Lawn Care Guide


A beautiful lawn is the envy of most gardeners but producing and maintaining a lawn is not easy and takes time and commitment.

However, I hope with the help of our step by step guide you too could be the envy of your neighbours.

For this guide we are assuming you are starting a lawn from scratch but you can pick up at any point depending on the stage and state of your own lawn.

Before you start you need to decide whether you want to lay turf or sow grass seed. Here is the information you need to make your decision:

Laying Turf:

  • There are two types of turf Cultivated and Meadow. Cultivated turf is the best quality but can be expensive. Meadow turf is cheaper but may contain weeds and/or bare patches.
  • You must have delivered or buy your turf as near to the day you are going to lay it as possible, it must not be allowed to dry out.
  • The best time to lay turf is from early autumn to late spring but not if there has been a period of dry, if it is too wet or if the ground is frozen.
  • On average turf is ten times more expensive than seed.
  • As soon as your turf is down you will see immediate results and, although you won’t be able to walk on it, it will look good from day one.

Sowing Grass Seed:

  • There are lots of types of grass seed and commercial grass seed is usually sold as a mix of two or more types which produce different quality lawns.
  • When looking for seed you need to decide how you are going to use the lawn, how much traffic it is likely to get and how much you want to pay.
  • If you have children and/or pets you will need to look for a hard wearing mix, if the lawn isn’t going to be walked on much then go for a luxury mix and if your lawn is in the shade there is even a mix for that. Just go along to your local garden centre and read the boxes to find the one that suits you best.
  • Producing a lawn from seed is a lot cheaper than using turf.
  • You should only sow seed either during April/May or September/October but not if it is too dry or too wet.
  • It can take between four and six months for a seeded lawn to establish so you need to have patience.

Preparing the ground for a new Lawn

Whether you have a spare piece of land or an old lawn which needs replacing follow these steps to ensure you give your turf or seed the best possible start.

You will need the following gardening equipment:

  • A sharp spade
  • A garden fork
  • A garden rake
  • Lawn fertiliser
  • Turf or grass seed
  • If laying turf you will also need a wooden plank and a sharp kitchen knife

Once you have everything ready you can start:

If you have an area of old lawn, hire a Turf Cutter to lift the turf to leave a clear area of soil.

TIP: don’t waste the old turf, just pile it up in a corner of the garden with the grass sides facing together and they will soon break down to produce lovely compost for use elsewhere in the garden.

Check what type of soil you have by reading our Soil Guide and improve as necessary to produce a well drained, well structured soil base. Even if your soil doesn’t need improving dig over the whole area to a spade’s depth to reduce compaction. As you are digging remove any large stones, roots and weeds as you go.

Once the whole area has been turned over rake the soil until it is level. Sprinkle Lawn Fertiliser on the surface of the soil and rake it in; follow the directions on the packaging.

The next thing you need to do is remove any air pockets by walking over the whole area putting your weight down through your heels, if any areas sink more than others you can rake it over again to even out the surface, re-tread then rake over the area again to smooth it out.

If is important that you leave no lumps or hollows or it will make future mowing difficult, will cause some areas to be scalped by the mower and will encourage weeds and moss in the hollows, eventually ruining your lawn.

Now, this is where procedures change depending on whether you are laying turf or sowing seed.

A New Lawn from Turf

Ensure you have prepared the ground as above and order your turf for delivery on the day you know you are going to be able to lay it, or buy it on the same day. If the turf or the ground feels dry give it a good watering before starting work.

  • To start lay the first row of turf without walking on the soil ensuring that the edges are firmly butted together; pat down the turf firmly to ensure it is in contact with the soil.
  • Place your wooden plank on the row you have just laid and make sure you stand on the plank and not the turf when laying subsequent rows.
  • It is important to lay each row like rows of bricks ensuring that the seams are staggered.
  • Continue until the whole area is covered and trim off any extras with a sharp kitchen knife.
  • Water the turf well and keep watering until it has knitted together and has started to root into the soil below. Pay particular attention during dry spells as once it dries out you will not be able to revive it.

