15 Questions About the Lawn

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15 Questions About the Lawn

15 Questions About the Lawn

1. What is a lawn?

It is a mixture of grass seeds (or Poaceae in botanical language) from various species  (ryegrass, meadowgrass, bentgrass, fescue, etc..) each of which has different qualities and characteristics and none of which can individually offer the advantages of the mixture of these seeds.

After sowing, grass produces a regular, homogenous and decorative green area which we call a “lawn”.  A lawn follows the principle of biodiversity, which means that a given environment should be occupied by different species, the mixture of which makes the individual species stronger.

When foraging plants like white clover, or alfalfa, even flowers like cornflowers or poppies, are mixed with the lawn, the result is not a lawn, it is a prairie.


2. Why do we make mixed lawns?

The composition (choice of species and varieties, and also the proportions of the mixture) varies according to the final use of the lawn : sport or games, decoration, ornamentation, etc.. The growing conditions also influence the mixture: dry ground, shady areas, seaside, Mediterranean climate, etc.. We also have mixtures created especially for new lawns and those which are used for renovation. The speed of installation of the different species is also taken into account, as is the weight of the seeds in the percentage of each grass from which the lawn is composed.

3. Why are the compositions so different?

When we read the composition of the lawn on the box or sack of seeds, we notice that different grasses are present in varying proportions.  The variation is due to the final use of the lawn, but especially due to the sophistication of the seed.

For example, for the same volume, we count a third less of ryegrass seeds or raised fescue (700 seeds/g.) than red fescue (1,000 seeds/g.), which is in turn twice as big as the Sheep’s fescue (2,000 seeds/g.).  As for bentgrass, it is by far the thinnest with 15,000 seeds/g.  A lawn composed of 5% bentgrass and 50% ryegrass contains three times fewer seeds than simple ryegrass!

4. Does a universal, all-purpose lawn exist?

No, because the soil conditions, the climate, and the use are often totally different in France.  Each use corresponds to a type of lawn: rustic, decoration, sport, sun, shade, seaside, renovation, etc..  It is important to choose the right grass for the appropriate use because if it isn’t adapted, it will grow worse and will allow weeds to develop.

5. How to define a “good quality” lawn and what criteria should we use?

Avoid very cheap mixtures, as they are composed of low-quality varieties and not seeds which come from the latest research, which are selected because of their high performance.  The “Red Label” lawns are a guarantee of top quality.

6. How can the damage caused by molehills and earthworms be repaired?

The mounds of earth destroy the beauty of the lawn and gardeners are always looking for a magic solution to keep moles away. At present, pyrotechnical traps seem to be the best solution. These are equipped with cartridges which are set off by the mole when he inadvertently evacuates soil from his burrow. But once this is done, you have to flatten the molehill and evacuate the earth, without spreading it on the lawn, so as to avoid suffocating the grass. This light, brittle earth can be used for repotting plants. Pack down the soil where the molehill was situated and sow the refilling or renovating seed and water generously. You can also refill with a slab of a ready-made lawn.

Anthills, like molehills, must be evacuated.  Many anti-ant products exist, the most efficient being the sugary gels sold in cans, which avoid all contact with the product. Only the ants can access the gel by the small openings in the trap. You can also dig up the anthill and water it with about twenty liters of boiling water.  Brush away worm excrement also. The organically rich and fine soil which they eject encourages the growth of weeds.  Spread these little mounds out over the lawn with a garden brush. Always do so before mowing to avoid blunting the lawnmower blade.

7. When is the best time to sow a lawn?

The best time is in autumn, between mid-September and mid-October, as the young lawn is less hampered by weeds. In fact, annual weeds are at the end of their lives and will thus disappear. On top of this, germination of weeds whose grains have been transported by the wind or by birds doesn’t happen at this period (this is not the case in spring). By sawing a lawn in autumn, the gardener can benefit from an already well-installed lawn in spring.

Germination of the lawn takes place quicker at the end of summer, benefitting from a well-heated soil. The young lawn thrives on the autumn rains and roots deeply, as opposed to the lawn planted in spring, which has to confront the dry summer which follows. This being said, a lawn can be sown all year round, except in periods of extremely cold or hot weather.

8. If a lawn is damaged, covered with weeds or moss, are we obliged to replant it entirely?

Not necessarily.   The most radical method, of course, consists of digging up the whole surface to create a new lawn.  But it is possible to renovate.  This consists of sowing the renovating garden after having carried out the following procedure :

Clean the lawn to be renovated by applying a specialized weedkiller or an anti-moss product. Allow this to agitate for 15 days, then mow by setting the blade as low as possible. Get rid of the mosses, the felt, the stubble and the weeds killed by the product, by scarifying. Collect them carefully by mowing with a lawnmower, equipped with a collection container, which also has the advantage of cutting the exposed roots, thus making the general aspect of the lawn uniform. Sow the renovating grass and cover the seeds with compost. Roll the lawn so that the seeds have good contact with the soil, thus helping germination. Water abundantly. The lawn should gradually rediscover its healthy aspect.

9. When is the best time to mow the lawn?

To guarantee perfect lawn maintenance, you should mow the lawn once a week on average from April to October.  It is essential that the lawn is dry.  Avoid the morning dew and rainy periods, so that the lawnmower doesn’t “cram” and mash up the blades of grass, rather than cut them cleanly.

