A QUALITY LAWN-FROM SEED

LAWN PLANTING IS FUN

The first thing to do is to make sure that you plan what you want to achieve with your lawn before you start; you will find that a little thought will be well worthwhile. Here are a few points worth considering:

1. Plan an open, sweeping lawn, even in a small garden.

2. If the lawn area is small, try to avoid cluttering the middle of it with flower beds or ornaments.

3. Try curving the edges of the lawn, which will make it more interesting. Curves can be marked out with string stretched round pegs knocked into the ground.

4. Try and plan a background to your lawn. This will help to show it off to its best advantage.

5. Try to avoid a completely flat lawn. Gentle slopes will add a lot to the appearance of your lawn. Even in very flat areas, try and slope the lawn gently away from your house to encourage surface water to run away from the building.

6. Plan the actual appearance that you want from the lawn by taking into account the wear and tear it will receive.

When deciding what sort of lawn you want, it is important to consider how you want it to look and the amount of wear and tear it is to have. If you are considering a front lawn, that you want to be the envy of all who see it, then you need a mixture without Ryegrass, made up of very fine grasses, namely Chewings Fescue, Creeping Red Fescue and Browntop.

If, on the other hand, you are considering a lawn that is going to have to stand up to a lot of wear and tear, such as children and pets playing on it a lot, then a mixture of Ryegrass may prove more suitable.

One of the things you may notice is that lawn seed mixtures are always described ‘with’ or ‘without’ Ryegrass. This is basically because Ryegrass is a coarser, harder wearing and more aggressive grass. It grows more quickly than the others, and if you need a really fine lawn then you do not want Ryegrass in it.

It will pay you hands down, if you want a good lawn lor a long time in the future, to choose the right seed mixture and, whilst buying the seed, to get a quality product that may cost fractionally more but which will save you a lot of expense and trouble in the long run.

BEFORE YOU SOW . . . PREPARING THE GROUND

After removing all stones and other rubbish from the lawn area, you must then prepare the ground. This, too, is very important. Although it means some hard work, and good physical exercise, the basic fact of life is that the better you prepare the seed bed the better your lawn will be. It is best to dig the area over as deep as you can, and there really is no substitute for this. Good drainage is important and deep digging will help to give it.

Whilst digging, this is the time to get your soil structure right. If the soil is heavy or clay-like, then work in plenty of peat and sharp sand. Also, if you can get some good loamy top-soil, this too will help to break up the heavy texture.

If, on the other hand, the soil is light or sandy, work in a good amount of peat to give body to the soil and prevent drying out and loss of nutrients.

Also, at this stage any levelling or sloping should be done, although you should take care not to take too much top-soil from any one area. Sub-soil does not make a good seed bed; it is low in nutrients and will give variations in growing habit and colour.

The initial digging of the ground should be done in the autumn, and the soil left ‘as dug’ in as large lumps as possible over the winter. This will enable rain and frost to break down the soil and make it good and crumbly and much easier to break down to a fine bed in the spring.

In the spring, when the soil is starting to dry out, you can then make the seed bed ready. Either roll or rake the ground to break the soil down or, as many will recommend, tread it down and then rake it. On some soils using a roller can cause compaction of the soil and undo some of the benefits of all your hard digging the previous autumn. If you tread the soil down, first go one way across the area (e.g., north to south) then rake it over, then tread the other way (e.g., east to west) then rake again. Keep doing this until you have a fine, level seed bed.

One point to remember is that it is essential to get a level surface. A lawn that has bumps and hollows does not look anything like one that is level. One idea is to get a plank about 2 metres (6V2 ft) long, put some weight on it (such as a few bricks), attach a rope to each end, then pull it behind you round and round the area until you are happy it is level.

Finally, a few days before you sow the seed, a pre-seedmg fertilizer, such as Growmore should be raked into the soil. This will stimulate root growth and provide an essential early feed to get the lawn off to a good start.

WHEN TO SOW THE SEED

You can sow your lawn any time from early April to mid-October, providing that in periods of dry weather the seed bed is kept constantly moist until the grass is about 5cm (21/4 ins) high. Always water with a fine spray; too great a force of water will displace the seeds.

If, during periods of drought, you decide to water the area, you must ensure the ground is throughly moistened and the watering must be done on a regular basis, until the grass has become established. It is no good expecting results from an occasional sprinkling with a watering can This will do more harm than good.

When is the best time to sow the seed? Well, this depends purely on how patient you are. If you want to go get on with it straight away, then you can sow any time from late March onwards. However, if you are a very patient type, there is much to recommend waiting until September before you sow The mam benefits of waiting are first, any weed seeds lying on or near the surface of the seed bed will be given a chance to germinate and can be removed. Secondly, English summers do still produce hot, dry spells, and if your new lawn is sown in the spring, constant watering may well be necessary to get growth started and to prevent the tender young seedlings from being scorched and killed off.

There are many points in favour of a September sowing; the ground is warm after the summer, there tends to be more moisture about, the seed will get off to a good start before the winter and weeds will be minimal. Then during the autumn a good root system will develop, as opposed to top growth, and your lawn will be in first-class order the next spring and summer, ready to withstand hot, dry spells.

Just a few words on weeds The seed used in lawn seed mixtures is produced to very high purity standards but, no matter how good the seed or the preparation of the seed bed, weeds will always appear. Weed seeds will lie dormant in the soil for many years and are also carried by the wind, by birds and even on the soles of your shoes. The only thing one can say is that if you buy a quality lawn seed then the likelihood of weeds in the seed mixture is very remote.

SOWING YOUR LAWN . . . JUST A FEW HINTS

To get a good establishment, 50 grams per square metre (1 1/2 oz. per sq. yard) is recommended. Measure the area and allow a little bit extra for subsequent filling in or patching which may be necessary at a later stage. You could also grow a small area somewhere else in your garden so that you have a ready supply of matching turf for any repair work that may be necessary.

An easy way of sowing the seed is to divide the area into easily manageable sections, and then to divide the seed into an equal number of lots. Then sow half the seed for each section one way. from the left to the right of the section, and the other half across the first sowing from the front to the back of the section. This will help to ensure that you get an even spread of all types of seed over the area.

Alternatively, you can buy distributors, available from all good gardening shops and centres, which can be used for putting down lawn seed as well as fertilizers. Again, go over the area one way. then repeat at right angles to ensure proper distribution of the seed. When you have sown your seed, rake it in lightly and, depending on weather conditions, your lawn will begin to show in 1 4-21 days.

Most lawn seed is treated with Morkil, a non-poisonous dressing in powdered form, which tends to make the seed unpalatable to certain types of birds. However, rain or watering will wash it off and, in any case, birds usually do more damage by taking dust baths in the fine soil than they do by eating the seed. Therefore, it is a good idea to take precautions by stretching black cotton between pegs

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