Lawns and Lawn Care - 1 - Laying a new Lawn
Any Questions?

Nothing is more pleasant to the eye than green grass kept finely shorn  - Francis Bacon

Q.  We had a home constructed last fall and now dealing with a weedy and rocky yard. I did the best I could to get rid of weeds, but eventually gave up and seeded heavy amongst the weeds. Grass has now germinated (about 2 inches high).

When can I apply weedkiller without harming my new grass?

A.  The usual guide is to not apply weedkiller for about 12 months after seeding, I would certainly wait until well into summer before doing so.

As your grass has germinated you can start mowing, this will have the effect of removing a lot of your weeds as they can't take constantly being cut back like grass can. If you haven't cut the grass at all yet, put the mower on the highest setting for the first 3 or 4 cuts before lowering it. A little and often will work best, for the grass and also for helping get rid of the weeds.

Also, give your lawn a high nitrogen lawn feed so that the grass can start to fight back and help to crowd the weeds out in their weakened state.

Q.  Can I sow grass seed straight onto peat? My 40 tons of soil was not mixed with my 40 tons of peat as planned and I now have a good deep planting area of soil and a large shallow lawn area of peat. The expense and delay of getting this spread out added to the expense and delay of buying and delivering it in the first place precludes me from digging it up again and mixing it. Would a shallow dressing of soil be necessary (or indeed a satisfactory solution at all)?

A.  Not sure I understand the situation. You could sow seed into peat and it would probably germinate, but then would suffer from lack of nutrients and attract moss - being peat and so acidic. You need to mix the peat with the soil whether it be what you have brought in or what is already there. The easiest way (if possible) is to get a large rotavator and use it to mix the two.

It may be a major effort to mix the peat, but in the long run - decades? is certainly worth the extra.

Q.     We have a massive garden with around 12 conifer trees. Because of this we haven't got a lawn. Now we are planning to cut down all the trees down to ground level. Do we need to take the roots as well? The tree cutter suggests to leave the roots as they may rot. After cutting down the tress if I make lawn using seeds will it grow well. Or will it cause any problems? I have no idea about these things. Please provide me more ideas about the cutting trees, making a lawn after that.

A.  Are you saying you want to lawn over the area where the conifers were? If so you definitely need to remove as much of the roots as possible. As they rot, they will sink giving you and uneven lawn, they will also provide the food for many years worth of fungi that will happily pop-up all over your lawn until the roots are completely gone. As it is this is likely to happen as you'll never remove all the roots and you're bound to get some fungi growing anyway, it's a question of the more you dig up, the less the sinking and the less fungi.

Q.  In the summer we laid a new lawn. I have not cut it since August and want to cut it now. When is the best time to cut a slightly overgrown lawn in November. Not when it is wet I presume?

A.    When it's as dry as it's going to get, set the mower at maximum height (or near to) and avoid days when it's likely to be or has been frosty. I cut mine about a week ago, surprised I could cut it so late and don't now expect to do it again before next spring.

Q.  My husband is a house painter. His assistant placed some windows with glass panes on a client's turf for about 1.5 hours. It was a cloudy day, even so, the sun burned the grass. No paint was spilled on the grass, however, there was damage from the heat and moisture where the windows were. We will be paying a professional, actually their turf specialist, to inspect and advise what to do. Since this was not a chemical burn I am wondering what the standard advise on this sort of thing might be. I believe it is a type of Kentucky Bluegrass. If you have any advise, it would be appreciated.

A.  Difficult to answer directly without seeing the extent of the damage. Grass in general is tough old stuff and can survive all sorts of abuse, more likely than not, it will recover without much effort.

Depending on the extent of the damage, the next stage might be to cut out and replace the damaged area with turves (sod) if similar is available locally.

People do tend to flap about their turf for some reason, but it really does recover from all kinds of abuse pretty quickly. As for the cost of paying someone to go and survey it, next time (if there is a next time) I'd suggest hire you own guy and get him to take some turf (sod) with him and just replace it as the cost is probably not much more than you'd pay someone to just take a look anyhow.

Q.  I am now the proud owner of a garden for the first time, my soil is heavy clay and my question is how do I sort out my bumpy lawn? It is very uneven, apart from that the lawn is in a fairly good condition.

A.  This is a relatively straightforward if long-winded problem to deal with. It also depends on how large or small the humps and hollows are, if they are major undulations over several feet (sideways rather than vertically) there's not really much you can do other than dig up the turf, level it all out and start again.

Assuming that you are not going to go to these lengths, each bump or hollow should be dealt with individually. The basic technique is one of cutting a cross with the centre being the middle of the hump or hollow, use a spade or lawn edger. The turf is then peeled back, you will probably need to slide - with some vigour as your soil is clay! - the spade underneath the turf to separate it from the soil to do this. You now have four triangles of turf peeled back exposing a square of soil, either remove soil from, or add it to this area to level it, peel the turf back, firm it down and water it.

Small hollows can be dealt with by adding a light sprinkling of sifted soil or potting compost onto the surface of the grass. The grass should be actively growing when you do this, don't add any more than 1/4 - 1/2" at a time. It can be repeated, but only when the area has gone completely green again and the grass re-established.

