As much as I love the arrival of spring with its attendant lift in the spirits as well as a rejuvenation of the garden, I also dread the arrival of the grass growing, and hence lawn mowing season. The once-fortnightly ritualised scalping of the remaining green areas around the house becomes a more regular chore until it peaks at about a four to five day interval, then tapers off again as we approach summer.
You might sense that I am not a great lawn lover. For me, they are a slightly annoying requirement to help set off the gardens that I am really interested in. Over the years here, I have removed one lawn entirely and embarked on an insidious programme of slowly reducing the size of the others by making extra gardens, then widening them. I think the lawns probably take less than half the time they used to take when they were at their full extent.
My lawns are not in great shape either. I do try to keep the broadleaved weeds down (more about that in a second) and I spray for Onehunga weed, but in reality my lawn, like the vast majority of lawns is a MDW lawn – mowed down weeds. It is a mix of various grasses, clover and any other low growing weed that can cope with being topped regularly.
I do spray the lawns with a selective weedkiller at this time of the year –I managed to get it down this weekend, taking advantage of the fine, calm weather. My primary aim to keep the Onehunga weed under control, as nobody likes having their bare feet attacked by multitudes of prickles in the dry summer months.
Onehunga weed is a real pest when it gets established in a garden but it can be controlled relatively easily if look after at the right time of the year. It is an annual that has small ferny leaves growing about 20 cm across, with tiny greenish-yellow flowers. It starts to grow with the first rains of autumn, but doesn’t really kick on until spring when it flowers and sets many seed heads. It is a bad problem in Wairarapa, because it flourishes in dry summer areas – as the grasses die back in our usual summer drought, it provides room for the Onehunga weed to germinate and grow. When the seeds are almost mature they are easily picked up and spread by animals moving across the lawn – especially, it seems, bare-footed children. It is important to get some spray onto these weeds before they have set seed as the plants are harder to kill as they get older, and of course the seeds have already been set. If you have any of these weeds in your lawn (they will also grow on other bare patches in the garden) it will pay to get onto this job straight away.
I generally use a product I used to know by the trade name of Faneron, although nowadays it is packaged as ‘Prickle Weed Killer’, which I guess is a simple enough name to remember. This year, though I used a combination product which will also have a lash at the broad leaved weeds like dandelion, hawk bit and the like. I usually just spend an hour or two each spring forking the worst of these out, but I decided to try the easier option this year.