Introduction to lawn grass maintenance
The Green Green Grass of Home
A lawn is so much more than the natural beautiful green carpet that covers the ground with perennial grass. It is also regarded as the heart of a garden. In an Englishman castle his lawn is a fundamental need that enhances the exterior beauty of the house.
Maintaining a perfect lawn requires a lot of attention, including fertilising, aerating, watering and mowing.
A beautifully maintained, well-trimmed lush green perfectly lined lawn leading up to your main entrance has become somewhat a sign of status and grandeur. So much so that it can spark the envy of all your neighbours.
It also becomes a blank canvas for the setting of glorious colourful flower beds. The lawn has aesthetic and spiritual value too, it is a source of joy, charm and pride. Which can also reduce physical and mental stress after a hectic day at work.
Lawns play an important role in our gardens. “Without a lawn no garden is beautiful and complete, as the attractiveness of the garden mainly depends upon the physical attractive appearance of the lawn.”
Lawns provides us a perfect place for organising parties and different Social gatherings. They bring families and friends alike together in so many different ways.
Grasses in General
Grasses are low, green, non-woody plants belonging to the family Poaceae (grass family), the family Cyperaceae (sedge family), and the Juncaceae (rush family).
There are many grass like members of other flowering plant families. However true grasses belong to only the Poaceae family. This comprises of approximately 10,000 species.
Classifications of Grasses
Grasses can be classified into two broad divisions that are cool season grasses and warm season grasses.
Cool season grasses mostly prefer daytime temperatures of between 60-75 °F. While warm season grasses grow better in warmer temperatures of between 80-95°F.
Types of lawn grasses used in United Kingdom
The following are some of the most common lawn grasses used for sports grounds, pitches, park’s and for house gardens in United Kingdom.
Dwarf Perennial Ryegrass
In both UK and USA ryegrass is the most popular type of grass. This popularity is mainly due to the fact that it shows vigorous rapid growth, is highly resistant and has a great natural recovery process.
The reason it became a good lawn due to its fast growth potential unfortunately means regular mowing is required. For maintaining good quality, a regular mowing of twice per week is required during rapid growth season during the summer months.
Moreover it also necessitates a good amount of fertilisers and feed all year round to retain it on top form.
Common Bent grass
Common Bent grass is widely known as brown top bent grass. As the name indicates it is particularly common in the UK, growing wild mainly on wastelands and moorlands.
It requires relatively low maintenance and can easily grow on all soil types including sandy and clayey soils.
Smooth Stalked Meadow grass
Smooth stalked Meadow grass has dense and shallow root system, enabling them to propagate in almost any place.
During winter time or in cool season, normal Meadow grass can become very weak and most die out altogether. However, annual Meadow grass is ideal for golf courses and bowling greens.
Slender Creeping Red Fescue
The slender creeping red fescue is another preferred choice amongst ground keepers of Bowling Greens and golf course community.
This slender creeping grass survives well in shady and dry environments. It requires less attention than the most grasses in the UK. It will also flourish well and roots hold very quickly, it makes a good choice for those who are going to start a new lawn.
Methods for growing lawn grass
For establishing a new lawn, seeding is a most common and least expensive method. A spraying device hydroseeder is used for this purpose that simultaneously applies a mixture of seed, water and fertiliser.
This is the slowest way and the seeds need protecting from birds and small garden animals. You may have to seed several times to get the lawn growing in a uniform manner.
An established turf grass, known as sod which is moved easily from one location to another. Cut like lengths of carpet and laid in a similar way, it is probably the fastest way to a new lawn.
Make sure your under soil is level and contains no pot holes. Sharp sand can be used as a good ground leveller.
Plugging is another very common method for establishing lawns. This method is used for installing a new turf having rapid growth potential than grass seed. But it is slower than sodding.
These plugs are small patches of growing grass of 2-4 inches in diameter. On planting they rapidly flourish and develops roots and cover whole area. The Plugging method is cost effective as compared to sodding but requires the same amount of labor. Warm season grass plugs are best to plant in late spring to early summer when all danger of frost has passed.
Sprigging or Stolonizing
The Stolonizing is a form of sprigging, sprigs are planted over the site, then rolled and covered slightly with soil. It is a good propagation method for most turf grass. The stolons act as a reproductive donor and disperse over the surface of the soil, similar to seeding.
This propagation method is useful for grass which are stoloniferous. The most commonly known stoloniferous grass is the Bent grass and Bermuda grass.
Steps to establish a successful lawn
- Plant at the proper time of year
- Proper drainage and grading
- Proper conditioning the soil
- Apply fresh, viable seed, sod and plugs
- Maintain sufficient moisture to promote rapid establishment of the lawn
- Mow the new lawn to its correct height
Characteristics of a good lawn grass
A good lawn grass will have the ability to flourish rapidly and show compact growth. It should have the durability to withstand regular mowing. As well as survive under drought and cold conditions.
On touch it gives a soft and smooth appearance not patchy, and remain vivid green throughout the year.
The lawn location should ideally be in a south east or south west direction of house or any buildings. Lawn grass grows well in full sun rather than a shady position. Try to choose an open area where no large trees are growing. Dried leaves falling from trees can makes the lawn look dirty and if left can kill the grass.
It is advisable to clear any fallen leaves from your lawn as soon as possible. Using a cordless leaf blower would be your best option. This type of cordless garden tool is much less noisy than its petrol counterpart as well as being more Eco friendly. Always remember to collect the leaves and place them in your green compost bin for use as mulch later in the year.
