You will be creating your new lawn for a purpose that may be ornamental, perhaps to enhance a feature in your garden, or it may to be create a suitable playing surface for a young family. Whichever it is, choosing the correct species of grass to match the purpose is essential.
If the need is for a sturdy, utility lawn suitable for the rough and tumble of a young family. Without doubt, the best species is Lolium perenne or perennial ryegrass. It establishes quickly and, once established, will provide you with a lawn that will withstand the wear and tear of family and pets. Ryegrass is also a good-looking grass with a deep green colour; grows extremely well at high or low cuts; has good drought tolerance and disease resistance; and, importantly, will only require a medium level of maintenance by the busy family.
Testament to its suitability is the fact that it is used for the majority of the leading sports surfaces in the UK and in the grounds of stately homes.
Thatch, fertilisers and grass clippings
Thatch is best described as a layer of dead or decaying plant material that is found at the base of the plant, but above the soil layer. A certain amount of thatch is good in a lawn, but excessive amounts can harbour pests and diseases and give the lawn a soft, spongy effect.
Thatch can also act as a barrier to nutrients (usually given by way of fertilisers) preventing them from reaching and then being absorbed into the soil. This can further exacerbate the problem because lack of nutrients in the soil layers will mean lack of root development, which, in turn, will lead to more thatch.
One easy way of preventing the development of thatch is to feed the grass correctly. Also, contrary to often quoted opinion, cutting the grass and then leaving the clippings on the lawn will NOT increase the amount of thatch.
Watering – how much, when and where?
The best way to irrigate a lawn is straightforward – apply water heavily, but infrequently.
The reasons for this also follow a straightforward logic in that if water is applied to the lawn during hot periods in a ‘little and often’ fashion, it never has the chance to be absorbed into the soil before it evaporates. The result of this is that there is no water in the lower soil layers, so, the roots are encouraged to remain near the surface, rather than growing deep into the soil profile.
Heavy watering will still suffer from some evaporation, but the drenching will mean that most of the water will find its way into the lower parts of the soil profile. This, in turn, will encourage the roots deeper, thereby making the lawn more tolerant to drought. A pleasing side effect of this is that you will not have to water the lawn so often.
A final tip for watering your lawn is to always do it last thing at night. This gives the water plenty of time to soak into the soil and reduces the amount lost to evaporation.
In fact, grass clippings left on the lawn can be beneficial for a couple of reasons. Firstly, they are made up of a material called cellulose, which can be broken down rapidly by fungi and bacteria in the soil, thereby returning nutrients to the soil – effectively fertilising your lawn for free. Secondly, in the hot summer months, clippings will help the soil retain moisture by preventing water loss caused by evaporation.