Lawns are an integral part of the British garden. Whether they provide a safe, cushioned place for children to play in the heat of the summer, or somewhere to sit with family and friends, your lawn is certain to be one of your garden’s best assets. But what do you do when something goes wrong with your lawn? You start to notice dead patches of grass, weeds are cropping up all over the place, or it doesn’t look as lush and green as it used to? Or perhaps you’ve moved to a new house which doesn’t have a lawn and you’d like to grow one?
This guide will talk you through exactly how to grow a lawn, and how you can care for your existing one – including diagnosing and resolving common issues that plague lawn-owners across the UK.
Growing a Lawn from Seed
If you’ve decided to take a brave leap and sow your lawn from seed, you’ll need to have a good idea of the steps you need to take to make sure it grows to be healthy and thriving. Getting it right when you start off will ensure the grass stays looking great for many years to come.
Choosing to plant a lawn from seed is a sensible option if you are on a tighter budget and can be bought in a much wider variety of grass types so you can choose to plant a lawn which is best suited to the conditions where you live.
Follow our advice for a luscious, vibrant lawn:
- Choosing the right seed mix
- When to sow a lawn
- How to sow a lawn
Choosing the right seed mix
Once you have a good idea of timescales, you need to choose the perfect seed mix for your lawn. When choosing a mixture you should consider many factors. These are the most common kinds of seed variety you can find[ii].
- Hardwearing lawn – A hardwearing, or family, general-purpose lawn is usually best under most circumstances. These seed mixes contain rye grass and fescue varieties which can handle wear and tear and work very well in high-traffic areas. They are perfect for families with children and pets.
- Shady – Seed varieties for a shady lawn will withstand a certain level of shade from trees and structures. They usually contain fine-leaved types of grass like hard fescue and browntop.
- Ornamental – An ornamental or luxury lawn is a lot more fragile than other varieties and won’t handle wear and tear well. These lawns consist of finer grass varieties like chewings fescue and creeping fescue.
When to sow a lawn
You should sow your lawn in the late summer, early autumn or mid-spring when the conditions are perfect for germination. The weather shouldn’t be too cold or hot and the soil you’re planting in should be warm and moist[iii].
Remember your lawn will need time to become established in the perfect conditions, so never plant your grass seeds just before winter or summer.
Whenever you decide to plant it, make sure you are able to give your lawn plenty of water. Planting out when there is an imminent drought, for example, would be a completely waster venture.
How to sow a lawn
Prepare your soil
When growing a lawn, your first step should always be to ensure you have prepared your soil so it is ready to be planted up.
- Skim off old grass, stones and rocks
- Eliminate any weeds using methods that won’t prevent seeds from germinating
- Mix in manure or well-rotted organic matter so the soil is moist and full of nutrients for the seed
- Roughly level the area using a rake
- Leave the ground to settle for several days up to 5/6 weeks
- Firm the ground by walking over the soil before raking again
- Rake in a granular, general purpose fertiliser
Sowing grass seed
Before you get started sowing your lawn, carefully read the suppliers instructions as all grass types have slightly different instructions and will need sowing in different quantities.
- Section off square meters or yards of your area using canes or similar.
- Measure out around 50g of seed per square meter (check supplier recommendations as this may be different)
- Split the 50g measure in half and spread 25g over the area in one direction
- Spread the remaining seed in the opposite direction to ensure good coverage
- Rake over the seeds lightly to cover most of them with soil
The hard work doesn’t stop when the lawn has been sown. You’ll need to dedicate time to aftercare and maintenance whilst watching your lawn grow. Here are some tips.
- Protect your lawn using a fruit net. This will stop birds getting at your newly planted seeds.
- Weed as and when you need to – do not use weed killers.
- Re-firm the soil when the seedlings reach around 2-3 inches.
- A few days after re-firming, cut the grass down to 1 inch. Repeat this for the first few cuts.
- Keep your lawn well-watered, especially during droughts.
Avoid using your lawn during the first season of growing so that is has ample time to become established. Don’t place structures like garden gazebos, swing sets or otherwise on your lawn until a considerable amount of time has passed. For example, if you sowed your lawn in autumn, don’t use it until June. If you sowed it in spring, don’t use it until late autumn.
Did you know: a 50 x 50 foot lawn releases enough oxygen for one person every day[iv]
If you already have a well-established lawn and are wondering how to best care for it, this section is for you. We’ll look at the most common aspects of lawn care which everyone with a lawn should know about.
You will be able to tell quite easily when your lawn needs watering, but here are some top tips[v]:
- Water in the early morning or at night to avoid it evaporating in the sun.
- Use a sprinkler to automate watering and to make sure your grass is getting enough.
- When watering, allow the water to soak in fully by turning sprinklers on in 10-15 minute intervals.
- Be mindful of hosepipe bans. Your lawn may turn brown during a drought if you can’t water it, but it will recover with relative ease.
- Allow your lawn to dry out before watering again.
How often you cut your grass will depend on the speed at which your particular grass grows. As a general rule, you should never leave more than 10 to 14 days between cutting your grass. Here are some pointers for knowing when your lawn needs to be mowed:
- You should never cut a grass by more than one third its length in one mowing session.
- For example, if want your lawn to stay at 1” and that is the setting your lawnmover is on, you should mow it when it reaches 1 1/2”.
- Cut your grass at least every 7 – 10 days during the spring and autumn (if you are using a cylinder mower you should increase this to every 3 to 5 days)[vi].
- During dry summers, mow your lawn every one to two weeks.
Just like any other plant, crop or flower, grass needs to be fertilised to give it the right nutrition for thick, healthy growth. The good news is that your lawn only needs fertilising twice a year, once in the spring and once in the autumn. These are the seasons where grass will see the most growth.
Make sure you fertilise during a dry day so that the rain doesn’t wash fertiliser away, but ensure your lawn is moist so that it will take in the fertiliser[vii].
Aerating your lawn involves spiking your lawn to let air get to the grass roots. This achieves better drainage and stimulates grass growth.
You should aerate your lawn in the spring and the autumn, but never during very dry or very wet weather[viii]. This can be done with a garden fork or a specifically designed aerator, which are much more efficient to use.
Scarifying is an important process to ensure lawn health. It involves removing the ‘thatch’ from your lawn which includes debris like moss and dead grass from the area. This helps to avoid unsightly ‘dead’ yellow patches and grass loss.
You’ll know that your lawn needs scarifying if it is spongy underfoot (generally from moss growth). After scarification, your lawn will look quite messy. But the grass will grow back thicker and better. You can use a powered scarifier to carry out this process, and there are plenty of companies which can do it for you,
Ryan Jenkins is a professional gardener and has been working in the gardening industry for over 25 years. This has allowed Ryan to accumulate a vast wealth of gardening knowledge which he shares on the Sefton Meadows blog.