Preparing your lawn for the coming winter is an important task if you want a beautiful green sward in next year's spring and summer.

Autumn usually brings wet, cool weather with leaves blown from deciduous trees settling on your lawn and beginning to rot.

Depending on how you've used your lawn in the summer, you may find that the soil under the grass has become compacted, reducing drainage and aeration.

If you do nothing to help your lawn at the end of summer, you will have weakened the grass for the following year and with successive years of neglect, a lawn will eventually turn into either a weed filled scrub or a brown patchy eyesore.

A key element of late summer lawn care is that there is still some time left for the grass to grow before it becomes dormant over winter.

Here are some key steps to ensure proper lawn preparation:

1. Have a really good look at your lawn

Have a wander around the total area of your lawn and look for tell tale signs of trouble ahead.
Is there a lot of moss around the base of grass shoots?
Is there a thick "thatch" - the combination of dead grass, stray clippings and general garden detritus which weaves itself into a thick mat close to the ground?
Are there significant numbers of broad leaved weeds such as thistle, dandelion, clover and dock?
Are there obvious depressions in the lawn where water may puddle?
Are the grass shoots themselves thin, weak and pale?

2. Give your lawn a good short trim.

Set your mower to the lowest setting you can get away with, without it "snagging" on the underlying soil.
This will set the lawn up for use of the scarifier, allowing it to get right into the exposed thatch.

3. Buy or hire a lawn scarifier and run this across the lawn in two directions, perpendicular to one another (like a grid).

A lawn scarifier acts like a spring tine fork (if you have a small lawn or are feeling fit you can use one of these instead of a scarifier) by pulling out the thatch and exposing the soil underneath to the air and light.
Depending on the model of scarifier, it may pick up the thatch as it goes, collecting it in a bag for disposal or may leave the loosened thatch on the surface, in which case, you'll have to rake up the thatch or suck it up with a garden vacuum.

4. Aerate the lawn with a lawn aerator or a garden fork.

Aerating the soil under your lawn is an incredibly valuable exercise.
A dedicated lawn aerator will plunge hollow spikes about 8cms into the soil and take out "cores" of compacted soil, either leaving them on top of the grass or collecting them in a bag.
Using a garden fork to achieve the same result is hard work and, because the fork doesn't remove any soil cores is not quite as effective.
The technique for using a garden fork involves pushing the fork into the lawn then "wiggling" it to create holes of about 2cms diameter. Repeat this process every 15 cms or so across the whole lawn.

5. Apply a lawn feed and weedkiller mix.

For those of you who follow organic gardening principles, the weedkiller is optional but it does do a great job of wiping out moss and broad leaved weeds.
Allow a couple of days for the weed killer to work and the feed to percolate down into the soil through your newly created holes.

6. Apply a top dressing.

The top dressing is a mixture of compost and sandy topsoil which you dump on to the lawn in small piles and then brush over the surface of the grass so that it settles around the base of the grass and fills the holes made by the aerator.
This ensures that the holes are filled with light, well drained and nutritious matter for the now exposed grass shoots to feed and thrive on.

7. Level and reseed any bare patches or depressions.

You can now use top dressing to level any areas which have formed depression.
Make sure the top dressing is properly tamped down without compressing the underlying soil too much.
Buy some grass seed - you'll need a seed mix with more rye grass, the more wear your lawn is likely to get. (Ornamental lawns can get away without much rye and lots of fine grasses.)
Sow the seed as indicated by the instructions on the packet and water well.
Keep the reseeded areas well watered until you see the new green shoots appear.

8. Allow the grass to recover and grow to a thick sward.

This stage of the process very much depends on where you live.
If you have a long and warm autumn season, the grass will continue to grow and will need cutting in the normal way but as the nights draw in and the temperatures cool, you'll notice that lawn growth slows.
At this point, set your mower to a higher than usual setting and simply take off the very tops of the grass to give an even lawn - leaving the lawn slightly long, protects the the roots and younger growth from the onset of frosts.

You now have a well prepared lawn, ready to take on the winter and set up beautifully for the spring and summer next year.