Starting a Garden – Landscaping and Garden Lawn Ideas
In anything but the merest courtyard garden, you will probably have some areas of grass. If the existing grass has not been reduced by the builders to charred or muddy wilderness, it can usually be resuscitated by a lot of loving care. Cut down the jungle-like top growth, mow, and when you can see the whites of the daisies’ eyes, start to reclaim the land.
Slice off any hillocks, and fill up any depressions with topsoil and then re-sow both areas. After a year of mowing, raking, spiking, feeding, watering, weed-killing and re-sowing failed patches, you should be the exhausted but triumphant owner of a reasonable lawn. If you have to start from scratch, it is obviously cheaper to seed the lawn rather than to turf it, but for smaller areas, the convenience of having an instantly usable lawn may well make it worth the extra expense of turf. The delivery charge is often as much as the price of the turf for small areas, so see if you can share a load with a neighbour and split the cost of the delivery charge between you. For a few square yards of turf, you could collect it yourself in the boot of your car. The turf comes in pieces (about 30 x 90cm or 1′ x 3′) and it is, once again, well worth getting a really good quality turf from an established supplier.
It is possible that you may have some surplus turf from another area of the garden, perhaps doomed to disappear under a shed, or be dug over for the. It will make the lifting and relaying easier if you mark out the area to be lifted with pegs and string, into rectangles of the desired size.
Using a piece of timber as a straight-edge, cut with a spade or a half-moon cutter along the sides to about 4 to 5cm (1-1/2″ to 2″) deep. Then cut across the length at three-foot intervals (or whatever length suits your purpose). Lift the turves by slipping your spade underneath them and moving the spade from side to side to loosen them. When they are free, lift them, roll them up like a Swiss roll, and carry them like this to the area to be turfed, as they are less likely to break when carried in this way. Then lay them out flat in a single layer.
If you find that your turves have all come up in different thicknesses, make a turf tray. Get an off-cut of wood that is about 90cm (3ft) long by 30cm (1ft) wide and nail a batten of the required depth down each side. It is then simple to lay each turf in the tray, (earth side up) and slice off any surpluswith an old sharp knife. This will make the task of laying the turves much quicker and produce a level lawn.
Lay the turves in rows with staggered joins, like brickwork. Stand or kneel on a plank as you lay each subsequent row, to protect the newly laid turves. It will be easier if you have already marked out the area to be laid with string or timber, and any untidy hits at the sides can be trimmed off with a sharp spade or half-moon cutter, using a straight-edge to keep the line crisp. When you have finished, brush peat between the joins to help the turves to knit up.
Whether you sow or turf, the ground will have to be well prepared beforehand, or you will be wasting your time and money. Having reassured yourself that theis adequate, dig over the ground, removing any large stones and perennial weeds as you go. If the soil is not in good spirits, give a boost by spreading a 2.5-5cm (1-2″) layer of peat, coarse sand and well-rotted manure or . If you cannot get either of the latter, add a lawn fertiliser or Growmore, following the quantities given on the packet. Rake these into the soil, treading firmly and levelling the surface as you go. Pull a plank or straight-edge of timber across the soil in both directions to make sure that there are no lumps or hollows left, and rake again.
If the weather is dry, give the area a good watering before seeding or turfing. If you are seeding, it helps to mark out the area in square metres with string, as this makes it easier to sow the seed evenly. Ask your supplier to advise you on the most suitable seed for your purposes and site. Late summer and early autumn are usually advised as the best times to sow, but you can sow in spring, once there are signs of growth about, and in early or mid summer, if you can be sure that you will be able to keep the lawn adequately watered. Once you have sown the seed, rake the ground lightly and fix some kind of bird-scaring contraption. Strips cut from plastic shopping bags and knotted round lengths of string make quite good scares, when fluttering lines are stretched out over the lawn.
Turf can be laid at almost any time if the land is not frozen,or drought-stricken. Again, it should be kept well watered in dry weather, although it can be used right away, the longer you keep people and pets off it until it is well settled and ‘knit’ together, the happier it will be.
If all this has made you feel quite tired and limp before you start, you could, at a pinch, consider using an imitation grass lawn. I have to admit to a great deal of prejudice against these however, but I also have to admit that I have seen some of them looking very good in small urban gardens and on roof gardens. There is some variation between them, so shop around and find one that has some restraint and credibility. They can be brushed, hoovered and hosed-down, all of which takes much less time than the unceasing programme of after-care that the real thing will demand. If you can’t afford to buy the stuff, hunt exhibitions and agricultural shows to see if you can buy some from the stands when they close down.
Once your garden lawn is in place, you will make life easier for yourself if you install some kind of edging which can be mown over. This can bestones, a course or two of bricks, tiles, or some kind of curbing, whether it be of stone, concrete or timber. These should all be set below the surface of the lawn so that the mower can pass smoothly over them. If you are laying them to a newly made lawn, allow a little extra depth for settlement. In a wild garden setting, you could use split logs as an edging, and if you have not got enough of your own, you can buy them in rolls at 15, 30 and 45cm (6″, 12″ and 18″) high. If you have any disintegrating panels of interwoven lying about, unweave the strips and use them as a retaining edge, kept in place by wooden pegs – all treated with preservative, of course. Old railway sleepers would make a rugged looking curb, too. Once again, old bricks or lengths of timber, rescued from skips etc., will be your cheapest solution.