaving you with moss free, thatch free grass!
Stratification is another elaborate word for a freeze! Wildflowers need to undergo a process called stratification, or as you’ll know now, a freeze. This freeze helps kickstart germination (we’re onto that next). If we’re going to get really science-y, the cold conditions help to bring the seed out of dormancy / sleep mode in a sort of super cold awakening. We keep our wildflower seeds in cold conditions all year round, so when you sow them and add water, they’re ready to go!
Seems simple, right? Well a lot of people know what germination is, but not everyone knows what grass seed needs for germination to occur. In short, germination is the growth. However, for germination or growth to occur, it needs to be activated. The process is the seed growing into a leaf, and what activates that is heat, water, air and light. When you sow grass seed, it hasn’t germinated as soon as it reaches the soil, or even when you give it its first water – it needs all the conditions to be right and consistent in order to start the growing process. So whilst germination is in theory the growth of a seed to its final form, it also won’t happen without the right conditions. Those seeds, they’re just so fussy!
We thought that compaction would be a friendlier word than ‘suffocation’. Compacted soil is unfortunately, and very sadly, suffocating - slightly. But it can be helped. Soil can become compacted from heavy traffic and lack of watering, this causes the soil surface to become hard and cracked. If your soil is compacted, you may also find that it floods more easily as it isn’t able to drain well. All in all, this makes for some very sad soil where nothing is able to grow. Compaction can be cured with aeration, and you already know what that one is!
Thatch is a layer of dead and living grass matter that sits on top of your lawn and can become a hindrance to the rooted grass underneath it. Thatch usually builds up during autumn / winter, when your lawn isn’t getting as much use. Thatch holds water well, so if it is forming on top of your lawn it may contribute to waterlogging it. In addition, thatch heats up and dries out quickly, so if left on your lawns surface for too long, can damage the roots of your grass underneath as they struggle to get sunlight and / or are weighed down by thatch. With a simple scarify, thatch can be removed, and your garden is free to breathe again!
Fertiliser is really just food for grass! Little grass seedlings and big grown up grass all need three nutrients to help them grow, stay strong and stay green. These are nitrogen, phosphate and potassium – these help to make up an NPK. Fertilisers have different levels of NPK that can do different things for your grass – more on that here, but on their own, here’s what these three nutrients do for your lawn:
Nitrogen (N) is responsible for giving the lawn its lush green colour by stimulating leaf growth and helping to establish the lawn.
Phosphate (P) is known for building up the root system and improving seed to soil contact.
Potassium (K) can help to harden grass so that it builds up an immunity / tolerance to disease and drought.
The higher the level of each of these nutrients, the more each element will do for your lawn. For example, a quick release fertiliser has higher Nitrogen than a slow release fertiliser, as it gives a quick burst of greenness to your lawn, whilst a slow release steadily releases the nitrogen into the soil so it will have a lower level of this nutrient.
In some cases where soil or a lawn has been neglected and nothing is growing, some serious rotavating will need to be done. In addition, when sowing a new lawn on soil that has been left to cultivate, rotavating is an equally good idea. Rotovating is simply breaking up and churning over the soil to form a new foundation for your grass to grow in. After rotovating, raking is recommended to finalise a level a new and fine seedbed. By completing this process, you’re giving your grass the best chance of growing. Not all lawns will need rotovated, existing lawns where the grass grows well but has a few patches will not need this kind of special attention. Some examples where rotovating would be applicable are: a new build where soil has been applied but left to cultivate and the homeowners have chosen to sow their own lawn, or a lawn that has been neglected / disused for many years in an empty property. Rotovating is the first step to lawn redemption!
What is an established lawn, and when can a lawn be considered established? A lawn is considered established after 1 year of having been sowed. This is when it is thoroughly rooted in the ground and has went through the growing season, had multiple cuts, a few feeds, and made it out the other end! Fertiliser can be applied to a new lawn, but avoid Feed, Weed and Moss Killer products until your lawn is established / reached its first birthday. Aww. A newly seeded lawn will ‘establish’ in 6-8 weeks – this means it qualifies for its first mow (it has grown to 5cm or taller), but will be fully ‘established’ in 12 months.
10. Annual / Perennial
An annual wildflower is a species of wildflower, and you would think from the name this would mean it appears annually. Annual wildflowers typically have one showing (bloom), around 60-80 days after they are sown. We say typically because you can help annual wildflowers show again by following a specific set of instructions – find out more here! As for perennials, they come back year after year. A great way to remember the difference between the two is using the ‘per’ in perennial – perennials have a new bloom ‘per’ year. The majority of our mixes contain a 50:50 mix of both annuals and perennials, because this way you get the best of both worlds – a wonderful one-off showing of annuals 60-80 days later, and perennials you get to enjoy year after year.
So that’s our top ten most used technical terms. We hope you add them into your Gardener’s Glossary, or just your everyday lingo – if you want to show off!