A Quick Guide To A Perfect Lawn
This is just a quick guide for those of you who aspire to a perfect lawn. If this whets your appetite for more knowledge, a longer and more exhaustive article is available.
Firstly, timing. The operations I will describe here are best carried out in early autumn, ideally around the last week in September. Although, if the ground is still dry, it is better to wait for a decent rainfall to soften the ground before attempting these jobs.
and a word on lawn size.
Get Stuck In
The first job is aeration. If you are on a small lawn then grab that fork and go nuts. Push it in as far as it will go. It doesn't matter if it only goes in a couple of inches: any holes are better than no holes. Repeat this all over the lawn at about four inch intervals. It is real hard work, but your lawn will thank you. If you are using a machine, then follow the instructions you received from the hire shop in it's use. You can be generous since you are mechanically assisted and go over the whole lawn at least twice.
Having got plenty of holes into the lawn, the next step is scarification. This is just a ten quid word for raking the heck out of the grass. Again, if your lawn is small, grab that rake and go at it. You really cannot overdo this job if you are doing it by hand, so keep going until your energy gives out (or it gets dark, whichever comes first). Gather up the huge amounts of "gubbins" you have removed and put it on the compost heap.
For those of you blessed with a big lawn then, again, follow the instructions you received in the hire shop on the use of the machine. However, a word of warning, it is eminently possible to overdo it with a mechanical scarifier and leave your lawn looking like the dark side of the moon. Adjust the machine until it just brushes the grass, make a test pass and observe the result. If you have brought up little or no rubbish then give the adjuster a couple of turns and try again. When you start bringing up a good amount of material, stop adjusting and get to work covering the whole lawn. In my experience, the first pass will not bring up a terrific amount of material so do at least two passes, the second at right angles to the first.
If you think you can get yet more rubbish up then by all means lower
the machine a little and do another pass, the grass will recover.
The order in which I have suggested you do these operations is the
one I use, which has served me well for many years. However, it is not
set in stone and you are free to carry out these operations in the order
which suits you best.
If you are applying soil as a top dressing this should be done now. Try to broadcast it thinly with a shovel. This will take a little practice. Don't load up the shovel too much and give it a good fling in a sideways motion. Try to keep as much as possible in your own garden and you will be fine!
Next, rub the soil into the grass with the back of an ordinary rake using the same kind of motion as you did with the brush. To avoid leaving any humps and bumps, you may finish off the job with the brush for a really pukka job.
If you are dressing a large lawn, it is best to apply the seed with a spreader. Set it to whatever setting the manufacturer recommends, to give you a coverage of half an ounce per square yard. If you have lost the instructions which came with the spreader then you will have to calibrate it yourself. This isn't terribly complicated if you are careful, just start with your machine on a low setting and observe the result. The lawn should be lightly dusted - no more. If you have finished the lawn with half the seed left over then go over the whole thing again at right angles to your first pass. This is what professionals do and you get a more even coverage this way.
Should you be applying soil as a top dressing then use your spreader for this, as well. Just set it on its largest setting and march round the lawn until the soil is all gone. The best device for rubbing the seed and soil into your lawn is undoubtedly a drag brush. This is simply a big (about four feet wide) brush that you drag around behind you. They are also useful for removing dew and getting the grass to stand up before you mow it. When I was apprenticed as a groundsman, I used to spend hours dragging one of these around and I still break out in a cold sweat thinking about it now!
Take a deep breath here, you have nearly finished! In fact, take a week off and do the next bit after the soil and seed have had time to settle in a bit. The next bit being applying the fertiliser. Again, set your machine up according to the manufacturer's recommendations to deliver the amount recommended by whoever made the fertilizer. (That is an unwieldy sentence if ever I wrote one.) Again, get your walking boots on and wander up and down until you have covered the whole lawn. Should you have a bag or two left over, don't panic: you can always use this as an early spring dressing to get your grass in the mood without doing any harm.
There you've done it, you've renovated your lawn! If it looks like rough, don't worry: it will recover in no time, trust me. I've nearly had the sack before now, because my employer has been convinced I'd ruined his lawn. They almost always reinstated me within two weeks when they saw I was right all along! If all other things are equal, you should see the tiny shoots of grass appearing within a couple of weeks. If they don't appear, there is no need to worry: they will appear in the spring.
Please resist the temptation to cut the lawn for at least three weeks after renovation and when you do, just give it a light trim to even it up. You can go for the Wimbledon, Wembley or Lords (delete to taste) look in the following spring when the grass has settled down.
Gird up your loins and summon up the blood and get that lawn sorted and sit back to enjoy the results!!