Soil water holding capacity and drainage are very important factors, poorly drained soil grasses are likely to wither and die.
Preparation of soil
For the establishment of a good lawn, the soil should be rich in humus, fertile loamy soil is ideal for grasses. It should have good water holding capacity and drainage. Depth of soil should be at least 25-30 cm for lush growth.
Soil pH should be between 5.5-6 for rapid growth of grasses. For healthy growth of grasses, soil preparation is required. Prior to soil preparation a rough eye estimation of soil is advisable.
After the digging and ground levelling have been done, raking and filling of any dips in levels may also be required.
The digging process should be completed in April to May, kill any weed roots and seeds, insects and harmful microorganisms, then sterilise the soil.
Proper and frequent drainage are a necessity for grasses, as they have a shallow root system so no deep drainage is required. A good layer of sharp sand beneath the soil can help with drainage.
Maintenance of lawn
Lawn maintenance requires a lot of attention after the lawn has established. For retaining the texture of the turf grass and its uniform green colour. The lawn must be scraped, aerated and top dressed with fertilisers.
Kept free from weeds as it is the main point of any landscape strategy. An improperly managed or roughly maintained lawn can spoil the beauty of the complete garden.
Following methods are used for care and maintenance of a lawn.
The lawn should be rolled after every weeding or at weekly intervals. The prime purpose of rolling is to keep the ground levelled. It also brings the grass in contact with the soil after the first shower of rain. However avoid rolling when the soil is too wet. Roll carefully with medium roller both ways to make the ground level accurate.
The cutting process of turf grasses is known as lawn mowing this is done to improve the aesthetic look of the lawn. It also provides good playing grounds for a games and aids in the control of weeds.
Frequent mowing is as essential as watering, it maintains good quality healthy grass. Mowing frequency depends upon season and type of grass. “The recommended growth for grasses should be less than 6cm high”. A cordless lawn mower is highly recommended for cutting lawn grass.
The Cordless Lawn Mower
In this day and age it is recommended that you use a battery powered cordless lawn mower in favour of the older petrol types. For one they are far more Eco friendly. Something we all should be thinking about for the future of the planet.
It is estimated that petrol garden tools account for around 5% of air pollution. Hence we should all be doing our part to help the environment. Secondly they are easier to use and are very low on maintenance.
Trimming is done around the edges of the lawn and around obstacles that you cannot reach with the lawn mower. The best garden tool to use for this purpose is a cordless grass trimmer. They are very light and easy to use, with a long stem you can easy reach those difficult places that the lawn mower cannot.
Most string trimmers use nylon thread that rotates at high speeds to cut the grass and weeds in the garden. By using a cordless trimmer you are not only helping the environment, as they run without gas emissions, but also they are much safer with a cord to contend with.
Manuring and Feeding
Nutrients deficiency can be overcome by adding natural fertilisers as manure that adds nutrients to the soil. Mostly nitrogen contents are low in lawn grass. Nitrogen is an essential macro-element that helps to maintain the green colour of grass by developing chlorophyll contents.
So in order to overcome nitrogen deficiency, manure that is rich in nitrogen is the best choice for lawn grass. Natural manure is a good option. Whether you use it directly as fertiliser or mix with other ingredients to create your own lawn fertiliser. You can then layer it as a thin mulch on grass.
Manuring can help to keep your lawn vigorous healthy and green, with its high phosphorus and nitrogen content.
Scraping and Raking
To maintain the firmness and tenderness of the lawn scraping and raking are always helpful. With excessive rolling and mowing, a hard crust layer forms on the lower surface of grass. This eventually would be converted into a woody texture.
In May or June before the onset of rainy season the lawn should be entirely scraped with the help of fork or rake. This in order to prevent this woody texture forming in the first place.
Lawn grass needs frequent watering for its vigorous growth during the summer months. Watering obviously depends upon weather conditions and soil type. Regular watering is more beneficial than heavy watering at long intervals. Heavy watering may boost the deep rooting weeds and allow them come up.
For even distribution of water, sprinkler irrigation is the best method. The water should be clear and pure as saline or brackish water burns the grass especially during summer. Morning dew drops are very beneficial for lawn grass.
Weeds compete with grass and make its growing less vigorous. So it is necessary to control weeds either manually or by using chemicals. The most frequent growth of weeds can be seen in the rainy season.
Hence it requires more repeated weeding during this time in comparison to the winter months. A weedicide 2, 4-D is the most effective chemical used for lawn weeding.
- Termites Termites attack in summer season they mostly attack on stem and roots.
- Mealy bugs These bugs mostly attack Bermuda hybrid grass in summer season.
- Root grubs Is minor lawn pest.
- Slugs They are seen in water logged conditions
Using a good natural insecticide can easily keep these pests under control.
- Damping off Appears mainly due to water stagnation and poor drainage of the lawn.
- Fairy ring These fungi cause circular rings on the grass. Rings may not be complete with in appearance and are sometimes of horse shoe shape. The grass turns brown and range from few centimetres to a few meters in width.
Cutting the affected areas out and replanting or seeding should be the best solution.
- Yellowing of lawn More prevalent in wet weather it is caused by water logging in heavy rainfall areas. Make sure the drainage is up to standard.
- Deficiency of Nitrogen Hardening of a soil, which creates oxygen deficiency in roots. Make sure the lawn is fed and watered more frequently.
- Frost Injury In cold regions grass can be injured due to frost. Overcome by spraying water in the evening and early in the morning after the frost.
- Thatching Formation of straw like layers of dead stems, leaves and roots of grasses is called thatching. It can be controlled by manual removal.
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