Sowing, Turfing and Maintaining your perfect Garden Lawn

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Preparing the ground for a Garden Lawn

The ideal topsoil for a garden lawn is a well drained sandy loam of about 20-30cm deep, over a well drained subsoil. Grass will develop a good deep root system under these conditions.

Dig or rotavate the site and rake the ground level to a fine tilth. In general it is good practice to slope the lawn away from the house, this will prevent water collecting on your patio or against the house wall.

The ground should be firmed thoroughly by treading using your heels, (do not go onto the site though if the ground is too wet, as this will only cause compaction). Rake the area level removing any stones and levelling any humps or hollows.

If it is possible leave the site now to settle down for 3-4 weeks and allow any weed seeds to germinate; these can be quickly killed off by hoeing, or use of a suitable weed killer.

Sowing, Turfing and Maintaining your perfect Garden Lawn

Creating a new Garden Lawn

There are two methods of creating a garden lawn:

1) Seeding a lawn is probably the easiest and cheapest method, but it takes time for the grass to grow and develop into a good lawn.

After preparing the site as above, re-rake the area to be sown both ways to get the area as level as possible with a tilth as fine as possible, (spend time on this, if you don’t get it right now it will be a lot harder to correct later on).

Top dress the surface of the soil with superphosphate of lime at approx 2oz per sq yd and rake in well, this will help the roots to establish a lot quicker.

When sowing a lawn choose a ready-mixed seed mixture to suit the type of lawn that you want to create.

A fine garden lawn mix will contain slower, shorter growing grasses such as Festuca’s and Agrostis, that will with stand close mowing. Regular mowing will keep out the rougher grasses.

A family lawn needs to be tougher and therefore will contain grasses that are faster growing, but these grasses will not stand to be cut as close as the lawn above. These mixes contain grasses like the smooth stalked meadow grass and short seeded perennial ryegrass. Great for back lawns and if you have kids who love to play football.

Seed can be sown by hand or with a spreader machine. Which ever method you choose, sow half the seed in one direction and half in the other direction at the rate recommended by the supplier. Using a garden rake, lightly rake over the site. In dry periods keep watering to ensure germination.

You may have to fence off the site to prevent animals or humans from disturbing the area, and also cover with a net if birds are a problem.

Germination should take 7-14 days. If you have a cylinder mower or a very light roller, then go over to flatten, (not cut), the grass when it gets to 40mm high, this will induce “tillering”, (like taking the tip out of a plant), and will produce more growth from the base of the plant.

First mowing takes place when the grass gets back to 50-75mm, preferably with a rotary mower so that the young seedlings are not pulled out of the ground.

2) Turfing a garden lawn is the quickest, though most expensive way of getting an established lawn almost instantly. This should make the kids happy.

Prepare the site as per seeding, then go and see the turf that you are going to buy, to check that it is the quality that you require. Always buy turf that has been specifically grown for garden lawns and not meadow grass cut from a rough pasture.

Lay the first roll of turf against a straight edge i.e. path or patio. Do not stand on the turf but use a plank to kneel on as you move across the site, laying the rolls of turf edge to edge in brickwork fashion. Cover the whole area and then trim the edges to the required shape.

The grass turves should be tamped down as you go along with the back of the rake to ensure a close fit with the soil underneath. Any gaps between the turves can be filled with a top dressing of sandy loam. Keep the lawn watered until established.

Maintenance of a Garden Lawn

Most of the following procedures are done to relieve compaction of the soil and to allow air and water into the root area and are best carried out in the autumn preferably when the soil is moist.

1) Scarifying – This is raking away any dead grass, moss or debris with the use of a spring tined rake or machine. Can be done lightly during the summer if necessary.

2) Airation Carried out by the use of a slitting machine which puts slits up to a depth of 10cm into the lawn. For smaller garden lawns a hand fork can be use to open up holes in the turf, and finally, for more established and hungry lawns the use of a hollow-tined fork or machine can be use to remove cores of soil, this allows for more top dressing to reach the roots.

3) Top Dressing – Apply immediately after the above procedures have been completed on a dry day. Six parts river sand, three parts sandy loam and one part peat can be applied and rubbed in with the back of a steel rake or a stiff brush.

An application of feed and weed during the early spring and mid-summer based on nitrogen will benefit the lawn greatly and another in autumn based on potash will put the lawn in good stead for the winter.