Garden Lawn Ideas – Lawn and Hedge Care

Lawn and Hedge Care

Lawns, paths and hedges are all a major part of the framework of a garden – they are the backdrop and the foil. Their appearance and thus their maintenance is critical to the overall effect. If they are in poor condition they draw attention to themselves instead of enhancing the rest of the garden. Their shape and positioning also need careful planning. Giving them a good start will reduce maintenance work later.

lawn and hedge care - garden lawn ideas Lawns and grass paths make up much of the typical ‘English’ garden and the emerald green does show off other plants to perfection, but these areas take a tremendous amount of work, cash and resources to maintain. In very small gardens, give serious consideration to dispensing with grass altogether, saving the need to buy and store a grass cutter as well as liberating ground space.

Areas for sitting or sunbathing could be hard surfaced or gravelled instead and surrounded or patch-planted with low-growing plants such as chamomile and thyme. In the largest gardens grass is a sensible groundcover because it is relatively easy to keep neat and tidy, though can be time-consuming if poorly planned. Grassed areas do compete with the plants in them, but grass clippings can be collected to use as a mulch (they are especially good for roses, shrubs and soft fruit) and to suppress grass around and underneath trees.

Grassed areas can be established in three ways: seeding, turfing and cutting the natural cover regularly. Seeding gives you a choice of grasses and the option to include companion plants; it is not expensive but is quite hard work. The area needs to be dug, de-weeded, levelled and raked to a seedbed, removing all stones and rubbish. Then ground rock dusts, ground seaweed and lime or calcified seaweed must be incorporated to enrich the soil. The first flush of weeds can be raked or flame-gunned, then the area sown in spring or autumn with grass seed.

For most grassy areas, hard-wearing recreational rye grass mixtures are a better choice than the less competitive fine grasses intended for bowling greens. The former prefer limy conditions and produce a tough sward productive of grass clippings and resisting weeds and disease. The fine grasses can make a showy sward but do not take hard wear and prefer acid conditions, which in turn favour mosses and turf weeds.

When sowing a lawn it is a good idea to include seeds of companions such as dowers, chamomile, creeping thyme, daisies, yarrow and other scented and pretty turf plants. Of course if you are a recidivist and desire pure grass, then you can choose this, but mixtures are more interesting and ecologically sounder as well as staying greener in droughts. After sowing the seed rake it in, firm it down and hang up bird scarers. Water religiously. Give the young grass a cut and a roll when it is more than toe high; thereafter mow regularly and walk on it as little as possible for a whole growing season.

Turfing is the most expensive way to get an area grassed, but is less work than seeding and gives more rapid results. The area still needs to be dug, enriched and levelled, but much less thoroughly, and weeds can often effectively be ignored — many will be killed by the disturbance, by burying and by the grass cutting that follows.

Turfing theoretically gives a choice of turf, but this may be difficult in practice. It can only be done well in early spring or early autumn with damp conditions and/or frequent watering. Concerned gardeners should be aware that much turf comes from unecological sources such as old meadow land, and that it is frequently pre-treated with inorganic fertilisers and herbicides.

Cutting the natural groundcover regularly is the slowest method of getting a good sward, but produces the most ecologically balanced mixture of plants with the minimum work and expense. The procedure is the same as that for regularly maintaining or improving an existing sward and basically consists of making the conditions most suitable for grasses and unsuitable for everything else. If the area is too rough for a mower or contains hidden junk, use a nylon line trimmer or brush cutter for the initial attacks. Oversow with tough grass seed and keep strimming till the growth becomes a rough sward, then mow once a week from early spring to late autumn, returning the clippings. If you like you can reduce the height of the cut gradually, but I prefer to keep it set as high as possible.

Regular mowing kills almost all the tall-growing weeds. Acid-loving weeds can be discouraged and the tougher grasses aided by liming heavily twice a year with calcified seaweed or dolomitic lime. Patches of clover which stand out green in times of drought are blended in by sowing clover seed in the remaining areas, as clovers are of immense benefit to the lushness of sward.

