Garden Design - Lawns
You can't beat good old fashioned grass. If you use your garden at all (as opposed to looking at it out of the windows) then it will often be the lawn that you use. If you have children, it provides a near perfect outdoor play surface, soft and forgiving, self-repairing, and good looking.
The same applies if you have a dog or cat (rabbit, guinea pig etc.). If your garden has aspirations to being ornamental as well as utilitarian, then the lawn provides an excellent foil to show off all the other features.
- It's drought tolerant
- It can be cut very short and still re-grow
- It looks good all year round
- It provides an ideal contrast for the rest of the garden
- It's cheaper than any other form of ground cover
Almost irrespective of the size of your garden, a lawned area is well worth incorporating if you don't currently have one, or renovating / improving if you have one but if it's in poor condition. The only gardens that are probably better off without a lawn are very small courtyard types, where space for hard surfaces and planting is at a premium. 10ft x 10ft is probably an absolute minimum for an area of lawn, anything less really does look silly.
Fence-to-fence or not. If at all possible leave part/s of the garden unturfed where beds and borders are to go. Laying turf that will later be lifted is a waste of money and also it's hard work digging up well-rooted turf which then has to be disposed of.
Things to consider when planning a lawn in your garden
- If mowing simplicity is important, then make sure that
the shape and layout of your lawn is simple, without sharply
curved edges. Island beds and specimen trees or shrubs to
make mowing awkward. Overhanging branches that require you
to duck beneath with the mower can be a nuisance or even
dangerous. Aim for long runs up and down the lawn where
- Don't aim for a close-cropped ornamental lawn - they
take more effort to mow and don't wear so well. So aim instead
for a utility area which shouldn't need mowing more than
once a week in summer.
- For a new lawn, choose one of the newer, hard wearing, but slower growing grass mixes if possible.
Alternatives to lawns
- Hard surfaces, such as paving, brickwork, concrete,
small cobbles set into concrete, gravel, wooden decking
or tarmac with small pebbles brushed over. Mix the surfaces
to create interesting patterns and textures. Leave gaps
for plants between. Make sure that the surface is safe to
use - choose non-slip materials. Avoid reflective colours
and surfaces, provide some shade for large areas of hard
- Hard surfaces will be more expensive than a lawn for
a given area, you could compromise and just have a small
area to reduce the area of, rather than totally eliminate
- Artificial turf - this has come
on a long way in recent years and doesn't look as artificial
as it used to by a long way, there are also many different
grades for differing requirements, I have heard some very
good reviews from people who have laid it in an area that
previously was just a mud-bath or very sparsely grassed
area due to the dog/s. The surface is porous so liquids
pass through it, you just have to make sure you poop-scoop
regularly. The downsides are that it is a lot more expensive
to lay than a lawn needing a sub-base in the way that a
patio does with the "grass" then being laid, pegged and
held in place with sand. As a rule of thumb it will cost
about the same as having a patio laid, in the region
of £50-£70 per square meter. If comparing prices,
be aware that many of them are for the artificial grass
coevering only and not inclusive of the materials for the
sub-base or of the labour required to prepare and lay it.
It has an expected life of around 15-20 years with 5-10
year guarantees being typical. The surface will fade with
time as plastic does in sunlight, though when it needs replacing,
the sub-base will already be in place so it won't be quite
so expensive as when it was first laid.
- Ground-cover planting,
particularly useful for those awkward corners, areas of
uneven ground or slopes, shady patches under trees where
grass does not grow well and mowing is difficult. Though
be aware that if grass won't grow in a particular place,
then it unlikely that much else will either.
- For a small area, try establishing a lawn using a
plant other than grass. As long as wear is minimised,
and the ground weed-free to start with, these suggestions
are all suitable, being neat and attractive all year, tolerant
of some trampling and having a dense, low-growing habit
that reduces the need for hand weeding. You may find however
that they need to be replanted every 3-4 years. This is
not really a solution for a walking-on lawn, but for a small
(they have to be clipped by hand, not with a mower!) - looking-at
Anthemis nobilis - Chamomile. The variety 'Treneague' is the one you need as it is non-flowering, standard flowering chamomile grows quite tall and gets very straggly, tatty and un-lawn like after it has flowered. Aromatic, feathery, best on a sunny site. Trim in late summer. Establish from divided plants or cuttings, 4-6 inches apart.
Thymus spp. - Thyme Ideal for well-drained sites in full sun. A mixture of the low growing and creeping forms gives a lovely Persian carpet effect. Establish from seed, sowing different species in bold shapes, at least five plants per patch. Choose varieties with contrasting leaf colours, textures and flowering seasons. Maintenance is minimal, restricted to a little hand-weeding and the occasional clipping of the taller dead flower heads. Good where they can spill onto the edges of a path or gravel / paved area.