Speaking as someone who started caring for their first lawn rather late in life, I can testify to the fact that lawn maintenance is rather a daunting subject, especially for the uninitiated.
Since we first moved into this house, I’ve become rather obsessed with growing vegetables and herbs though, so we’ve invested in raised beds over the years, but that is neither here nor there, not for the purpose of this article at least.
When we first marvelled at the vast expanse that was to be our very own lawn (in reality, it’s not that big of a patch at all, and today we rather wish we had purchased an added bit of land as well), we were rather intimidated. How on earth were we to keep it as lush?
Here’s what we’ve learned about lawn maintenance – and hopefully our experiences can help you nurture your very first lawn to perfection too.
Understand your soil
You will first need to know what kind of soil you have. The only way to actually learn this is by testing it – no matter what the previous owners or your neighbours tell you, only a proper soil test will provide all the right answers.
The local agricultural office will be able to help, and you can collect the samples yourself: take soil from the problem areas, the dry patches, and your best bit of lawn, and send them off for testing. Once the results are back, you’ll be able to read up on the best kind of lawn to sow in that particular soil.
You can of course DIY the test, and get a soil tester off of Amazon. You are looking to determine the pH level of your soil. Most grasses will grow well at a pH between 6.2 and 7.2. You can also test for nitrogen and phosphorus, and determine how much food there is in the soil you already own.
Choose the right seeds
While all grasses may appear the same to you, there are actually many different species, and you want to make sure you choose just the right one for your kind of soil.
Depending on the climate, amount of rainfall, amount of shade and other similar weather and terrain conditions, you will be able to choose a grass that is most likely to prosper in your area. You have plenty of choice in the UK, so with a bit of research, you can pinpoint a grass you like the look and maintenance of, that will flourish in your local soil
This is the part where you can ask your neighbours for advice and see what kind of grass they are growing. You may not want to copy their decision, but you’ll at least know what the options are.
Sow your seeds right
In order to grow the best possible lawn, you will need to get your seeding right the very first time. For starters, you want to choose some high-quality seeds. The cheaper options will often not actually contain what you have paid for, so splurging a bit on that initial seeding can help you achieve the lawn of your dreams.
You need to time your seeding perfectly too, so research when the right time is in your specific area.
We chose a Finchmill mix that has worked well – but make sure to base your choice on more than just my recommendation, and do some actual research.
Feed the grass well
Your lawn will also need to be fed in order to prosper, and the most important nutrient you should be looking at is nitrogen. Depending on the results of your soil test, you will be able to determine how many pounds of nitrogen you need every year.
When purchasing fertiliser, make sure to check the label for nitrogen content and the content of other nutrients. You want to match what’s in the bag with what your soil needs, so don’t settle for “just about”, seek out the real deal.
Feeding your lawn too often and too much can also turn out to cause more harm than good, so either take the advice of your local agricultural office or a fellow gardener, or look up the right feeding schedule online and stick to it.
In the fall, you want to get yourself a fertiliser that will prep your grass for the winter, and ensure it comes back strong in the spring.
Eliminate all weeds
Where there are weeds, the grass will never be as green as it could have been. It’s important to get rid of all of them, as one weed will only sprout more, and leaving them unattended will quickly develop into a handful.
You can do the old-fashioned thing and pluck the weeds yourself. Or, you can get a weed killer that is safe for the environment, for your kids, and for your pets. Make sure you read the label carefully, and only purchase something that is absolutely safe.
Mow your lawn regularly
Tom tells me that mowing the lawn is an excellent relaxation technique. As I don’t ever actually mow ours, I can’t testify to this fact, but Tom is a man of his word, so we’ll hold him to it.
Before you mow your lawn, make sure you actually examine whether or not it needs it. Don’t just add the task to your Saturday to do list – if the grass is not yet high enough, don’t mow it. When the weather is hot, you will need to mow the lawn more often, so do bear that in mind as well.
You should never remove more than a third of the blade’s length at a time, and should change the heights you mow at gradually over the course of several seasons. It may take some time to get that lush growth you are aiming for, but regular trimming and the proper feed and water will do the trick.
In order to make this task as enjoyable as it can be, invest in a lawn mower. You can get a hedge trimmer that also doubles as a lawn mower, or you can get the real deal. We have this Bosch number, and it seems to be working wonders, judging by the state of our lawn.
Don’t forget to keep your lawn mower’s blades sharp – dull blades will cause a lot of damage, and your lawn won’t look as neat.
Water your lawn regularly
To make your lawn the best it can possibly be, aim to water it deeply and less frequently, than vice versa. Shallow and more frequent watering will result in shallow roots, which will be more prone to damage.
How much you need to water your lawn will depend on the season and the amount of rainfall, of course. Again, your best bet is to learn as much as you can about the type of soil you have in your garden and the amount of water the type of grass you have sown needs.
Always water your lawn in the early mornings. When the sun is high up or the day is late, there is a high chance of some of the water evaporating before it hits your grass, and it can also get too hot. The chill of the morning, even at the height of the summers we have been having recently, will provide the best watering temperature.
Overseed when needed
Your lawn will naturally start to thin out over time, especially if the kids or your pets are running around on it. In order to keep it lush and dense, you will need to overseed every season or so.
The seed mix you use to overseed will, you’ve guessed it, depend on the kind of soil you have and the seeds you have already planted. Feeding your overseed and watering it regularly will help your new batch of grass to develop well, and you’ll soon notice those bald patches are not looking as sparse as they used to.
Don’t forget to aerate your lawn
This is a step most homeowners forget about, and we wouldn’t have known about it either if it hadn’t been for June, our amazing neighbour.
Aerating means providing extra room for the soil to absorb nutrients and water. As the grass grows, the top layer of the soil gets more compacted, and it won’t be able to eat up as much as it needs to. By using a spike aerator, or even by walking with shoes that have spikes over your lawn, you’ll create holes in the ground that allow the air and water to circulate better.
When you aerate, the soil should be moist, but not wet. You only need to repeat this process once or twice a year, and only when you notice the soil has become very compacted.
A lawn story short
Lawn maintenance is a tricky business, but hopefully you now know just what you need to be doing, and in what order, to grow the grass of your dreams.
Remember – everything in the garden takes time, so don’t expect your lawn to sprout overnight.