WE all love to relax in the garden in the summer, but what looks like lovely green grass can, on closer inspection, be a depressing mix of moss and weeds.

If you are determined to have a lush lawn for the summer, now’s the time to start. Here are a few simple tips from lawn expert Ian Cadwallender of Just for Lawns, Darlington, to get the perfect lawn and keep it that way right through the year.

‘Must dos’ all year round:

• Keep leaves off the grass as not clearing them will encourage moss

• Cut the grass regularly, but no less than 1 inch (25 mm) high to maintain the green

• After you’ve cut the grass, clear all the clippings, as this allows the grass to dry and prevents ‘thatch’. (A layer of natural decaying and dead leaf litter and other plant materials that builds up on the top of the soil surface at the base of the grass plants. Over time, especially if it is allowed to dry out, it can become fibrous and matted like a dry old bathroom sponge.)

• Before any treatment, ensure that you have cut the grass a few days previously, so that the treatment can penetrate and not be stranded on the top

• If you have a paddling pool, trampoline etc, move it round regularly so that light and rain can get to the grass underneath, or you will kill the grass altogether

“Even if your lawn looks good at a distance, most lawns need some treatment to combat moss and weeds, and to feed the grass,” says Ian. “Over the course of the year, it will need treating with fertilizer containing a combination of nitrogen to encourage growth, phosphorous and potassium to keep disease at bay; moss killer in the form of diluted iron sulphate; and weed killer.”

“But these need to be used in differing quantities, and with caution, at different times of the year, so it really is best to employ someone who knows what they’re doing.”

Some sadly neglected lawns might also need scarifying and re-seeding before treatment can begin, which is why it’s always a good idea to get the advice of an expert before you plunge in.

If things aren’t too bad, and you’re feeling confident enough to give it a go yourself, then early spring is the ideal time to start.

Ian recommends an initial treatment of fertilizer with a NPK reading of 6:5:10 (nitrogen: phosphorous: potassium). A low nitrogen reading ensures that the grass doesn’t grow too quickly, as this is when the phosphorous and potassium have to do their job first.

Apply moss killer if needed, and if it has been a mild winter that hasn’t killed off the weeds, you will need to apply weed killer.

“Be careful with weed killer,” warns Ian. “It’s one of those products that even I use under licence as it is highly toxic and can burn your lawn. Read any instructions carefully, and apply it evenly when the weeds are growing.”

Following these treatments, you might think it’s all gone wrong! The moss will turn black, the weeds will shrivel, leaving bare patches, and what’s left of the grass may be looking very sorry for itself.

But don’t despair. As long as you have used the correct treatments, your grass should start to recover in three or four weeks. The fertilizer will encourage new growth to cover the bare patches and fill in the areas previously dominated by moss.

Continue to cut your grass regularly through the spring, keeping it between 1 and 2 inches (25mm – 50mm) high.

Don’t ‘hoover’ the garden with the lawn mower. Cutting in straight lines is best. First time out, cut up one way, then back down parallel with the first cut, and continue like that until all the grass is cut. Next time, use the same method, but cut at right angles to the first cut. Continue like that each time you cut, which will prevent creating groves in the lawn.

The lawn will want two treatments in the summer months – early and late. If you treated the moss correctly in the spring, you shouldn’t have to do anything again now. If you do still have patches of moss, treat as before.

Use a different fertilizer NKP reading for summer feeding – one with a higher nitrogen content, and lower phosphorous and potassium contents. Ideally, Ian suggests an NPK of 11:5:5, which will encourage good – but not too rapid - growth and greenery, while keeping disease at bay.

Any lingering weeds should be treated again, carefully, with weed killer.

Things begin to slow down in the autumn, so one last feed with the same NPK balance as the spring, will keep your grass looking good through the winter months.

“If you’ve taken care of it through the spring and summer months, the grass will look after itself through the winter,” Ian assures. “But make sure that the last cut leaves it at between 1 and 2 inches high. No crew cuts!”

Ian can be contacted on cadwad58@yahoo.co.uk; telephone: 07541 230584