"CAN YOU advise on our latest disaster?" asks Lynda Stevens, of London SE12. "We thought we would have a go at renovating our old lawn, rather than take what we thought would be the easier but costlier approach and have it re-turfed. We bought a Mantis rotavator with all the lawn maintenance attachments. All was going quite well; we weeded, fed, moss- killed, reseeded, scarified and slit it in the spring. We watered in dry spells despite the water meter, and although the lawn was not a bowling- green, we did get more grass than moss and weeds for a change.
"We returned from holiday ready to continue the renovation process. We bought the autumn weed and feed, the sand and soil for the top dressing and some more seed. On a fine day my husband got the Mantis out again. He scarified and then attached what he thought was the slitter attachment.
"He thought it was digging up rather a lot of grass, but went over the whole of the lawn. As he put the attachment away, he discovered another attachment with straight blades - the real slitter. What he had in fact done was to rotavate the entire lawn. Would you please tell us how we might redeem the situation? We have managed to keep laughing, but I don't know for how much longer."
Well. As disasters go, this is a good one. But I feel the Stevenses will pull through. If Lynda Stevens can laugh at the situation, rather than knock her husband out with the Mantis rotavator, she is well equipped to survive as a gardener.
Without seeing the disaster area, it's difficult to be sure of the right way to treat it. If the Mantis rotavating attachment has done what it is designed to do, it will have turned in the top layer of grass entirely, leaving the Stevenses with an area that looks as if it has been ploughed by a shallow plough. If no shoots of grass are struggling back a month after they were buried, then they are unlikely ever to do so. The only solution then will be to rake, roll lightly and wait for spring, when the whole area will have to be reseeded once again.
But they should not underestimate grass's ability to survive terrible onslaughts. We've recently had our own little lawn drama when 30 bullocks, on a spree, charged up the drive on to the grass. It's the kind of thing that happens regularly round here, and you accept the consequences without fuss. My husband saw the stampede happening, but even in the short time it took him to pen the bullocks out of harm's way, the lawn was churned and pockmarked like a map of the moon. The ground was soft and wet. The beasts were heavy. You can imagine the scene.
We, too, thought we'd have to start again from scratch, with fresh topsoil spread about this winter and the lawn reseeded in spring. But first it was rolled, and it has made a remarkable recovery. The deepest craters were filled with compost, sifted from the heap, then sprinkled with leftover seed. The weather was mild, so we got away with sowing late. The rest of the grass has recovered, a seemingly impossible feat. The rolling may have compacted our heavy, clay ground, so we will have to aerate in spring. If the Stevenses use a roller, they, too, will need to aerate the lawn later. Perhaps this time Mr Stevens should use a hollow-tined fork to do so.
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