Mow more often in spring and in rainy periods (every 4 or 5 days), less often and less short in hot summer periods (every 10 or 15 days).   Regular mowing helps to tiller (the thickening of the tufts of grass), thus producing a denser lawn growth.

Set the height of the lawnmower so that it cuts at most a third of the blade – this avoids weakening the tufts of grass.

10. How can we stop a lawn from yellowing?

Yellowing is often due to the result of bad maintenance (lack of water or fertilizer, cutting too short, walking too much on it, etc..).  The stolen, a vital part of the lawn grass, is damaged or suffering.  The application of a fast-acting fertilizer after the spring mowing helps the plants become green again.  A second dose of fertilizer in autumn (a slow-acting one this time) allows the grass to restock its reserves and to grow stronger the following spring.

A badly sharpened lawnmower blade cuts the leaf grass irregularly, which yellows at the tip.  If you don’t gather the clippings after mowing when the lawn is dense, this will suffocate the lawn which yellows, and will also provoke diseases.

In hot and dry periods, you should water the lawn two or three times a week, preferably in the evening, using 5 to 10 liters of water per square meter ( leave the sprinkler on for 15 to 20 minutes).  Don’t cut too short and don’t fertilize a dry lawn.

Animal urine, especially that of female dogs and foxes, burns the grass badly and can be responsible for ugly yellow patches.  If you catch a dog urinating, pour a large quantity of water on the area immediately to dilute the nasty effects of the urine.  It is best to forbid dogs access to the lawn, as they have a tendance to urinate in the same place, which will damage the lawn for good.  To repair the damage, remove 5cms. deep of lawn, fill in the hole with good soil and place a slab of ready-made lawn in its place.

11. How can we get rid of moss which invades the lawn?

The presence of mosses on the lawn is a sign that the soil is badly ventilated, that the lawn is often in the shade and that there is too much humidity. Mosses develop especially in acidic soils, so lime the soil every two years at springtime.

Scarification of the soil in September is a very efficient way of removing moss.  Add sand to the soil after scarifying to lighten the soil.  Small areas can be ventilated by walking on the soil with spiked shoes, by rolling the lawn with a spiked roller or by using a garden fork.

Chemical treatment of mosses should be carried out in February and March. The most popular product used is iron sulfate. It turns the reddest, but also reddens flagstones, rocks and metal objects, so be careful when applying it.  Although it is inexpensive, it is replaced more and more by Dichlorophen, which can be applied to all surfaces without staining.  Anti-moss fertilizers (containing iron sulfate) and weedkilling anti-moss fertilizers also exist.

12. How can we rejuvenate the lawn?

If the lawn starts to yellow and contains moss, start by scarifying.

Passing the subsoiler, whose blades dig shallow troughs, allows us to dig up the stubble and the felting, that is, the dead parts (and therefore yellow) at the base of the grass tufts.  Scarification also helps water to penetrate the soil better and therefore helps the fertilizer to infiltrate better, feeding the roots of the tufts of grass.

Scarification also eliminates mosses. It should be done twice a year, in spring and at the end of the summer or at the beginning of autumn. The subsoiler should be passed the length of the lawn once and then once the width of the lawn. The material recovered should be carefully removed (you can add this to your compost heap). Many different models of subsoilers exist. Scarification should be completed by adding compost or organic fertilizer to the lawn.

13. What can we do when the lawn is all bumpy?

Try passing the roller in wet weather and systematically after mowing.  The roller should have rounded edges to avoid it leaving traces on the lawn.  The weight of the roller should be varied according to the ground (fill it with water or sand) and the work to be done.

A full renovation should be carried out if the ground is very bumpy.

Start by getting rid of the old lawn, by spraying a systemic herbicide (containing Glyphosate for example). This product leaves no residue in the soil, so you can sow 3 to 5 weeks after applying it (the time it takes to work). Take away all the grass burnt by this product.  Start leveling the ground, flattening the bumps. Keep the recovered soil to fill in holes later. To homogenize the surface, add compost if needed. Lighten the ground by working it over with a subsoiler. Sow the grass seeds and cover them with a light compost.  Roll the ground to obtain a  smooth surface. Water abundantly.

14. When are the best times to renovate the lawn?

It is advised to renovate at two distinct periods :

  • In March/April to eliminate mosses and weeds by using selective herbicides.
  • Between the start of September and mid-October to carry out new sowing.

15. What actions should be carried out on the lawn after the summer?

SEPTEMBER

Mow and water once a week.  Apply an anti-moss compost for lawns.  This is a good time to sow a new lawn.  Roll after every mowing.  Ventilate very compact lawns.  Scarify again. Cut the edges of the lawn.

OCTOBER

Mow for the last time around the 10th or the 15th of the month.  After scarifying, apply compost on lawns which have yellowed.  Remove dead leaves.  Treat against moss.

NOVEMBER

Remove dead leaves.  Finish scarifying.  Turn the old lawns over by incorporating the grass into the soil and by adding compost.

DECEMBER

Prepare the patches of soil which are going to be renovated or transformed into the lawn in the spring.


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