Scarifying with a wire rake in the autumn or spring is hard work but benefits the sward if done once every few years. Hiring a machine makes the job easier. (Scarifying produces a mass of thatch for use as a mulch or composting, but it needs moistening with dilute urine or liquid feed if it is to rot down quickly.) Follow scarifying by raking in a mixture of ground seaweed, rock dusts and grass seed with sharp sand for heavy soils and lime or calcified seaweed on acid soil. This same feed can be used annually in spring, but I use diluted urine instead and sprinkle this on the turf during light rain. It is absorbed rapidly and is converted by the sward into lush growth that can soon be removed as clippings for mulching elsewhere. Rosette weeds such as plantains and thistles may survive scarifying, cutting and soil improvement treatments, but they can be hand pulled with a sharp knife severing deep underneath at the same time – they rarely regrow.

The regular cutting of grass is best done with a rotary mower that can collect the clippings. Cylinder mowers are not as good in damp conditions or with longer growths and mowers that do not gather the clippings build up too much thatch.

Although the design and shape of lawns and grass paths must be aesthetic and practical, they also need to be kept neat. With areas near the house the cutting needs to be weekly; further away and in orchards you can get away with fortnightly and in wild areas once or twice a year, but then these are no longer swards. This frequency of work means that a few minutes saved each time adds up to many hours in a year, so careful planning and possibly redesigning can be well worthwhile. If a low branch or object grazes your head or needs careful cutting around, remove it. Do the same with odd little corners where you have to push the mower in and out several times. Long paths should be made just to fit a given number of passes without leaving an odd strip which you have to go back over and finish up at the wrong end. Arranging your plantings so that there is a shrub or fruit bush deserving a mulch near to hand each time the grass box gets full can halve your working time. If you have to take the clippings far, a wheelbarrow will consolidate several loads in one trip.

As well as the main grass sward there are the edges to be kept neat. This can take more time than cutting all the rest, but is essential for a tidy appearance. It is really worthwhile reducing the amount of edging that needs clipping by amalgamating small beds and borders into bigger ones.

Using a nylon line trimmer first greatly increases neatness as it can be used not only to do the edges and to cut around trunks and bits the mower cannot reach, but also on the awkward and difficult spots, further simplifying the work for the mower. A nylon line trimmer is also good for trimming grass to different heights depending on the situation. For example, either side of a close mown path in a wild area or orchard the grass can be trimmed a foot or so high so that it does not fall over the path. With a nylon line trimmer the height of cut is so adjustable that chosen plants can be left standing alone after others around them have been cut hard back. Cutting grass and weedy areas with a nylon line trimmer can thus encourage bulbs, primroses, cowslips and violets as the area can be kept neat without becoming overgrown and choking out these treasures. In heavy shade where ivy often predominates as groundcover, weeds such as nettles growing up through it can be eradicated and returned as shreddings at the same time.

Garden Lawn Ideas - Lawn and Hedge Care Hedges, too, need planning and consideration. They are much more ecological than fences as explained earlier as they warm the garden and provide a nesting habitat as well as decoration. Evergreen or beech hedges which hold their leaves have the most value. Informal hedges can have scented flowers, but clipping them into a formal hedge removes the flowering shoots and thus also any fruits. Informal mixed hedges are rarely pruned or cut once established; they are effectively just long, narrow shrub borders which take up a lot of space but produce a beautiful flowering screen. A formal hedge takes up much less space as it is cut regularly, preferably twice a year.

Because hedges need to grow densely, the ground must be well prepared and weeds controlled for the first two or three years until the hedge is well established. Planting through a strip of carpet or plastic is ideal for this. Most hedging plants are best spaced at about a foot to two foot apart — closer for small hedges and wider for tall ones. For the thickest hedges plant a double, staggered row. Sloping the plants over at a 45-degree angle gives a lower, thicker base and interweaving can increase this, giving a low, dense hedge from fewer plants.

Young hedges benefit from a temporary screen to reduce wind damage, but do not make this too close or dark or it may kill the foliage. Cut back the sides and top hard each and every winter until the hedge is nearly at its required size, then cut back again in late spring and once more in late summer for the neatest effect. Taper hedges in at the top slightly to allow more light and rain to reach the base. Like everything in the garden hedges benefit from monthly sprayings with seaweed solution during the growing season.

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04. January 2011 by admin
Categories: Garden Care | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 comment

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