Many gardeners spend a lot of time on lawn care, striving for that beautiful bowling green perfect surface and a weed free environment. Lawn care is a job that needs attention all year round although with the changes in climate that the United Kingdom is experiencing these days the ideal of a close-cropped pure grass lawn is being challenged.
Lawns and Water
Lawns require a good deal of water, particularly in the summer months and they are one of the few garden features that benefit from poor drainage. If you are landscaping a garden from scratch, after a building project perhaps, it might well pay you to dig in some rich topsoil and a lot of organic matter.
Don’t go overboard adding clay, as you don’t want to drown the lawn, but a lawn on soil like this will require less watering than one on sandy soil.
Weeds, dandelion in particular, can be a problem for lawns. Gardeners who don’t like using chemical controls can dig them out but the roots are very long and any piece of root left behind will result in a new plant springing up. There’s also the problem of filling the hole left behind though. This can be filled with a clump of grass that’s strayed into a flower bed, for example.
If you resort to herbicides to control weeds on a lawn there are two general types. One type is selective and will kill some plants while leaving others. Broadleaf herbicides are an example, they will attack dandelions and other plants with large leaves but will not harm the slender leaves of grasses.
The second type does not select and will kill everything in its path. This can be used when undesirable grasses get into the lawn such as couch grass (also known as quack grass) or crab grass. If a lawn has some of these and you would like to get rid of them you will have to use a non-selective herbicide and then re-seed the area.
Lawns need a lot of fertilising for that lush green look and many specialist lawn fertilisers come with herbicides added in. A spring sprinkling with fertiliser will lay a good base for the summer to come. Note that most fertilisers with added herbicides should be spread when the lawn is wet so that the chemicals stick to the leaves of the weeds.
Of course mowing is the major job when taking care of a lawn, particularly in the summer. Close cropped lawns have been the ideal for centuries but longer cuts are advised in these days of frequent hosepipe bans. This is because it allows more moisture to be retained in the lawn so less frequent watering is required. Growth is also slowed slightly which again means less demand on water supplies.
One helpful development is with mulching mowers that cut the blades of grass into small sections and use the draught of the mower to force these clippings down into the base of the grasses. This mulches the lawn, helping water retention, and there are no clippings to collect. They are still relatively expensive though.
As was hinted at in the beginning of this article, there is pressure not only on the cutting length of grass in lawns. People are being encouraged to allow lawns to contain other plants, many that were previously seen as weeds, to encourage biodiversity and maintain microclimates that a pristine close cropped lawn cannot support.
Who knows, in fifty years time the lawn trend may have changed completely and we’ll all be proud of mini-meadows in our gardens.