Anyone with so much as a potted plant will know that sometimes, gardening wisdom can be a little unconventional.
First came the advice to spray your tomatoes with aspirin. Then, gardeners were told to put half a melon in their lawn to banish slugs. And now, there’s even more counterintuitive counsel; apparently, taking a screwdriver to your beloved plant beds could well be the making of them.
Plunging a Philips into your soil can help you to figure out how dehydrated your soil is, said Chris McIlroy, lawn expert at The Grass People, while talking to The Daily Express. Especially worth checking in this endless heatwave, right?
We thought we’d explain why that works, suggest other methods of checking your lawn’s health, and tell you what to do if your strands of grass are struggling.
So, how do you do the ‘screwdriver test’ – and why does it work?
Luckily, the test is easy to do – you just place the metal part of your screwdriver into the soil and look at how the dirt behaves.
It all depends on how deep the tool can go in your soil. “If it can reach up to six or seven inches deep it’s perfect – if not, keep watering,” says McIlroy.
This is because dry (or very compacted) soil tends to crumble and resist the pressure – a bit like a badly-built sandcastle that you’ve not added enough water to. Hydrated soil, however, is smoother and more accommodating – like damp clay.
Any other ways to check my lawn health?
Yes – and they’re really easy.
Firstly, you can step onto your lawn and check your footprint. If your prints stay behind for long, there’s a high chance your garden is dehydrated.
Secondly, check the colour of your grass. As Southern Lawns says, “We all recognise the deep green that characterises a thriving lawn. A thirsty one starts to turn colours that we don’t ordinarily associate with grass – blue, grey, or even purple.”
Orange or pale yellow grass could be the sign of a more deeply dehydrated lawn – or it could mean that fungus has taken advantage of your weaker lawn.
Wilting grass and cracked soil are also surefire ways to detect dryness.
Right, so – what do I do if my lawn is dry?
Well, the answer might seem a little obvious, but water it.
Your garden much prefers rainwater to the stuff from the tap, so if you have a water butt, use that.
It’s also a good idea to give the lawn a little hydrating love in the cooler parts of the day, like morning and evening, because watering midday in a heatwave basically does nothing to help your plants.
You should also consider watering your lawn thoroughly and less often, instead of frequently and lightly. “Watering more thoroughly, but less frequently helps get the water down to the deeper root tips,” shared the Royal Horticultural Society.
And you should check your lawn’s specific needs to make sure you’re not over- or under-watering it.
Ah, the joys of this heatwave...