All About Lawns
WHY HAVE A LAWN AT ALL?
Although it is easy to assume – mistakenly – that a lawn does not need any attention once it is established, it is true that it is easier and quicker to maintain than a whole series of. It also provides a centrepiece for a garden and, provided it is not neglected, it will enhance the impact of the beds, and shrubs you choose to go around or in it. Laying a lawn also buys you time to plan: once the lawn has been established for some time, you can easily decide to adapt it by adding paths or features or by cutting out beds.
A LAWN FROM SEED
Using seed to grow a lawn is obviously far cheaper than turfing, and if you sow at the right time, it won’t take long to become established. Ideally spring or early autumn are the times to sow, but if you have to sow during the summer, make sure you water regularly during bouts of dry weather.
First, drive in some pegs and use a spirit level to ensure they are level. Next rake thelevel to lines 5 cm (2 in) down from the top of the pegs. Now firm the soil, treading it evenly to remove any large air pockets.
Rake the soil to a fine, crumbly structure that will be suitable for sowing seeds. Leave the area for a couple of weeks, to allow weed seedlings to germinate, then hoe them off or kill them off with a chemical weed-killer that is safe enough for you to be able to replant within a few days. Give the ground a final raking before sowing.
Choose a grass seed to suit your purposes. Generally, the mixtures of lawn seed that contain ryegrass are hard-wearing, while those without ryegrass are suitable for high quality decorative lawns that will not be subjected to heavy use.
Divide your sowing area into square metre sections: mark out 1 metre-wide strips with pegs and string, then divide each strip into 1 metre sections. Using a small container as a measure for the amount of seed you need for each 1 metre square section, scatter half the measure in one direction over one-half of the section, then scatter the other half on the rest of the section in the opposite direction.
When all the seed has been sown, lightly rake it into the surface. In dry weather use a lawn sprinkler to prevent the germinating seedlings from drying out.
A LAWN FROM TURF
If you are feeling rich and want instant results, go for a turf lawn instead of sowing seeds. Provided you keep the turfs well watered if the weather is dry and you avoid frozen ground, you can lay a turf lawn more or less whenever you want. Spring and early autumn, though, are still good times to choose for turfing.
Once you have prepared the ground in the same way as you would for sowing seed, lay your first row of turfs against a straight edge, such as a path or low wall. Butt each turf close up against the previous one, to help them knit successfully.
Stagger the remaining rows like brickwork, to avoid long, continuous joints across the lawn. Kneel on a plank to spread your weight along the grass you have already laid. Roll the plank forward as you move from row to row.
Once the turf has been laid, still standing on your plank of wood, tamp the turf down to remove air pockets, using the back of your rake, or roll the grass with a garden roller. Next, brush sieved sandy soil or a mixture of peat and sand into the joints, to further bind the grass together.
If you need to trim the edges, use an edging iron or half-moon edger. Make sure you stand on a plank as you trim, to keep the edge straight.
ROUTINE LAWN CARE
While a well-groomed lawn can set off all the other features in your garden, it is equally true that a neglected lawn can spoil the overall effect. If you remember to feed, weed, brush, trim and aerate your lawn, it will give you good service for many years.
Feed the lawn once a year with fertilizer. You can spread the fertiliser by hand, as you do for sowing lawn seed (see above), or you can use a mechanical spreader.
If the lawn is covered in weeds, apply a weedkiller in mid- or late spring. Ideally you should use a watering can with a dribble bar, applying the weed-killer in regular strips to avoid missing any sections or double-dosing.
If you only have a few weeds to get rid of, use spot treatment. Brush or dab on a selective lawn weedkiller, making sure you don’t kill off any of the grass next to the weeds.
Keep the lawn clear of debris and worm casts. Although they will not harm the lawn directly, they could provide seed beds for weeds to grow in.
Trim the lawn edges periodically, preferably using a nylon-line strimmer with a swivel head. Otherwise, the heavier (but cheaper) long-handled shears will do the job, albeit a lot more slowly.
CHECK MY BALD PATCHES!
Reseed bare patches in the lawn before weeds have the opportunity to fill the space. Loosen the surface first, then sprinkle on a small quantity of grass seed. Water well and protect the patch with a sheet of clear plastic until the seeds germinate.
Remove old clippings, moss and dead grass with a lawn rake, to keep it looking healthy and green. Once you have raked the lawn, aerate it with a fork. Push the prongs in about 15 cm (6 in) deep, in rows about 8-15 cm (3-6 in) apart. Then brush sand into the holes, if your soil is heavy clay. If your soil is sandy, brush peat into the holes instead.