Don't be tempted to get a heavy roller, all this does it compress and compact the soil, it also rolls up the hills and down the dales without really leveling out the whole area.

Q.  I have a lawn that is extremely lumpy and hard I have tried rolling. I've even used a tiller and turned it over but each time the grass gross back it gets really lumpy. The dirt seems to be like clay. A friend has offer to level my yard out with his utility tractor but I'm not sure. Maybe I should have a few truck loads of good top soil brought in to lay over the existing soil or mix it in? I'm wondering if that will make a difference or not. I mean as far as softening up the soil a little and then reseeding the whole area the yard is approx. 3/4 of an acre. If I reseed do I need to kill everything before turning the soil over. Help please I have a feeling this is going to be costly.

A.  As you say it sounds like it's going to be costly and so the best advice I can give you is to get in a local lawn or grounds expert to take a look at it and then tell you what he thinks you should do. With that kind of job, particularly as you've already tried to sort it once I'd really need to see it in reality and not at the end of an email. My guess is that you need to prepare the surface more thoroughly than maybe you did previously, but get someone on the spot to advise how and to what degree to do this.

Q.  I have some grass seed to put on my lawn which is a bit bare and would like advice on preparation and maintenance whilst it grows.

A.  It's always a difficult one when the grass is a "bit bare", it's difficult to thicken up and improve what's already there, often being easier to start again from scratch.

There are two steps to take, first of all improve conditions for the existing grass, it's not thin and sparse for nothing, and then add to it. If you don't address underlying problems, then it will revert to how it was beforehand, so you may need to aerate with a hollow-tine aerator or fork, apply a top-dressing, remove thatch, feed, remove weeds etc.

Adding grass seed while retaining existing grass is a bit hit and miss and dependent largely on what the weather is like after seeding. Rake the surface with an ordinary garden rake to loosen the soil, preferably not disturbing existing grass too much, then sow the seed on top, rake again to cover as much of it as you can and water it.

Keep off it completely until it begins to sprout, watering where necessary, when it starts to show through don't mow it as the rest of the lawn until it has thickened up. This is a good time to apply a general lawn feed which will also encourage the existing grass.

It's a bit of a hit and miss process, and you may need to repeat it more than once, but you should get there with patience.

Q.  How to remove patches of rye grass in newly-laid turf lawn? (Mainly ryegrass free).

A.  It's not going to be easy as it sounds like the rye grass was in the turf when it arrived. Finer grasses respond better to feeding and cope better with regular close mowing. So give your lawn monthly feeds through the summer and mow two or three times a week from May to September at 1/4" to 3/8".

This regime will eventually eradicate the rye grasses. An easier solution is to put up with the rye grass and get a rotary mower to cut down the resulting stalks.

It depends on the uses your lawn will get, rye grass is tough and resistant to wear and tear, finer delicate grasses aren't but look better.

Q.  How can I sort out patchy grass?

A.  Feed and weed, overseed if appropriate (if the patches are more than 6" across), aerate with a hollow tine aerator and sweep 50:50 peat and sand into the holes, collect and remove mowings, rake to remove thatch in the autumn and apply an autumn feed. Mow little and often, twice a week preferably, certainly go no more than a week between mowings.

Q.  I am really bored with cutting the grass all the time. Can you please tell me if there is some sort of artificial lawn system out there somewhere which looks good enough for a back garden and is practical. I know it sounds terrible but I am not the keenest gardener in the world and I've adopted a large garden which I want to enjoy, not slave over.

A.  You and half the rest of the country I think! As far as artificial lawns - there are more coming onto the market now, most are best laid by professionals as there's rather more to it than just laying down some carpet-like stuff, they are also quite expensive in at around £20 a square metre.

You don't say how large your garden is, but you could replace some or part of the lawn with a patio, gravel area, shrub borders / beds so at least the area to cut regularly would be reduced. You could just cut a small part regularly allowing the rest to become a "wildflower meadow" area cut only once or twice a year. You could buy (excuse me if this seems a bit obvious) a bigger lawnmower that goes around the lawn a lot quicker.

Q. I scarified, top dressed and seeded a lawn in early November. The old grass is growing but the seed seems to have stayed dormant. Should I continue to worry?

A.  Should you worry? - no. Grass seed can be fairly slow to germinate even at warm times of the year. The only problem with sowing so late in the year is that there's longer for the birds to get at it before it starts to grow, but it's more likely to be ok than not.

Q. I laid a new lawn from turf last year and although it took well at first it has torn up in patches by the dog racing around while it was still establishing itself. The dog is now banned from the lawn but I am unsure if I will be able to repair the damage without having to start all over again - HELP!!!.

A.  You could get some turf and cut and fit it to the shapes that are missing, small amounts of turf are often available at garden centers and DIY stores in the late spring and summer months. If the area is very large grass seed will work. Fill in any cavities / divits with topsoil and seed into this in March / April. It will take time, but by midsummer, you should a decent looking if not entirely finished lawn.

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