Tools for Lawn Maintenance
Though man’s ingenuity in devising machines to take over physical labour is boundless, only buy tools that are really useful.
Really all that is needed unless the lawn area exceeds 50 square yards, or unless you are a lawn enthusiast who wishes to cut the lawn at least twice a week in May and June (which is good practice, by the way) is a simple hand mower. Hand mowers are of two types: the roller and side-wheel. The roller type has a rear roller and another roller in the front which together ensure that the blades follow closely the surface of the lawn and so give a close neat cut. The sidewheel roller has two large wheels on either side of the cutter and a small roller at the rear. It is lighter and more adapted to cutting rough grass.
POWERED CYLINDER MOWERS
These have a similar type of curved blades to the above, which form a cylinder and cut against a bottom plate, but are powered by petrol engines, batteries or mains electricity. Powered machines are easily able to cut a wider swathe than human effort alone will allow, so the blades may be 14 inches or 18 inches wide compared to the conventional 12-inch hand mower. Electrically powered mowers are simple to operate, quiet and do not produce exhaust gases. They are probably better for smaller lawns. You will also need a hand mower for odd corners and verges where grit and stones might affect the motor mower blades.
Without depreciating their much-vaunted adaptability, there is no doubt that rotary mowers, powered by petrol, batteries or mains electricity, are marvellous for dealing with areas of rough and longer grass. The rotary mower has a horizontal blade which whirls round and chops off the heads of everything that comes within its compass. The speed at which the blade rotates provides its cutting effectiveness and a hundred cuts a yard produce a better finish than 50 cuts a yard. The newest type of rotary mower runs on the ‘hovercraft’ principle and has the special merit of making a close cut and following undulations and banks easily, and dissecting the grass into myriads of tiny fragments so that no collecting box is needed for the mown grass.
Shears are the cheapest e ;rs and rely not so much on the sharpness of the blade as the perfection of the scissor-like mating of the two blades. The long-handled blades that make a vertical cut are the most useful, although there are types adapted to cutting horizontally. You can also buy electrically operated trimmers with oscillating teeth. Aids to edge trimming include the half-moon blade which will enable you to recut edges that have lost their definition, and both plastic and metal strip will help to consolidate an edge once it is defined.
DISTRIBUTORS AND SPREADERS
Ranging from knapsack to wheeled designs, these are excellent for distributing fertilisers and solid weedkillers evenly in powder or liquid form.
Most lawn enthusiasts end up buying automatic hose-attached water sprinklers. These should only be used in relation to an outside standpipe for which water authority permission is needed, and watering is restricted at times of drought. Extra water is usual, a few days’ drought will affect delicate lawn constitutions’.
AERATORS AND DRAINERS
Scarifiers are very useful for freeing the grass from moss and other impediments. The ‘Springbok’ fork, consisting of springy powerful wires, is most useful. Aerating thebecomes important when it gets too compact, and special hollow-tined forks working on the soil will pull out core-like ‘moon-rock’ samples, leaving it free for both air, water and fertiliser. Spiked rollers achieve the same effect.
Galvanised iron wheelbarrows with air tyres are best for lightness and grip of the ground. Conventional brooms and rakes are useful too.
If you inherit an old lawn it is possible nowadays to renovate it without digging it up. Simply water it with a contact weedkiller (paraquat-diquat) and the top growth will die off within a few days in sunny weather without the weedkiller affecting the soil beneath. After about a week proceed as though aerating it. Do this thoroughly, leaving holes every few inches and remove the cores to the compost heap. Into the holes brush in a mixture of gypsum and well-matured compost which has been sieved. If the land is heavy increase the proportion of gypsum, making it say 2 to 1 by bulk; if the soil is light increase the proportion of compost (powdered seaweed can also be used). Grass likes a soil which is on the acid side but not too acid which it may be if it has been used for a lawn for a long time. Test the soil for acid and if you find it much below pH 6-5 add a little ground limestone to the mixture up to 4 ozs. Per square yard. Sand or peat can be added to the mixture according to whether the soil is heavy or light. Work it well into the holes in the soil and then scarify to get rid of the old grass roots. The surface should then be thinly covered with a mixture of sand and peat with ordinary lawn fertiliser in the prescribed quantity. Lightly rake and sow the seed of your choice.