Without a great deal of effort the average gardener can have an attractive lawn whether large or small depending on the size of plot he is cultivating. He may already have an established lawn which has been neglected and is patchy and moss ridden. Unless the deterioration has become too serious, simple steps can be taken to improve the grass so that it can again hold its own against the encroachingetc. It may be found however, on examination that the lawn now consists mainly of moss and, although from a distance still looks green, has in fact very little actual grass growing at all. In this case it would almost certainly pay to scrap the whole thing and begin again with either turf or lawn seed.
If however this decision is taken it would be wise to find out if possible why the original lawn had failed. It would be a great pity to dig up a lawn, and replant only to find that the troubles return. If the lawn has been seriously affected by moss it is likely that the drainage is poor. If the lawn is to be re-planted this can of course be taken care of during preparation but in some cases only odd patches of moss have appeared and these can be effectively treated by spiking the surface with a garden fork to a depth of three or four inches. This will allow air to penetrate down to the roots and help them to grow more vigorously. When the spiking has been done, some sand should be lightly brushed into the holes. This treatment should be carried out during the late autumn or winter. In the following spring an application of special moss killing chemical, which can be bought at most gardening shops, should be considered and followed by raking with a wire rake, the bare patches being re-seeded. Most other weeds, clover, daisies etc. can also be dealt with in a similar way, using a suitable weedkiller for the purpose, and the spaces re-stocked with grass.
During the summer when the lawn becomes dry and appears to be in need of water, it is a great mistake to sprinkle small quantities each day. This often causes the surface to stay damp and does no real good to the root system. It is far better to give the lawn a really good soaking once a week and then let it dry out naturally during the next few days. This will help to avoid moss appearing.
When the grass growing season has begun, usually in March, the first cut should be made with great care making sure that the grass is not cut too short. It would be sensible for this cut to adjust the mower so that only the very top of the grass is trimmed and the mower used without the grass box. If the grass is cut too short at this early stage brown patches soon appear which will spoil the look of the lawn and it will be a long time before the grass can regain its strength. As the season advances the mower blades should be re-set and by May shorter cutting once weekly should keep the grass neat and tidy. During a dry spell it will be advantageous to cut the grass without the grass box so that the smallprotect and keep the lawn as moist as possible. Whenever possible raking the lawn prior to mowing will help to raise the grass and the creeping weeds so that they will be efficiently cut when the mower passes over them. During the summer, it is always better to mow quite frequently before the grass becomes too long and cutting has to be postponed because of wet weather. When the grass box is used the clippings should of course be put onto the heap.
Sooner or later on the best ofpatches in need of repair will appear, caused either by the removal of weeds or by wear from general traffic. This can easily be remedied by cutting out the worn area and replacing it with a new turf. If the piece to be repaired is on the edge of the lawn it is a simple matter to cut out a square of turf including the worn edge and turn it round. The remaining hole can now be filled with and having made sure that the soil is firm, seed the patch so that in a short time the patch will be covered with new grass. To deal with hollows or bumps in the grass the turf should be cut and turned back so that the soil level underneath can be corrected before the turf is laid back in place and the resultant cracks filled with sifted soil.
Planting a new lawn
If a new lawn is planned it should first be decided if the lawn is to be level or alternatively follow the natural slopes of the garden. If it is to be level the first essential is to cut some wooden pegs and drive them into the soil at intervals of six feet in all directions. With the aid of a long board and a spirit level it will be simple to raise or lower each peg until they are all even. The soil should then be raked over so that the soil becomes level against the pegs. If a large amount of levelling is necessary it would be wisest to first remove the top-soil so that it can be replaced after the levelling has taken place. This will obviate unnecessary burying of this valuable soil.
The next step will be to dig over the area thoroughly making sure that all weeds, particularly the perennial ones, are removed. Any that are left behind will surely appear sooner or later on the surface and spoil the look of the lawn. As this digging takes place all the larger stones and debris should be removed. When this has been completed the soil should be trodden down all over to break up the surface.
This preliminary work should be carried out in the autumn and if the site is to be turfed, it should be raked over in all directions and then lightly rolled or trodden over again. This will show up any unevenness and should be repeated several times, if possible at weekly intervals. When the soil is quite flat with no soft patches that will eventually sink, it should be finally raked lightly over. It is now ready for turfing to begin.
When ordering turf be sure that the type most suited to your needs is supplied. There are many fine grasses which make beautiful “billiard table” lawns which will not stand up to much wear and only being suitable for show lawns.
For the average garden it would be better to go in for a mixture of fine leaved grasses and perennial ryegrass. This will stand up to hard wear and a certain amount of neglect without it being too obvious as would very soon happen with a fine leaved de-luxe lawn. The cost also varies considerably and it seems pointless to go to the expense of a super quality turf, if, after the children have played on it for a few weeks, it begins to look sad and in need of repair.
Work on laying turfs should be started down one side of the site and as each is laid in position care should taken not to leave spaces between the pieces. When the second row is being set it should be started with a half turf so that as the setting proceeds, the joins will not be opposite the previous row, just as bricks are set in a wall. As soon as the first row is in position, a long plank of wood should be placed across the row and the person setting the turfs should stand on this rather than on the prepared soil. When all the turfs have been set a mixture of soil and sand should be carefully brushed into any cracks that have been left. After a few days, a light rolling will help to establish the lawn. It is in fact possible to lay a turf lawn in the spring but care should be taken to see that during dry periods sufficient watering is carried out to avoid the turfs shrinking.
Lawns from seed
Sowing a lawn from grass seed is of course the cheapest way to make a lawn but will naturally take a good deal longer than by the turfing method. Ideally the site should be levelled, dug over and well raked as described earlier and then left during the summer so that every few weeks the annual weeds that have appeared can be hoed out and periodically raked. In August or September the seed can be evenly scattered at a rate of 1J oz. Per square yard. Choose a calm dry day to sow and after all the seed has been set, gently rake the seed into the surface soil. It is only necessary to partly cover the seed and it should not be buried deeply. When the seeds have germinated and the grass is about li inches high a light rolling will help to level the lawn and the new grass should not be cut until it has reached at least 2 inches in height. It is essential that when mowing newly seeded grass the mover blades should be set very high and only the tops of thecut off. After this has been done several times the mower blades can be slowly adjusted to a slightly finer cut but only when the grass has become established and has gained strength. Heavy traffic across a new lawn should of course be avoided as it cannot stand up to rough handling for at least a season.