Guide to Growing a Lawn
Nothing sets off a garden design like a verdant blanket of grass. Whether you’re looking for a hard-wearing family lawn or a manicured showpiece to complement your plants, lawns are easy to begin from scratch.
Technically, you can create a new lawn at any time, but it is more likely to succeed if started at the right time of the year. Lawns sown in fall tend to establish quickly as the soil is still warm, and the wet weather prevents it from drying out. The next best time is in spring, although seedlings will have to cope with frost, cooler soil temperatures, and competition from weeds.
Turf is generally laid between early fall and late winter, and although it is possible to create both turf and seed-sown lawns during summer, they will require copious watering to help them establish.
After laying or sowing a lawn, you will need to give it close attention until it has established and is ready for use. Grass seed will germinate within 7–21 days, and you should ensure that the soil does not dry out during this time. If the weather is dry, use a sprinkler to keep the ground moist. Hungry birds can disturb seeds, so cover the newly sown area with a net held down with tent pegs or large stones. When the grass is about 2-1/2 inches (6 cm) high, give the lawn its first cut. Use a rotary mower with the blades set high to avoid dragging the delicate seedlings out of the ground. Repeat several times during the growing season, but avoid any other traffic on the lawn for at least ten weeks after sowing to allow the grass to develop a strong root system.
Turf is easier to establish. After laying, keep it well-watered, especially during dry weather. When the grass shows signs of new growth, cut it with a mower set on a high setting. Wait at least six weeks before using the turf, and then avoid anything but light traffic. When the pieces have connected without any gaps, your new lawn is ready to be used. (Fill any gaps that do appear with soil.)
Turf can vary in quality, so buy from a reputable supplier, and check it for weeds. Meadow turf is cheap, but often of poor quality, while domestic turf is hard-wearing and best for family lawns. Fine turf is ideal for a showpiece lawn. Always check turf before you purchase it. Reject any with weeds, bare patches, or yellowing edges; these suggest that they are long overdue for planting.
Although newly created lawns need careful attention, you don't need to be a slave to an established lawn. Allowing the grass to grow longer and raising the height of the blade means you will mow less often, and the lawn should be able to cope better in drought situations.
An alternative to a traditional lawn is a wildflower lawn. Lay special turf containing native flowers, such as yarrow, ragged robin, and cowslip, and a mixture of ornamental and native grasses that can be left to grow long.
Old, Tired Lawns
If you inherit a neglected lawn, you may be able to restore it with a program of renovation starting in spring. Mow on a high setting, then feed with a general-purpose spring feed. Ten days later, apply a lawn weedkiller. Level out bumps and hollows, and reseed any bare patches. Keep the lawn well watered during dry periods. If the lawn has more weeds than grass, it may be better to start again from scratch.