A New Lawn from Seed

You can buy your grass seed whenever you want to but try to sow it within a few days of preparing the ground (see above). If the ground feels dry, give it a good watering before you begin.

  • The packaging will tell you how much seed you need to cover the size of area you have so hopefully you will have enough seed to do the job in one go.
  • Divide the total amount of seed into two and put half to one side.
  • Broadcast the seed in one direction over the area as thinly as possible making sure it is spread evenly and that there are no bare patches.
  • Once you have done this, take the other half and sow in the same manner in the opposite direction; this ensure the best coverage possible.
  • Rake over the area lightly to help the seed settle into the soil.
  • If possible cover the area with netting or pea sticks to stop the birds eating it.
  • Water the area with a light spray from the hose; avoid moving the seed around. Keep it well watered especially during dry periods.
  • After 10-14 days you should begin to see the seed sprouting, keep off the area until the grass is full and lush which could be a few weeks or even a couple of months.

Aftercare

When you are confident that the turf has knitted well or when the grass is looking lush you can begin mowing. Set the mower on a high cut to take off the tips only, this will help thicken up the grass. Keep the setting high for the first season gradually lower it in the following season until you reach the look you desire.

In subsequent years your lawn will benefit from regular maintenance, it may seem a lot of work but a few small tasks carried out regularly will avoid potential problems further down the line.

Take a look at our Lawn Care Calendar to find out what should be done step-by-step during each month of the year.

If you don’t have time to spend on your lawn every month then here are a few easy jobs which will keep your lawn looking good and will help avoid future problems.

Mowing

Mowing always seems to be one of those jobs which is squeezed in on a Sunday afternoon when you have the time; this is actually a good thing.

If you leave a lawn to grow too long between cuts it means that you will probably be cutting into the thicker, yellowing parts at the base of each stalk leaving the whole lawn looking unhealthy. Cutting your lawn at least once a week means you will be removing just the tips of the grass leaving a greener, denser lawn which will be more hard-wearing.

Start mowing in the spring as soon as you notice the grass growing, wait for a dry day and keep the mower’s blades high so you are just removing the tips. You can lower the blades as the summer progresses but if there is a long spell of dry weather lift the blades again to avoid stressing the lawn.

In the autumn you can continue mowing, with the blades raised high, until the winter sets in and the lawn stops growing.

Edging

Trimming the edges of your lawn makes a world of difference to how it looks. The best way to do this is by using edging shears holding the blades flat against the edge of the lawn as you move slowly round the edges.

If you are producing a new lawn it may be worth while considering adding a mowing edge around the lawn which means you can mow straight over the edge of the grass reducing the amount of work involved considerably.

Top Dressing

Top Dressing is the application of a rich, sandy compost mixture to the lawn and is used to even out an uneven surface and improve the soil to encourage better rooting and therefore thicker turf. The usual mixture consists of three parts sandy loam, six parts sharp sand and one part compost. The mixture should be sprinkled onto the lawn and brushed in firmly.

If you have any bare patches on your lawn you can incorporate some grass seed into the Top Dressing.

The best time to top dress your lawn in during the autumn. Better results will be achieved if the lawn is scarified and aerated beforehand. Scarifying is the removal of dead grass (thatch) by raking through the lawn with a spring-tined rake. Aerating is the spiking of the lawn with a garden fork; this only needs to be done every two or three years.

Feeding

For the best looking lawn you should feed it at least twice a year; in spring using a feed high in nitrogen and again in autumn high in phosphate and potash.

You can also get organic lawn feeds which can be used monthly and you can also get a combined weed and feed mix which will kill off a wide range of weeds and feed at the same time.

 

If you have a problem with your lawn which is not covered in our guide take a look at our other Lawn Articles, which includes a range of Lawn Care Videos, or email The Gardening Register providing as much information as possible..

 

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