How to Start a Garden and Sowing Lawn Seed

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How to Start a Garden

You have no doubt come here because you want to know how to start a garden – on your new plot of land with your new home. If you have been able to clear your site or the area intended for the lawn without much trouble, you would be wise to get it covered as early in your garden scheme as possible. Get the surface for the new lawn as level as you can. If you are a perfectionist, use pegs, string and a spirit level. Otherwise rake with a board or garden line to guide you. If your garden slopes, it may be best to break it up into a series of level terraces with retaining walls like steps between them. If you have children, you can give them a lower terrace for playing while you make the higher ones pretty for yourself.

Remember that if the garden slopes away from the house you will not see much of it from your windows. Levelling this would be a major task, but you could make a wall or rockery at the bottom and push it up. If you decide to keep the slope, rake across, not downwards, to prevent soil and later seed from washing away.

You can use seed or turves (regular pieces of grass taken from a field) for your lawn. Turves are convenient because they can be laid at any time except in frosty weather. Grass seed will often germinate at any time, but is best sown in September or March.

Most good seed companies make up special lawn seed mixtures to suit soils (clay or sand), situations (sun or shade) and use (heavy or light). Be sure you specify your requirements when you order. Where the children will play on the lawn it is best to use a hard-wearing mixture which includes some rye grass, although this will require regular sowing. Finer mixtures without ryegrass need less cutting but won’t take such tough usage.  One pound of seed will cover an area of roughly 10 sq. yards. And with this knowledge, now that you want to know how to start a garden, I can only but stress that good drainage is essential.

Poor soils should always be enriched so that the grass is constantly nourished. Lichen and mosses can be a nuisance on a poor soil. You can use any good lawn fertiliser or bonemeal. Alternatively, you can make your own lawn fertiliser by mixing one ounce of bonemeal, one ounce of superphosphate, half an ounce of sulphate of ammonia and one quarter ounce of sulphate of potash to every square yard. Rake this in a week before you sow the grass or lay the turves.

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Sowing lawn seed can be done during the summer months but the new lawns will need care and watering in a drought. After the first preparatory digging in spring and autumn, leave the soil in clods as you work. Keep your eyes open for any weeds you may have overlooked. After two or three weeks, longer if possible, level the site, first breaking down the soil into finer particles with the digging fork and then raking to make a fine tilth suitable for seeds. Make sure that the surface is level.

If no soil sticks to your shoes, then the soil is dry and right for seed sowing. Either tread the whole surface (with flat shoes) or give it a light rolling to compact it. This will give the grass a firm root hold. Rake it lightly once more, just scratching the top surface of the soil, so that it is ready to receive the seed.

This needs to be applied at the rate of one and a half ounces a square yard and it is important to sow evenly. Some people divide the whole area to be sown into yard squares, marking them out with string or thick white thread, attached to pegs set at yard intervals at the lawn edges, and although this may seem extra work, it really is worth while. It is also worth while weighing and measuring an ounce and a half — you may have a cup or some kitchen measure which will just hold this amount exactly, then all you have to do is to dip into the bag for each square yard.

Sow half the measure full in the marked-out square, shaking it lightly first from side to side, and then sow the other half the other way round from the top of the square to the base. This way the seed will be spread evenly over the whole area. You can use a flour sifter or a pierced tin or jar with a pierced lid as a seed shaker. Have ready some fine sifted soil and cast this lightly over the seeded patch just to cover and weight down the seeds.

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If you keep the pegs in place, you can use them to stretch cotton criss-cross over the seeded area just above ground level. Seed may be treated with bird repellent — most seed is — but this will not stop the birds from having a taste before they are repelled, nor from using the nice fine soil as a dust bath. It really does not matter what colour the thread or cotton is, you want only to deter the birds not to trick them.

Seed usually germinates between ten to twenty days after sowing, depending on the weather. Knowing how to start a garden is important and keeping off the grass is important too until the young leaves, or blades, are two inches high. At this point it may be mown carefully. Use a machine with a roller attached, rather than one with side wheels which will cut into the soil. If your machine is old, be sure to have the blades sharpened or set or the tiny plants will be pulled out of the soil. The mower blades need to be set so that they just tip the grass. Mow this way, just tipping the grass once a week for a month. After this, gradually lower the blades.

If there is a drought, be sure to know that this is all part of how to start a garden. If indeed, there is a drought, you will need to water the young grass seedlings gently, and thoroughly with a fine rose or a hose sprinkler system and give plenty. Sprinkling the surface will do more harm than good.

Weed-seedlings may also appear with the grass. Some will disappear with mowing, others will be more persistent but wait a year before using a “selective” weedkiller. These kill broad-leaved plants but not grasses, so take the greatest care not to let any spray fall on the borders. Selective weedkillers can be in liquid or lawn sand form. The former include Verdone, Supertox, Lornox and lawn sands include Lawn Plus, Fison’s Evergreen and Velvetone.

15. September 2010 by Dave Pinkney
Categories: Garden Landscapes, Gardening Ideas, Lawns, New Gardens | Tags: , | Comments Off on How to Start a Garden and Sowing Lawn Seed


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