SOWING A LAWN

The ideal time to sow a lawn is from late August to mid September, but seed can be sown successfully at almost any time from April onwards, providing the soil is neither very wet nor very dry. The risk with spring and summer sowing is that there may be a period of drought immediately following germination, which can kill the young grass unless it is possible to keep it watered regularly.

PREPARING THE SITE

The site for a new lawn should be well drained and level (unless it is specifically desired to have a sloping lawn). Grass will grow well on any reasonably fertile soil, but the importance of thorough preparation before sowing cannot be too strongly emphasised. If possible this preparation should begin during the summer of the year prior to sowing in August. Assuming that this early preparation is possible, it is essential that every effort should be made to get rid of perennial weeds before the grass seed is sown. If the site is very weedy with a high proportion of couch and other coarse grasses treat the area with Dalapon. If the main weeds include perennials, e.g. docks, thistles or convolvulus then a hormone like 2.4.D. can be used, but apply with care on a still day, so that none of the spray drifts or blows on to foliage of cultivated plants. More than one application may be needed. Glyphosate (Tumbleweed and Roundup) is very useful against perennial weeds.

In November, the ground should be dug deeply. The top spit should be turned over and left rough for the winter. Any necessary levelling can be done at the same time as this preliminary digging. It is important that the top soil should be kept in position and not buried. If any large hollows or mounds have to be levelled the top soil should be removed and replaced after the levelling has been done. If the soil is poor, well rotted stable manure, garden compost or some other bulky organic manure should be dug in. If a drainage scheme is required, this should be installed before the final digging

In March or April, the soil should be forked over and broken up, and ideally this should be repeated two or three times, removing any roots of perennial weeds which may still be present. If no previous weedkiller treatment was carried out, apply an appropriate herbicide at the rate recommended for the type of weeds present, then fork over again when all the weeds are dead. Weedkiller should be applied when weeds are in active growth. If only annual weeds and a few perennial weeds are present, New Weedol can be used at maker’s directions. In suitable weather, a week or two before sowing, the site should be raked and rolled to produce a fine tilth, any final levelling done, and stones removed. This raking and rolling should not be done when the soil is wet.

Fertiliser application

This would be applied in the soil preparation process – after the levelling and before the final raking. It is important that adequate phosphate is present for young grass roots. An application of superphosphate at 68 gms/sq.m (2 oz/sq.yd) is advisable, or its equivalent within a base dressing which could also include 50 gms (1.5 oz) sulphate of ammonia and 17 gms (0.5 oz) sulphate of potash.

SOWING

Choose a calm fine day for sowing, when the soil is fairly dry. The type of seed used will depend on the kind of lawn required. For ornamental lawns, and those which do not get a great deal of wear, a fine leaved mixture without rye grass should be used; for those on which games will be played or which will get hard wear, a mixture containing a proportion of rye grass is advisable.

Seedsmen generally recommend that the rate of sowing to obtain a good close sward is 500 gms to 7 square metres – 68 gms/sq.m (1 lb to 8 square yards – 2 oz/sq.yd) but lesser rates can be used for non-rye grass mixtures down to 7 gms (0.25 oz) for sites with very few weeds and weed seeds. For small areas the seed can be sown by hand and when this is done the site should be marked off into strips or squares of 7 square metres (8 square yards approx) to ensure evenness of sowing. For larger areas it is advisable to use a distributor such as the Sisis Truspred, which can be adjusted to sow grass at the correct rate. After the seed has been sown, it should be raked in, raking lightly up and down and across. The ground can be rolled with a light roller if the soil is light. Rolling may not be necessary on heavy soils. Bird protection with cotton may be required.

Key:

(a) Fork over and add the base dressing of fertiliser.

(b) Rake out carefully.

(c) Heel to find the soft spots. Rake again and heel.

(d) Rake out very carefully and/or use a lute.

(e) Roll – a light roll will show the final level.

(f) Make any improvements – scrape off hillock – fill hollows.

(g) Rake turf areas and roll again.

Note; This process is desirable before sowing or turfing because it will reduce the problems of subsidence later on. The addition of turf will not in itself improve the level of an uneven piece of land.

In a garden horizontal levels may not be as important as an even true surface. Graceful undulations add greatly to some parkland scenes and the play of the shadows from trees may look particularly pleasing as they move across the grass.

AFTER TREATMENT

When the young grass is an inch or so in height, and provided it is not wet, it can be rolled with a light roller, but this is not essential. The newly sown grass should not be cut until it is 75 – 100 mm (3 – 4 inch) high (which will not be until the spring, after autumn sowing) and it should then be cut for the first time with the mower blades set high. Any large weeds should be removed by hand as soon as they are seen. Do not use lawn weedkillers except Actrilawn on a newly sown lawn until the grass is really well established. A top dressing of a lawn fertiliser can be given with advantage in the March after autumn sowing.

GRASSES FOR GARDEN LAWNS

Aorostis tenuis – Browntop bent – ideal for use in mixtures for fine turf golf greens and bowling greens. It is a common constituent of amenity and sportsground mixes. The seeds are very small indeed.

Festuca rubra commutata – Chewings fescue – ideal for mixtures with Browntop bent. It has a fine leaf (rolled) and will withstand regular close mowing. Creeping red fescue is very similar, but has a rhizomatous creeping habit.

Lolium perenne – Perennial rye grass. The main species used for sportsgrounds. Modern cultivars are short and leafy. This grass is less subject to disease than many others and withstands wear well.

Poa annua – Annual meadow grass. A variable weed grass abundantly common in most turf. This grass occurs as a weed invading the sown sward usually very successfully. It is rarely, if ever, sown but attempts to find forms with a stoloniferous habit and good winter colour continue.

Poa trivialis – Rough-stalked meadow grass – is a useful grass for hard wear and it can be very persistent.

Poa pratensis – Smooth-stalked meadow grass – has underground stems a little like couch grass. It is not as attractive in the U.K. as in the U.S.A. where it is Kentucky Blue Grass.

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