Tips for making the most of your lawn
Sunday 06 July 2008
Here are the tips for success, and the tools of the trade, to get your patch of grass into tip-top condition
How to mow a lawn to perfection
Before you start, please take that mower to a nice man who can sharpen the blades for you. Or a lady; I don't mind. And get them to check they're correctly adjusted too.
Young grass begins to grow very early in spring these days, but wait till it's two or three inches high before you set out to mow. Set the mower on high so that you only cut half an inch off. This may seem pernickety. But being pernickety is how you get a great lawn.
As with so many things, "little and often" is key. Cut off about a third each time, so a three inch lawn goes down to two inches. Remember that a close-mown lawn will look and feel better, but needs much more watering and feeding, especially when the weather's dry.
Never mow when the grass is wet. You don't really want to mow then, anyway – let alone how bad it is for the lawn.
Don't mow your lawn always in the same direction. In fact, try to swap each time you mow.
There's a big debate about whether to collect grass clippings. They may provide a green manure but need to be very fine or they'll just block the sunlight. If you do collect clippings, don't just dump them on the compost heap or they'll rot down to a big soggy mess. Save newspapers and cardboard to go in between as layers.
Tail off your mowing as autumn days arrive.
Put your back into it! Rakes for serious lawn work
You'll need two: a spring-tined one for winter, to remove dead grass and moss ("thatch") at the soil surface, and an ordinary one for raking over top dressings in the summer. Harrod Horticultural's Moss Removal Rake (£49.95) was a Which? Gardening Best Buy. See www.harrodhorticultural.com/ for more details.
Good lawns start with scrupulous seeding
If you have kids who like to run about, you'll want a hard-wearing rye grass like the aptly named "Sprogs & Dogs" from LAWN UK at http://www.lawnuk.co.uk/ Ornamental mixtures are softer on the feet, and shade-tolerant seed is also available, with a mix of fine grasses (fescue) in it.
Once the lawn is in place, don't forget to feed it...
Granular feed for after cutting is probably the easiest to apply: simply measure it out and rake it on. But make sure you read the label – many feeds also include herbicide and moss killer.
... and water it, too, with a modern sprinkler
Personally I favour an oscillating sprinkler (£24.99 from Hozelock) because children love running through them; the more expensive Hozelock Aquastorm models also have a useful setting for misting seedlings.
Two approaches for getting rid of dread weeds
The Bulldog Evergreen Daisy Grubber is £4.69 from Amazon.co.uk, but for the desperate, try Westland Lawn Weed Killer. Don't put the lawn clippings in the compost for a month after cutting.
The secret to that perfectly striped look
A lawn cut weekly can be mown to 1-2cm, but for a perfect green sward, mow every three days to 0.5cm. Fans of sustainability and silence may fancy the Qualcast Panther 30, which you simply push (£29.99 from Amazon).
Edging the lawn makes a big difference
Cut neatly with a half-moon edger (expert stainless steel with an FSC ash handle, £25.05 from Draper) using a plank to rule your straight edge along.
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