Making Garden Lawns
Prime-quality garden lawns, fine-textured, even and with a short pile, make a wonderfully cooling and refreshing visual impact. Such perfection is achieved through sowing fine-leaved grasses of compact growth, mowing frequently to prevent coarser grasses becoming dominant, constant maintenance and minimum wear. But what most people need are garden lawns that are hard wearing, long-lasting and easy to maintain.
Garden lawns that will stand up to reasonable wear and can tolerate a certain degree of neglect, contain coarser and broader-leaved grasses than prime quality garden lawns. They won’t have a luxuriant close texture — although a good cylinder mower will help to improve the finish — but will present a pleasing contrast to the colour and leaf shapes of the borders while allowing you and your family to enjoy them as a main surface outside the house.
Preparing the Site
The best time to sow grass seed is from late summer to early autumn, or else in.
Turf is best laid from mid autumn to late winter, but it can also be put down in early Spring. Whenever you plan to sow seed or lay turf, you must start preparing the ground at least three to four months in advance.
Begin by clearing the site of all rubbish, then you can set about adjusting levels and dealing with anyproblems. A gentle slope can be an advantage and, on a large area, slight undulations are not a problem. But no lawn should have abrupt bumps and hollows.
Small-scale irregularities can easily be adjusted if you first establish a level by pegging out the area. You may need to bring in some topsoil to fill hollows, since even when you takefrom bumps you should leave an absolute minimum of 15cm (6in) of topsoil.
If a major levelling job is required, first take off the topsoil and store it on a piece of tarpaulin at one side, to be redistributed over the surface later.
On most sites, improving the soil texture by adding bulky organic matter or inorganic matter such as gritty sand will give the free drainage that a lawn needs. On heavy clay soils you may have to construct soakaways at the lower end of sloping sites. These are pits about lm (3ft) deep, filled with rubble and a layer of small stones below the topsoil. Laying drainpipes bedded in gravel in the subsoil is an effective but costly solution that should only be considered if all other measures fail.
Dig the area or work over it with a mechanical cultivator about three months before sowing or turfing to allow weed seeds to germinate and the soil to be broken down by weathering. Avoid bringing subsoil to the surface, and remove stones and the roots of perennial weeds as you go along.
Hoe out weeds that grow during the weathering process or treat with a chemical weedkiller. A final treatment is useful just before preparation of the surface.
Preparing the Bed
Success in establishing a lawn depends on having a well-levelled, firm bed. The worked surface or tilth should be finer for sowing seed than for turfing.
Break down clods using a roller if you have one, or trample over the surface. Choose a day when the soil is reasonably dry to do this. Next, rake across the bed, removing any stones or debris.
About a week later, firm the ground by working your way across it, treading very closely and putting your weight on your heels (work systematically). Rake, and then repeat both procedures, this time moving at right angles to the direction you first took.
Repeat until there are no soft patches and no bumps and depressions. The top layer of soil should have a crumbly texture. At this stage rake in a small handful of general fertilizer per sq m (sq yd) and leave the soil to settle for about a week before sowing seed or laying turf.
Click here to learn about buying turf and then how you should be laying turf.