THE LAWN – ITS MAKING AND UPKEEP
The greenof England are, even more than the stately homes of England, typical of our little island, whose rainfall is so cheerfully intermittent and irregular that the first item of a News instalment from the B.B.C. is “The Weather Forecast.”
It is that very alternation of sun and shower that gives the lawn its greenness, and it is the restful green colouring that makes it so superb a setting for the beauties innumerable of the flower garden.
But only the care of the gardener gives it the smooth even surface, the springy buoyancy and the trim neatness that are its hall-marks.
Make the Site Level First
The essence of a good lawn is its smooth greenness. In these days of rapidly developing housing estates it will probably be necessary for the amateur gardener himself to level the rough grass plot that the builders have left.
Levelling entails hard work, or high cost, so if a lawn is already made. Unless it is very uneven or sloping, the amateur gardener will be well advised to leave it as it is, merely improving the surface gradually by regular rolling and top dressing.
There are two methods of levelling. One is to level the lawn to make it like the top of a table (ie. horizontal). This is reasonably easy if the site is more or less level to begin with, but becomes increasingly difficult where there are slopes in different directions.
The other way is to make the lawn surface similar to that of a tilted table.
Although there are many instruments on the market for use in levelling lawns, it is possible to do this work with only the following aids: A quantity of pegs, a spirit-level, a wooden straight-edge (ie. a piece of wood, say 10 ft. long, 2 in. wide and 6 in. deep), a garden rake, and a heavy roller.
The first step is to remove the turf, and with it the top 6 in. of fertile, and move it out of the way.
Stack the turf carefully for subsequent use, and pile the fertile soil in a heap. Large stones should be kept out of the heap; they are not wanted in the top soil of a lawn. Stake out the area to be levelled, and notice the general slope.
It is a help if each peg is dipped in white paint to a depth of 4 in. from the top. Begin by hammering one into the ground, burying it up to the white paint at the highest corner of the plot. This will be the master peg, from which will be obtained the level for the others. Then hammer in the next peg, about 10 ft. further away, until its top is level with the first peg. This can be ascertained by placing the straight-edge, with a spirit-level tied on it (for safety), on the two pegs, knocking the second peg farther and farther in the ground until the bubble in the spirit-level remains dead true in the middle.
In the same way hammer in and test a row of pegs, right across the lawn. By measuring the distance they stand out of the ground, the fall of the ground will be discovered. You have now to decide whether to make the lawn dead level or sloping.
Making a Level Slope
If the slope of the ground, as shown by the pegs, is 10 in. in 100 ft., the slope between each of the pegs must now be made so that the soil level is 1 in. lower at one than at the other. At the next peg it should be 2 in. lower, and so on. These points can, if desired, be marked on the pegs, so that the work of adding or taking away soil is made simpler. Fill in all the hollows with soil cut away from higher parts, and keep the surface level with the help of the straight-edge, as well as with the eye.
Then replace the original top spit on the surface. If games are to be played a dead level is necessary. In this case remove the top spit, then peg out the ground and fill in the lower part of the lawn to the level of that by the master peg. Roll and rake this until it is quite flush with the marks on the pegs, ie. showing only the whitened top. Check the work periodically with the spirit-level, and either remove or add soil as necessary.
If no other soil is obtainable it is necessary to remove the soil from the upper end to fill the lower. In this case it is best if the first peg is put in the middle of the slope. The pegs downhill are then driven in, after which, by wheeling the soil from one half to the other, the lower end is raised to the white painted marks on the pegs.
The top spit of earth should be replaced in 2 in. layers, and each one well rolled, to prevent it sinking later.
If Water Collects
This presents a difficult problem to the amateur gardener, for it is not an easy matter to carry away the surplus water from a garden, and the difficulty is increased when the lawn is levelled from a hillside, in which case the bottom edge of the excavation must be well trenched. Whenever water collects on the surface of dug soil, more drainage is needed.
Surplus water is moisture which is held by the soil in larger quantities than is necessary for the requirements of plants, and which is unable to drain away. As soil gradually gets saturated, the air holes become filled, and so make the ground clogged, unhealthy and sour. To prevent this, trenches in. deep and wide should be dug at about ft. intervals and either filled with clinker, or provided with special pipes. The pipes (which are perforated) must be covered with a layer of clinker or broken brick. A solid clay soil packed close round the drains effectually keeps the water out of them.
There are one or two essential conditions to success in drain laying.
Always lay the pipes in herring-bone formation, the larger main in the direction in which the water is likely to flow, and the smaller drains diagonally across the lawn to meet it. Drain pipes for agricultural use are made in lengths of 1 ft. one of 3 or 4 in. in diameter used for the main drain, and others 2 in. in diameter for the branch drains, should be effective.
The best clearing-house for the drains is obviously a ditch or a land drain which is already in existence. Unless the gardener has these at his command he will have to fall back on his own resources. An ornamental way out of the difficulty is to make a small lily pond about 10 ft. in diameter, and 2 or 3 ft. deep, and its cool beauty will be an addition to the attractions of the garden. Unless this in turn is provided with a sump for surplus water, it must be made with a “bog garden” edge. Failing this a 3 ft. sump (1 cubic yd.) can be dug and filled with clinker or other suitable material to within 1 ft. of the top. The drain will lead into it. The sump can be covered with a top spit of soil.
One other method of dealing with a damp lawn, although this is fairly expensive, can be recommended if only for the reason that the garden remains intact. This is known as the breeze method, and consists of repeatedly dressing the surface of the lawn during the winter months with breeze.