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Creating & maintaining a lawn

A beautiful lawn makes a beautiful garden

Whether you are starting from scratch, or rejuvenating an existing lawn, there are a few things to consider before you start. You are going to invest in your lawn both in time and money, so you want to get the best results you can.

Firstly, are there alternatives? If you have a small garden, and do not have children or pets, do you need a lawn at all? Maybe a deck or a combination of paving and decorative stone would be a better option? You will not need a mower, and won’t need to store hand tools.

If grass really struggles due to heavy wear in a small space, or grass just refuses to grow because of trees, compacted soil or heavy shade, artificial grass is an option. Take a look at the Namgrass range of artificial grass. When installed well it is hard to tell the difference.

Once you have decided that a beautiful real lawn is what you want, think about the shape of the lawn in relation to the shape of the garden. This is important both for its appearance and for practicality of cutting. Avoid awkward corners and angles, and consider how you will turn with the mower.

Think about the edges. Grass growing right up to fences and walls is impossible to maintain with a mower. You will either need a strimmer, or build a strip of compacted stone chippings or narrow paving slabs laid along the boundary and that would allow you to mow right up to the edge. A strip like this is also useful between flower borders and lawn. Plants will spill out of these onto the grass, making mowing difficult. Alternatively install an attractive edge to the bed. This could be plain and contemporary using Wickes Jumbo Garden Sleepers, laid flat along the edge of the bed. Or perhaps a more rustic and traditional using Wickes Timber Border Edging would work?

You may want a pathway through the garden; maybe to access the shed, back gate or washing line, or just for garden maintenance. Try to incorporate the pathway with the edge of the bed to form a mowing strip along the edge of the lawn; this will look good and it is practical too. If you need a pathway across the lawn consider stepping stones as an additional feature. Sink them in so that the surfaces are level with the lawn surface and you can mow straight over them.

Before you start

If starting from scratch you have to decide whether you will opt for seed or turf. Seed is cheaper than turf, but takes longer to establish, turf can give you an almost instant effect. Whichever you choose, good ground preparation and a nice level surface are essential. You may need to bring in a layer of good soil as a base. On a larger area a bulk bag of Rolawn blended loam topsoil would be ideal.

Turf needs to be laid as soon as possible after purchase; make all preparations before you get your turf. Remember that rolls of turf are heavy. You will probably need a good wheelbarrow and you may need help lifting.

The way to a beautiful lawn

A well-groomed, healthy lawn has an amazing impact on the appearance of your garden. Looking out on a wonderful green space when you open the curtains in the morning is an uplifting experience: it makes you want to get out there and enjoy it. So, whether you use it to play upon, or just to look at, you need to keep it in peak condition. The secret of success is to give it a little attention throughout the year. It only becomes hard work when it is neglected and you need to get things back on track. So here are a few tips to keep your grass looking beautiful throughout the year.

Spring is the most important time in the lawn care season; but hopefully some fine weather and longer days mean it’s a pleasure. Grass grows faster as the weather becomes warmer, but so do the weeds and there is probably plenty of moss after damp winter weather. Now is the time to strengthen the grass and get on top of the invaders.

Before you apply any type of treatment such as lawn fertiliser, it is worth cutting the grass, if you have not done so already. Do not cut too short, but reduce the height by around one third. You will have to refrain from cutting for a week or more after applying a lawn treatment and the grass can grow considerably in that time.

If there is a very heavy moss infestation it is worth raking out some of the moss before you attempt to treat it. You can use a robust spring-time lawn rake, or alternatively hire a lawn scarifier. With either you will remove some of the thatch, the dead material that sits on the ground below the grass blades. This allows more air and water to get to the roots.

Now apply a triple action lawn feed, weed and mosskiller. For small lawns you can use a hand-held applicator. For larger lawns it is easier to use a lawn spreader. It is important to distribute this as evenly as possible to avoid patches and irregular stripes. It is worth practicing on a couple of sheets of newspaper on the patio before you apply. That way you can make sure you are applying at the right rate. Always remember to check manufacturer’s instructions for the product specific application method.

Providing there has been regular rainfall, after a week or so it is time to remove the dead moss with a lawn rake or scarifier. The moss will have turned black, so it should be easy to see. Weeds will continue to shrivel and die, however you may need to follow up with a liquid weedkiller later on the stubborn ones. A ready-to-use spot weedkiller is ideal.

After a couple of weeks you can tackle any bare patches, either by oversowing with grass seed if the grass is generally thin or by using a lawn patch product. If oversowing make sure you do not overdo it; around a handful over 1 sqm is plenty. If there are bare patches, either caused by pets or excessive wear, a lawn patch product is ideal.

