Lawns: Soil Preparation and Sowing the Seed
There is no need to dig a lawn plot too deeply if it is already level. The top spit only need be turned over, if the drainage is not faulty. If it is, this must of course be attended to before the actual digging is done.
If ais inclined to be very sticky, in the new garden, pile all the rubbish you can on the site of the lawn, and burn it. Then pile more, and burn that. Then, when you have collected a goodly quantity of ash, add some sharp sand, and spread the whole of this material over the surface before you break up the top soil. This will help to lighten the soil, and make it more fertile. Soot is another material which can be generously used over the soil as it is prepared.
Bury all the roughest part of the soil as you dig. To do this, the easiest way is to take out a small trench first, carting the soil to the other end of the plot. Then as you turn over the next width of soil into the trench, and break it with a fork, you can also rake back into the trench any very large stones, so that they lie well below the top soil at the end of the job.
If the soil can be dug and limed, and left very rough for several months, it will work much more easily.
To make the surface as it should be for sowing, rake and roll alternately over the whole area. This, together with the removal of large stones, will create a surface 2 in. of fine soil, loose and friable, and ready for the seed.
The ideal soil for a lawn is good fibrous loam. If the soil at the gardener’s disposal is found to be too light, add leaf-mould mixed with well-decayed manure. A dressing of lime at the rate of 4 oz. to the square yard is an advantage. If fresh soil has had to be introduced, it may contain the seeds of many, and must either be left for some time before sowing to allow the weeds time to germinate, or burnt so that the weeds are destroyed. If manure is not to be obtained, a good lawn fertilizer, 3-4 oz. to the square yard, can be applied and raked in with seed. It will hasten germination, and quicken and strengthen growth.
Buying the Seed
It is always wise to let the dealer have a sample of the soil on which the seed will be sown, and information as to the purpose of the lawn, whether merely for pleasure or in part for games. He can then recommend the most suitable seed.
Grass seed mixtures are of two kinds: fine dwarf creeping grasses, and coarser grass that includes. The coarse mixtures are easiest to grow, and are recommended for on heavy soils.
The finer and more expensive varieties are more difficult to grow and are slower in germination, but they do produce the best and finest turf, and are thus worth the extra care and attention they require.
Grass seed sown in the spring gives quicker results than at any other season. The best time for spring sowing is in early April.
Most gardeners prefer autumn sowing (late August or early September) as it makes a better turf, though it is slower in appearing. The warmth of summer has not yet departed, and with a reasonable quantity of rain likely to fall, the germinating seed is likely to settle down well into healthy growth before the cold of winter becomes severe. Spring-sown seed is often at the mercy of long dry periods of scorching sunshine. Another thing in favour of autumn sowing is that weeds are not so much in evidence, and by the spring, when they are more active, the grass seed is well established.
Method of Sowing
Seed should always be sown by hand, preferably on a windless day. It can be more evenly distributed if mixed well with double its quantity of fine soil. It should be used at the rate of 2 oz. to the square yard, in order to get a close crop.
Seed sown at the rate of 1 oz. per square yard is good enough for large grass areas in rural districts, but better results are obtained from the use of 2 or more ozs. If the seed is sown thickly, the grass from the start will form a thick carpet, and will soon make a close, springy turf.
The best grass seed is cheaper than the cheapest turf, but it must be allowed time to grow. In autumn it takes from five to ten days to germinate and, on the average, a year is the minimum time for a lawn to reach maturity. Seed sown in late March or early April will germinate in a fortnight or three weeks, according to weather and, given warm spring rains, it will spring up rapidly, but in the drying winds of spring its early haste is soon slowed up.
To ensure even distribution, divide the lawn off into strips of equal size, and divide the seed too, to allow the correct share for each. It is often wiser to sow two ways, half the seed sown across the plot, and then the other sown in lengthwise strips. This makes more even distribution.
Rake lightly both ways to cover the seed, and finish by rolling with a medium-weight roller. Do not attempt to cut the grass until it has reached a height of 2 in., then use a very sharp mowing machine set high so as to skim off just the tips. The weeds, which will probably be fairly abundant, especially in spring, should be pulled out by hand,
Beware of Birds
Before the grass actually germinates, it can be protected from birds by stretching black cotton on sticks from side to side, by draping old curtains over pea sticks placed over the seeded surface. Dusting disinfectant powder over the seed before sowing will also discourage the birds.
A top dressing of guano (1 oz. to a yard) will help on the young grass, and a complete lawn fertilizer, either dry or in solution, will also work wonders.
Sometimes a lawn needs renovation in patches, even when it is newly sown. Carefully rake over the bare spots, then mix grass seed and soil one ounce of seed to a 5-in. Pot of soil and sow the raked areas generously. Rake them and roll.
Germinated seed, which birds do not care for, can be used to patch holes in old or new lawns. To prepare this, add I lb. of grass seed to a bushel of good, fine soil. Spread it out in a shed, damp it, and let it germinate. When the shoots are just visible, scatter a layer over bare patches, patting it down gently with a spade. Leave for a few days till the germinating seeds have righted themselves, and then roll.
Worms are among the worst enemies of new lawns. They must be destroyed as soon as possible, or they will do so much harm by loosening the soil round the young grass that the gardener will find it extremely difficult to get good results.
A lawn is never finished. When the seed has been sown there is still much work to be done. In fact as long as it is in existence as a lawn, the gardener cannot afford to slacken his periodic applications of grass fertilizer, his constant attacks on weeds, his frequent mowings and rollings, and occasional re-sowings of bare patches.
A Lawn from Turf
The speediest method of making a lawn is to procure and lay turf, but it is no less trouble than, and much more expensive.
If speed is the main consideration, kinds of turf must be considered.
Cumberland turf is the best available. Then Down or Moorland turf. Meadow turf is very inferior, though it will make a good lawn in time, but only after much expense in the use of lawn sand and fertilizers, seed for patching and so on. None arrive free from weeds, but meadow turf tends to be coarse, and to contain a super-abundance of dormant weed seeds.
Having decided on the kind of turf, the next step is the preparation of the ground.
Preparing the Ground
Dig the soil to a depth of 9 in. If it is light soil, carefully mix in wellrotted manure, with the upper 3 in., at the rate of a load to every hundred square yards, or spent hops ( lb. Per square yard). For heavy soils short straw manure is better.
Just before laying the turf, rake the top layer of soil all over, to loosen it so that the roots will work into it, and so bind turf and soil together. Turf is cut in 1 ft. squares or in strips 1 ft. by 3 ft. If they are not to be laid immediately, they should be kept somewhere shady and cool. Lay them while they are still fresh and green, but before doing so go carefully over them, and pull out all weeds. It is obviously much easier to do this before they are put down.
They must be packed very closely together, preferably in a pattern similar to that employed by bricklayers in laying bricks. Dress after laying with finely sifted soil mixed with grass seed, brushing this between the cracks with a birch broom (2 lb. of grass seed to a barrow load of soil), they will then need to be well watered, and beaten with a turf mallet, or with the back of the spade.
It will be necessary to water frequently for the first few weeks if the weather is dry, and rolling must follow each mowing. Afterwards, in. dressing of ordinary sharp sand or fine breeze can be used over the surface.
Turf should always be laid in line weather, in spring or autumn. Autumn is the better time, and autumn laid turves will make a lawn usable for any purpose the following summer.