Basic Lawn Repairs to Improve Garden Lawns
A patchy, uneven or badly worn lawn is unattractive and difficult to mow. However, neglected lawns can be repaired quite effectively.
In most gardens, the lawn receives far more wear and tear than is good for it, and many types of damage can occur:
- Bumps and hollows caused by poor initial laying, or later heaving or subsidence.
- Bare patches caused by wear, poor , shade, scorching by pet urine, excess fertilizer doses, weed removal or continuous drips from overhead foliage.
- Broken or dead edges caused by damage during cultivation of borders, or by overhanging plants.
- Shrub suckers and tree roots breaking up the surface.
Some lawn repairs are only minor and proabably unnecessary, so, if left alone, may well repair themselves. Others, however, need careful treatment to restore the natural beauty of the lawn.
Lawn Repairs – Levelling Bumps and Hollows
Bumps show up especially when the lawn is close-mown in summer. The raised areas tend to get scalped, leaving brown patches. Hollows, on the other hand, show as areas of much greener, lusher grass.
Simple levelling work is best carried out when the grass is dormant between mid autumn and early spring.
Level small hollows simply by scattering a thin layer ofover the area and brushing it in. Make up a mixture of half finely sieved, loamy soil and half sand. Apply no more than 1 2cm (1/2in) at a time, repeating every couple of weeks from autumn until spring. The soil will settle in after each application and eventually level the site.
To reduce a small bump, prick it over with a special hollow-tine aerator. This tool removes small plugs of soil. As the remaining soil settles into the holes, the level drops slightly. Begin in autumn and repeat every month or so until the bump has levelled out.
Larger hollows and bumps need different treatment. Peel back the turf over the affected area and add or remove soil until the right level is reached.
Lawn Repairs – Filling Bare Patches
First try to determine why the grass has died out. Some causes, such as weed removal, oil spillage or pet urine scorching, may not recur on the same spot. Others, such as poor drainage or wear, are likely to be long-term recurring problems. Learn to recognize the symptoms:
- Excessive wear — muddy, compacted tracks.
- Drought — yellow and eventually dead, brown grass.
- Weed/moss removal — irregular areas of dead or depleted grass.
- Pet urine — regular, circular, brown patches surrounded by a narrow ring of unusually deep green grass.
- Chemical / oil / petrol spillage —brown patches, often irregular in outline.
- Buried builder’s rubble — brown or yellow patches on a new site.
Before starting the repair, remedy the cause if possible. Worn patches generally reflect routes of maximum use. Consider replacing these areas with a path or stepping stones. Train pets — especially female dogs — to use a pet toilet away from the lawn. Repair and maintain the lawnmower in the garage, not on the grass.
Lawn Repairs – Re-Seeding
This is the easiest method of repairing a bare patch. The best time is spring or autumn during reasonably fine weather, but wait at least six weeks after applying a hormone weedkiller to the lawn. First loosen the surface with a hand fork. Work in a sprinkling of granular fertilizer and then rake the soil to a fine, even tilth. (Add a little fresh, sieved soil if the site isn’t level or the soil is poor.) Select a seed mixture which matches the existing lawn. Some nurseries offer special re-seeding mixtures which are said to germinate very quickly and produce an excellent finish within just a few weeks.
Sow general-purpose grass seed — containing ryegrass — at a rate of 25g per sq m (1oz per sq yd). Sow fine-quality lawn seed a little thicker at about 40g per sq m (1-1/2oz per sq yd). Rake the seed in and firm down lightly.
Water gently, but frequently in warm, dry weather. If you have a sprinkler, leave it running for about 15 minutes each day.
Also protect seed from birds — though many seed mixtures contain a bird repellant chemical, it’s a good idea nonetheless to take precautions. A network of black cotton stretched over the area can be effective. Alternatively, lay a sheet of clear polythene over the patch and secure it with pegs. This method will also conserve some moisture, but remove the polythene as soon as seedlings appear.
Lawn Repairs – Re-Turfing
Re-turfing may be more appropriate where quite deep digging is necessary to eliminate the cause of the problem — to remove buried rubble, or improve drainage, for example. If the bare patch lies in a prominent spot, replace it with turf taken from a less noticeable part of the lawn. Re-seed this patch later. Alternatively, if you have quite a few bare patches, buy new turfs.
Begin by digging out the dead patch, using a hand fork. If deep digging is necessary, use a garden fork or spade. Remove all polluted soil and debris. Once the full extent of the problem has been exposed, square off the area by making shallow cuts with a spade or half-moon turfing iron. If you intend to replace with bought turf, cut out an area equivalent in size to one or more pieces. Otherwise, cut out as small an area of lawn as is possible.
Loosen and re-level the exposed soil, adding fresh soil if necessary, before bedding the replacement turf. Lastly, firm down the new turf, fill in the cracks with a 50:50 mix of sieved, loamy soil and sand, and water in well.
Water re-seeded and re-turfed areas if they show signs of drying out. Remove any weeds by hand and delay mowing until the re- paired patches are properly integrated in the established lawn.
Lawn Repairs – Repairing Broken Edges
Lawn edges can be damaged in a variety of ways. Overhanging plants often smother the grass and it soon dies out. When the offending plants are cut back, the lawn must be repaired. Certain lawnmowers can also damage the edge — particularly the hover type — or you can break the edge with your heel while cultivating an adjoining plant border.
Begin by cutting out a rectangle of turf around the broken edge, using a spade or turfing iron. Cut sections small enough to lift out without breaking into pieces. You may need to make several cuts along a badly damaged edge. Trim away any dead roots or bare soil from the broken edge.
Lift the turf with a spade and reverse it so that the undamaged inner edge forms the new outer edge. You are now left with an irregular hole. Fill this with sieved loamy soil before firming down the whole area. Lastly reseed or re-turf the bare patch as described previously.
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