Getting a Better Lawn...

Many visitors to our bulb centre comment upon our lawns. They are as a rule very green, weed and moss free, evenly cropped, free of bare patches and nicely edged.

The fact is, however good your garden in terms of flowers beds and borders, unless the lawn is in good order it is more than probable that you will be somewhat disappointed with the overall result.

          

                  

Visitors often ask us how we achieve our lawns. To save time we give them an A4 sheet entitled "How to get a lawn like mine". It reads as follows:

 
How to get a Lawn Like Mine!  

Most gardeners want a lawn that sets off the rest of their garden, but does not take up too much of their time to maintain. They want a bright green lawn, free of weeds and moss, with no bare patches. My lawn is as good a lawn as one is likely to find, yet I spend not much more than one hour a week on it, which includes the all-important edging.

So what is the secret?  

Do only what is necessary to create a good turf structure, and avoid doing anything that is unnecessary, such as picking up grass cuttings, scarifying, or raking moss.  

Like most plants, grass needs three things: light, moisture and nutrients.

You will be lucky to grow decent grass in a heavily shaded area, or where the soil dries out, or where it is unfed despite constant mowing, (every time you mow, you in effect crop the grass, and no farmer crops anything without applying fertiliser to restore the lost nutrients).  

So lets look at the major constituents of getting a proper lawn.  

Mowing.  

I mow throughout the year, using a quality cylinder mower. In the winter this amounts to perhaps a light going over once a month, less if it continuously cold. By March I begin to increase the frequency, and from April until October I will be mowing every three to five days.

I set the mower blades quite close, about ¾ inches high, and do not, (indeed cannot), collect the clippings. By mowing frequently the clippings are not unsightly, being so short, and to a small degree put goodness back into the soil. The time saved in not collecting clippings more than compensates for the additional time spent mowing. It also avoids giant compost heaps!

I mow at 90° to the normal cutting direction from time to time, to keep the grass level.  NB. Rotary mowers work well enough, but a well set-up cylinder mower will always produce a better finish.  

Fertilising.

          It is vital to feed a lawn. Start in March with a high nitrogen fertiliser applied at the rate of 1lb per 40 sq yards, and then again every 2 or 3 months. The last feed should be in October, but here avoid a high nitrogen compound and instead apply an NPK balanced fertiliser at about 1lb per 60 sq yards. This feeds the root system, helping the turf through the winter, and incidentally helps keep moss at bay.           
Many gardeners are fooled into thinking that in the spring their lawn is looking OK, even without feeding, because there is always an early burst of fresh growth. This however soon passes, and the grass becomes increasingly more exhausted. You would too, if you were never fed.

Weed Control.

You will need a sprayer, as the most effective weed-killers are applied in liquid form.

To begin with you will have a lot of work on your hands as I expect your lawn is covered in weeds. Do not despair, so was mine, once. I use an agricultural spray with MCPA, (which are the initials of the unpronounceable active ingredients). This is a broad-leaf herbicide, which does not affect grass, only daisies and the like. It produces very quick growth in the weeds, literally overnight, this leading to their extinction.

You may have to buy your spray from a garden centre, which is outrageously expensive, but there it is. Most lawn sprays are MCPA with a fancy name, and a very fancy price.

Once you have got on top of the weeds, spot spraying once a month is quite enough for a completely weed-free lawn. It really is that easy.

Other Things to Consider.

Moss: moss normally forms in the winter, and then lingers on for the rest of the year. Moss loves poor soils, badly drained soils, or nutrient-starved soils. Kill moss by using a proprietary moss killer, but despite the instructions on the tin, do not rake the dead moss. This simply spreads the live spores, of which there are bound to be some. Just leave the blackened moss in the grass, which in due course will vanish.  Fertilising your grass will keep it away thereafter, as moss is a poor competitor.

Scarifying:  a complete waste of time, in fact harmful to the thatch from which grass grows. I do not understand why people scarify lawns, it is ridiculous. Grass grows from the bottom, so why tear its root system to pieces?

Aeration: another complete waste of time. I may be spoilt, as I enjoy a nice silt soil, but unless your lawn has been created on builder’s rubble or the like, it should be open enough for grass to grow without the hard work involved in aeration. Worms are the best aerators of soil.

Watering: this is to be much recommended if there has been little rain over a three week period. Put on about ½ inch at a time, as anything less will not achieve the desired results. As it happens, a good lawn can be allowed to brown off with no ill-effects, as it will green up within a few days of rain.

Poor Grasses: many lawns contain rye grass, bents, fogs and so on. These grasses are best controlled by frequent close mowing, which encourages the finer fescues to take over.

Combined Fertiliser and Weedkillers: retail compounds are very expensive, and in my experience, not very efficacious.

Pets and Children: we have four Labradors, grand-children, and many visitors to our garden. The lawns take them all in their stride, as good lawns should.

The Test of a Good Lawn

The turf should be green and springy, and you should be able to see your footprints for half a minute or so after you have walked on the grass.

So there you have it. Andy Bone’s guide to getting a lawn you can be proud of.

Go for it!