How to have the perfect lawn
Have you ever admired a beautifully maintained lawn, wishing your lawn looked as good? Actually this is easier to achieve than you might believe. It takes a bit of initial effort, but so long as you follow some sound basic rules year upon year, you too can have a lawn that looks like a bowling green. This article is designed to tell you what you need to do in order to get the results you are hoping for, and to get other people looking at your lawn with the same envy you used to look at other people's.
Firstly you will need at least some of these basic tools:
An edging iron
A lawn rake
A lawn mower
A power trimmer
A watering timer
A lawn spreader
A sprinkler hose attachment
You will also need the following materials:
Lawn mower oil
A petrol can
Choosing Your Lawnmower
Try to base your choice of lawnmower on the size of the lawn you have, how level it is and whether you want it to pick up the grass as you mow. A small lawn normally only requires an electric mower, but a medium to large sized lawn may need a petrol mower if an electric one is not suitable. The self propelled ones make light work of the mowing process with no actual pushing required. A cylinder mower is only really suitable for extremely flat lawns as opposed to ones with slopes or bumps on the surface area. If you do have an uneven surface to your lawn a hover or rotary mower will be far more suitable.
Ride on mowers (aka Tractor mowers) are perfect for large areas and have a cutting width of a metre or more, plus they can cope with much tougher terrains. Their additional advantages include their ability to tow other equipment such as trailers or rollers.
Then there are mulching lawn mowers, which chop the lawn mowings/grass clippings repeatedly until they are in small enough pieces for the resulting mulch to be forced back into the turf where it will gradually compost down and act as a natural lawn feed full of nutrients.
Always vary your mowing pattern. Don't mow in the same direction each time if you want to avoid compacting your soil. Compacted soil will make the grass 'lean' in that direction. If you like a striped lawn use a mower with a roller.
You can fill small hollows in a lawn by top dressing with either a ready-mixed turf dressing, or by mixing your own using equal parts of sieved garden soil and horticultural or sharp sand (not builder's sand). Use a shovel to sprinkle the mixture over area, then spread it evenly with the back of a rake until it is no thicker than 1 cm. Use a stiff broom to brush the mixture in ensuring the grass is not covered over.
If you want a lush green lawn you will need to use fertiliser. Feed once in the spring and once in the autumn. On a smaller lawn you can scatter granular fertiliser by hand, or use a watering can or sprayer to liquid feed, using either a fertiliser branded for lawns, or a liquid seaweed fertiliser. Granular feeds are generally better for large lawns, and easily spread using a wheeled spreader. Always feed lawns on a dry day, but ensure the ground is not bone dry, (water first if necessary).
Edging and Repairing
Because the edges of lawns are difficult to cut with a lawn mower, try using edging shears or a power trimmer with an edging facility. A half moon edging iron is brilliant for cutting turf and shaping your lawn edges. If you have a damaged edge use the edging tool to cut out a complete square that includes the damaged edge. Rotate the square so the broken edge is now on the inside. Fill the cracks with soil and re-seed.
Lawns can quickly get clogged up with mosses and debris over time. Try to find time at least once a year to go over your lawn with either a scarifier or a lawn rake. Don't be afraid to be quite vigorous when raking this way as this will lift all the moss away from the lawn bed, plus it will help aerate the soil (and burns off a load of calories in the process). If you have a large lawn and a ride on mower you can usually buy a scarifying attachment for it which makes light work of this task.
It really helps a lawn to look great if has been aerated. Handy gadgets that consist of a roller with spikes built in make light work of this, and often also remove small plugs of soil which improves the ability for water and air to reach the roots of the grass. You can also buy 'shoes' with spikes on the soles specifically to perform this task as you wander around your garden, a great idea if you have a fairly small lawn to aerate.
In periods of low rainfall or drought, avoid feeding your lawn at all and don't mow it. Instead let the grass grow longer and wait until the drought is over before feeding.
Don't worry if your lawn goes brown in hot dry spells, and above all don't feel it necessary to waste precious water using sprinklers unless the lack of rain has gone on for over a month. Even though your lawn may look unhealthy, it will soon green up again when the rain next comes.
Apply the appropriate fertiliser for the season, and if you have a problem with weeds in your lawn apply a combined weed and feed product. If you don't like using weedkillers then at least try to dead head as many daisies and buttercups as you can to avoid them self seeding into further areas of your lawn.
Use a piece of hosepipe to mark out the edges of a curving flower bed or border in spring. This makes it easier to use the edging iron to tidy up the overgrown bits.