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Greener than the other side's

Greener than the other side's

Issue 7 Sept / Oct 2004

Lush green gardens with a range of flowers and foliage, often with a soothing water feature are traditionally integral to all palaces and traditional residential homes. The Alhambra palace in Spain itself boasts of the Genaralife gardens, often attributed to being described as being a djennat, a heaven on earth. However it was also functional, and served the purpose of a working grange which supplied the royal palace with provisions.

 Flourishing blossoming gardens have often been the showpieces of many eastern residences, and even here in the UK, gardeners often spend hours cultivating their flowers and tending their lawns, giving their owns homes that little bit of flora and fauna, differentiating it from all of the others on the terrace. It is often said that the lawn, the intrinsic element of the traditional English garden, can be the hardest to look after and maintain, but if well cared for, also the most pleasant. Follow these tips to ensure that your grass is always greener than the other side’s!



General maintenance

When creating and maintaining a lawn, ideal growing conditions are a vital part of good lawn management. The grass should, if it is flourishing, overcome weeds and be more resistant to drought, pests and diseases. With a spring-tined rake, gently rake the grass in early spring, ensuring not to tear it. This re-moves any winter debris and lifts grass and weed foliage for efficient cutting. Grass clippings decompose, and release up to 30 per cent of the lawn’s required nutrients, so when cutting the grass during the spring and summer, leave the clippings on the lawn. However, make sure to remove the clippings from the lawn at the beginning and end of the growing season when decomposition is slow.

Bare patches attract weeds, so re-sow them in spring. Fork the soil to break it up, then firm and level it before applying an appropriate grass seed. Cover with fleece or polythene to keep the birds off and water regularly, if necessary.

When cutting the grass, mow until it’s just over 1cm (0.5in) higher than you want it, and avoid scalping the grass because this encourages moss and weakens the grass. To thicken up a poor quality or worn lawn, rake up debris and oversee in April. Cut the grass then rake hard to remove dead moss and debris. Sow seeds over the existing grass.


New lawns

Spring is a good time to start a new lawn as it will quickly establish in the warm, moist soil. Sowing is the cheapest way to do this, but the grass will take several weeks to establish. Laying turf is much quicker but also much more expensive. Whichever method is used, the site will need to be prepared well beforehand. Any existing plants should be removed, either by hand-weeding thoroughly or applying a systemic weedkiller containing glyphosate. Once these plants are dead, dig over the ground, removing any large stones or debris. Sprinkle on a general fertiliser and rake the area until level. Finally, tread over the site to consolidate the soil.


Feeding and weeding

Feeding the grass with a lawn fertiliser will make it greener and thicker, which in turn helps it to resist weeds and moss. It’s possi- ble to tackle weeds and moss while feeding by using a combined feed and weed product or a moss treat- ment. Late spring is the best time for feeding. If your lawn receives heavy wear it’s advisable to feed every six weeks until mid-summer.


Autumn lawn care

Autumn is the perfect time to give your lawn a boost. Summer wear and tear can be easily repaired and a few simple steps will prepare it for the coming winter. September is the ideal month, as temperatures are still warm enough for the grass to respond to treatment.

Moss control

If your lawn has patches of moss, tackle these first. To get rid of the moss, use a mosskiller. Don’t panic when the lawn appears to go black; this is just the moss dying. After two weeks you can scarify the lawn (see Raking, below) to remove it. The best way to prevent moss re- turning is to tackle the underlying cause. Moss is often a sign of poor growing conditions, such as bad drainage, excessive shade, compaction, low fertility or overacidity.



You’ll often see the term ‘scarifying’ in gardening books. This means vigorously raking the lawn to remove thatch (old grass stems). Scarifying is important in ensuring that air reaches the surface of the lawn. Air is required for the organisms that live in the soil which break down debris. Regular raking ensures that thatch is kept at an acceptable level: a layer greater than 1 cm can make water and fertiliser penetration difficult. Raking the lawn removes old grass clippings, moss and other rubbish

than can build up in the turf. Get- ting rid of this allows water and fertiliser to reach the grass roots more easily and improve growth.

For small areas, use a spring- tine rake; for larger areas, you may prefer to use an electric one. These are available as single units or mower attachments. Most gar- den centres and DIY stores have them or you can hire one.

As leaves begin to fall in autumn, ensure you rake them up regularly. Leaves that are left on the lawn increase lawn humidity, thereby increasing the chance of disease.


Top Tips


  • Mowing - little and often is the secret. Regular cutting keeps it tidy, thickens the turf and deters weeds. In the summer, mow at least once a week. The lawnmower blades should be set to cut the grass about 2.5cm (1in) high to help protect the lawn against damage. For a traditional striped finish, use a mower fitted with a roller. 
  • Moss prevention - moss occurs if the lawn is shady, badly compacted, damp or too short. Spiking compacted or damp areas with a garden fork will help prevent these problems in future. Then treat the moss with a chemical moss killer. Once the moss has died, it can be raked out with a spring-tined rake. For larger lawns, an electric scarifier saves time. 
  • Surviving dry spells - during long dry spells, mow less frequently and leave grass to grow longer. It may turn brown, but it will grow green again when the rain comes. In the meantime, don’t feed the grass as this can scorch it. Don’t water either, as this encourages the grass to root closer to the surface, making it vulnerable to drought. 
  • Banishing weeds - small patches can be pulled up by hand or spot- treated with weedkiller. Larger areas can be treated with a selective lawn weedkiller. 
  • Aerating - If a lawn if heavily compacted, it will benefit from spiking. This helps reduce summer drought and winter waterlogging. Aeration, for an average lawn, should be done every 2-3 years. Spiking can be done with a garden fork on small areas. For lawns that have a problem with waterlogging, a hollow-tine aerator will extract plugs of soil from the lawn, which then need to be swept up. Top-dress the lawn with a sandy soil mixture to improve air and moisture penetration. 
  • Top dressing - Top dressing is useful in correcting surface irregularities and improving the texture of soils. A top-dressing mixture of 3 parts sandy loam, 6 parts sharp sand and 1 part compost of leaf mould, applied at 2-3 kg per m2, should be worked in well with the back of a rake.


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