Preparing for a New Lawn from Seed

The method of choice for creating the best possible lawn has always been to start your own lawn from seed. However over the generations this art has almost been forgotten especially in today’s age of instant gratification.

Luckily us gardeners still have a bit of patience and I’m going to help you use this rare commodity (patience!) to help you grow a lawn that will be the envy of your neighbours.

Choosing the Right Seed

In order to choose the right seed for your lawn, the main thing to take into consideration is what use your lawn will provide. If you want a manicured lawn as a focal piece of your garden then most standard grass seed will do – there are specialist seeds for more arid conditions and also those that perform better in the shade. If your lawn is going to have more heavy usage such as from children playing then you are best going for a tougher species of grass.

Most bags of grass seed sold in the UK are a blend of the following types of seed:

Dwarf Ryegrass – Lolium perenne – Specially bred to give a thicker fast but low growing lawn.

Red Fescue – Festuca Rubra – Low maintenance slow grower which thrives in shade.

Slender Creeping Red Fescue –Festuca Rubra Litoralis – Faster growing version of its cousin. It is also hardier and needs less water.

Common Bent Grass – Agrostis Capillaris a very hardy strongly rooted grass.

Smooth-stalked Meadow Grass Poa Pratensis – Has a slightly broader leaf than other turf grasses and is used to encourage insects such as bees and butterflies.

Annual Meadow Grass – Poa Anua – Makes a stunning smooth lawn under the right conditions – this sensitive grass is a staple of bowling greens and golf courses.

Preparing the Ground

If you want a good looking healthy lawn then it is imperative to prepare the sowing area properly. Firstly clear any rubble and tree roots so that you are left with a bare expanse of earth. Pay particular attention to perennial weeds – you can use a fast acting weed killer, choose one which uses glyphosate as its active ingredient since this breaks down naturally in the soil and won’t harm the grass seed which you plant later.

Once you have cleared any major obstacles and weeds, rake over the top of the sowing area. If necessary or if you want a really good lawn then consider adding 4-6 inches of good quality top soil. If you want your lawn to be perfectly level then you can use the “wooden peg method” – mark wooden pegs with a line 3 inches below their tops and drive them into the ground 2 feet apart up to the line then put a spirit level on top of the pegs to check the ground is level.

You will now have to “tread in” the top soil to push out any air pockets and prevent later settling. Do this by literally treading on the earth with your heels but pay attention not to over compress the soil. Finally rake the soil so that you are left with a fine level tilth ready for your chosen seed.

Next week I’ll be writing about how to sow the seed for a uniform lawn.

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