One of the hardest plants to grow and maintain in our garden, believe it or not is grass. Although I should clarify, it grows brilliantly in all those places you don’t want it to; like between the paving slabs, in the flower beds and rockery, even in the greenhouse, but trying to get that beautiful, flat, green lawn is a heck of a load of work and I suspect it’s one of the reasons people give in with gardening early on because they didn’t realise just how much work a lawn is.
When we first bought the house, there wasn’t a lawn at the front. The previous owners had been elderly and found it was too much for them, so they had replaced it with a paved area which more suited their lifestyle. Kate however had two images in her head of what it meant to be a proper house owner and paving slabs wasn’t on that list (house owner not flat or apartment owner), These were;
- shovelling snow from your driveway
- mowing your front lawn.
So as you can imagine, quite early on we decided to lift the paving and lay a lawn.
Now to give you a little insight into one of the things which has caused us to have so much trouble, we have almost no top soil on our front garden, maybe an inch if we are lucky. This apparently (as we were told by a neighbour) is due to a bit of a sneaky night which happened back in the 80s when our street was built. The story goes that the opposite side of our street was completed and had residents first and those residents came across during the night and stole top soil from the houses on the other side of the street (our side). Hence our side of the street have a lack of soil and the other side have plenty. Now I don’t know how true this is, but it’s a good story.
So over the last few years, we have learned about grass and lawns and how to look after them and Kate now has her yearly routine.
The grass is always greener
Around the end of February, beginning of March when the weather is changing and your lawn suddenly starts to grow again, you need to take a good look at it and see how healthy it is looking and how much “dead stuff” (that’s a technical term) there is sitting in it. Any dead grass, moss, leaves etc are starving your lawn of much needed light and air. So get your rake out people and give it a good going over. This is called scarifying and essentially you are using your rake like a big comb to drag all the dead stuff and moss out of the lawn and put it in your compost bucket. This will let the sunlight, heat and air in to help new grass shoots get a good start and thicken up your lovely lawn.
Unfortunately scarifying is as much work as digging, so prepare to be knackered, blistered and in pain, but Kate has found that gin and tonic that evening at least helps with the pain.
Kate’s advice for this is to rake the entire lawn in one direction and the go back and repeat this in the opposite direction, kind of like criss crossing (or kriss krossing if you are a child of the ninties).
Next, get your garden fork out and plunge it in there, that’s right, you want to go over your whole lawn making little holes to help water get in, moss prevention and reduce compaction in the soil. When soil is compacted it reduces the amount of air getting to the micro-organisms and worms that keep the soil healthy.
Now scatter a mix of top soil and compost over the lawn to fill those wholes and provide a bit of nourishment, this is called top dressing. You can also add grass seeds at this point if your lawn is looking particularly bare.
The last bit of advice is feeding, you have to feed your grass. A season of mowing really take sit out of the grass and you need to feed it regularly. Kate has found through trial and error that feeding fortnightly with a high nitrogen feed works wonders and just for a bit of a giggle and to show how wonderful it is, here is a photo of the lawn when Kate hadn’t been paying attention when feeding. Make sure you use good straight and overlapping lines when you feed folks. Or this could happen.
Can you see the parts which didn’t get the feed?
Lastly a bit of a tip for dealing with moss. If you’ve ever had a mossy lawn and applied the various moss killing treatments, you may very well have had the heart stopping moment where your lawn suddenly develops huge black patches where the lawn once was. This is horrible, you put all that work in and it looks worse than when you started.
Luckily, thanks to Beechgrove garden, Kate has a solution to this, she uses a product called Mobacter. It works a little differently, it does kill the moss, yes, but you don’t get the huge black or bald spots because what it does is break the moss down and turn it into food for the grass so it actually feeds the grass at the same time as killing the moss. A word of warning though, it has the weirdest smell, be warned, it’s like a mixture of chocolate and chicken poo…. very weird and not very pleasant for a couple of days.
But worth it!