Sandy’s Garden

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Problems with grass.

Just as many people should not be allowed access to medical reference books, for the more they read therein the more they discover is wrong with them, I really should not allow myself to browse the shelves of garden centres on which they display remedies for garden problems of every conceivable kind, ranging from how to discourage foxes to the best way to rid the garden of fairy rings. The more I read of the symptoms that some of these treatments are designed to alleviate, the more I convince myself that parts of my own garden are very much in need of just such cures. And nowhere is this more true than when I stand in front of the shelves laden with lawn care products.

I do have some rather unsightly patches of bleached grass, it is true; it is also true that I do not know the reason for this; and, in the best manner of the impulsive gardener, I studied the range of solutions available to me to treat a problem which I had not attempted to diagnose. Here is one designed to deal with attacks by leatherjackets, the larvae of the daddy-long-legs; and yes, the illustration on the pack showing the typical appearance of grass which sports a plethora of these grubs nibbling away at the roots looks very similar to the discoloured patches in my grass. But wait. Here is another product, with a rather similar picture of ailing patches in a lawn, pictures which again look rather like those troubled parts of my own grass: but this product is intended to treat fusarium patch. And here is yet another product, bearing an illustration that looks a bit like my own grass, which is designed to deal with ‘red thread’ or Corticium Disease. Were it not for the rather expensive price labels attached to these products, I would probably buy all three and very possibly find a few more to add to my basket: but … perhaps fortunately … my wallet asserts itself and orders me to go home and look at the grass carefully before I invest in any of these chemical mixtures.

And what do I find? Well, first off, my problem is probably not caused by leatherjackets, for there are no starlings pecking at the turf in search of a tasty titbit, nor are there any morning signs of grey or brown legless grubs under a piece of polythene placed on a watered area of affected grass the previous evening; so I probably don’t need to treat the grass for that possible problem. Now, fusarium patch, and yes, the discoloured patches do look very like areas affected by this, the commonest fungal disease in British lawns: but, even in moist weather, there is no sign of any pale pink or white fluffy mould - a common, but not invariable sign of the presence of fusarium patch. However, since this problem is most prevalent in grass that has endured long-lying winter snow, especially if it has been walked on while under this white blanket, this may well be the trouble. And I find that I can discount ‘red thread’, for there are no characteristic, needle-like red growths that give the disease its common name; and ‘red thread’ is seldom seen before the late summer and autumn anyway.

Still, niggling away at the back of my mind is the fact that my house was built before house-builders worried about replacing any top soil that was removed during the building operations, and I know only too well that the underlying stones are covered by just a meagre layer of indifferent soil. Perhaps my grass has exhausted the nutrients available to it in its impoverished surroundings and is suffering from malnutrition. Maybe a careful application of lawn food will resolve the problem, which would be a relief to my wallet and to myself, for malnutrition is a problem that is easily dealt with. And it looks as if I may be right, for there seems already to be some improvement after treating the grass to some lawn food and a tonic.

Thank you, wallet, for saving me a substantial sum on impulse buys of products I don’t need!

Sandy Simpson, Polmont Horticultural Society