Wickes tip

While the ground is soft and rainfall plentiful it is a good idea to spike any compacted areas of the lawn: those areas which drain poorly or get excessive wear. You can do this by spiking with a garden fork.

This is the ideal time to sort out any lumps and bumps. The easiest way to do this is to lift the turf in the uneven area with a spade and peel it aside. Then either remove a little soil if the area is too high, or fill a depression using Wickes graded topsoil. Put the turf back in place and firm using a wooden plank to distribute the weight evenly.

Now is the time to sharpen up those edges around beds and borders. Investing in a half-moon lawn edging tool makes life a lot easier.

You could make mowing easier by installing border edging. Wickes Timber border edging comes in 1 metre lengths and is easy to install. To edge the grass you just run along it with the strimmer. No damage to your plants and a nice clean decorative edge.

Lawn care in summer

Your lawn will get heaviest use during the summer months, so it important not to put it under further stress. The secret of success is regular mowing. The temptation is always to cut the grass as short as possible, however this exposes the papery sheaths which cover the base of the grass stems. This makes the lawn look brown and unattractive. Leaving the grass longer keeps the grass looking greener and ensures there are enough leaves to feed the grass plants.

In hot dry weather you may need to use a lawn sprinkler. Always try and water in the early morning or late evening; this is more effective and avoids scorch and instant evaporation. Flooding the grass is a waste of water; gradual watering over a longer period is more effective as grass roots go surprisingly deep.

As long as the grass is in good condition and the weather is not hot and dry you can use a spot lawn weedkiller to keep on top of any weeds that appear. Avoid using triple action lawn feed, weed and moss killer products in hot, dry weather. To green up the grass use a conditioner after cutting.

In drought conditions, especially if you are on holiday, the grass may go brown. If this happens don’t panic. The lawn is not dead, just dormant. The grass blad

Wickes tips

If you have play equipment in the garden, try to move it around regularly to avoid excessive wear and tear in one area. Paddling pools suffocate the grass quickly, so do not leave one on the same spot for several days.

Move any garden furniture off the grass when not in use to allow maximum air and sunlight to get to the lawn.

After heavy use over a weekend brush the lawn with a stiff broom or plastic lawn rake and leave the lawn sprinkler on for an hour in the evening. If possible give the grass a day or two to recover.

Lawn care in autumn

Autumn is also a crucial time for lawn care as it is time to prepare the grass for winter when appearance is all important. You may not be using the lawn, but you will certainly be looking at it through the window.

Keep cutting regularly, even if you are not cutting as often. It is wrong to think that you stop mowing in early autumn and start again the following spring. If the grass is long, cutting lightly when the weather permits is ideal. Try not to cut shorter than 3cm. A good guide is always to reduce the height by no more than one third.

Now is a good time to apply an autumn lawn fertiliser; anytime from the beginning of September. This keeps the grass green, but it also strengthens it, making it more resistant to cold and feeding the roots. As there is usually plenty of moisture around there should be no need to water it in if rain does not fall.

Granular autumn lawn fertilisers usually contain moss killers. Although there may be little moss present after summer it is worth controlling any moss that is present before it spreads through the grass over winter.

A couple of weeks after applying a fertiliser is an excellent time to scarify the lawn, either with a spring-tine rake or electric scarifier. This gets rid of any moss and the thatch (dead material) that has built up in the turf over the summer. It also helps to break up the creeping stems of the grass plants encouraging more tufted, brighter green grass.

The most important lawn care in autumn is the regular collection of leaves as they fall on the lawn. You can collect them using a rotary mower on a high setting. This will chop the leaves making them easy to compost; it also adds a few wet grass clippings which help the process. Alternatively get out there with a lawn rake and rake them up. Doing this regularly prevents wet leaves sticking to the grass which robs it of air and sunlight and causes decay.

Wickes tip

If you haven’t got a compost heap, pack the leaves you’ve gathered into black plastic bags. Add a little water, spike the bag with a fork. Tie it up and stack it away in a corner for 6-12 months. The leaves will compost and you will be left with an excellent top dressing for beds and borders.

Lawn care in winter

If the weather is mild, and the grass keeps growing an occasional cut during winter is beneficial. Keep gathering any leaves that fall and you may need to rake out any patches of moss, especially if the birds start pulling at it.

Always keep off the grass in frosty weather. Walking on it when the grass is frozen damages it and leaves black footprints.

Plan your project

How to plan or update a garden

How to plan or update a garden

A perfect garden needs a perfect plan. Follow our useful tips to design a layout that meets your needs and interests whilst complementing your home and lifestyle.

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Follow our useful calendar to keep your garden in great shape so you can enjoy it all year round. We explain how to grow fruit and vegetables successfully, too.