Soil Preparation. Ground should be dug at least one spit deep and may be enriched with animal manure or compost in moderate quantity if believed to be poor. Bonemeal may also be applied, but lime should not be used unless ground is really acid. It tends to produce growth of clover and the coarser grasses at the expense of fine grass. Drainage must be improved if ground tends to lie waterlogged in the winter. It is a great advantage to leave ground fallow for a month or so prior to sowing so that weed seeds may germinate and the weed seedlings be destroyed by hoeing before the grass is sown. Break the surface down as finely as possible with fork and rake prior to sowing or turfing. Either tread or roll to secure even firmness throughout. A fairly firm seed bed is essential.
Sowing, This can be done in April or September. Seed is sown broadcast at 1-2 oz. per square yard, and is either raked in or covered with a light sprinkling of soil. If seeds are properly covered, no further protection from birds is necessary; small birds do not scratch but simply pick up the seeds from the surface. Proprietary dressings can be obtained to make seeds unpalatable for birds and ready dressed seed is also available. Do not sow when ground is very dry or wet; it should be slightly moist.
The finest lawns are formed from certain species of agrostis and festuca, particularly New Zealand Brown Top (Agrostis tenuis) and Chewing’s fescue (Festuca rubra fallax). A drawback to these is that they germinate slowly and take a considerable time to give a good cover to the ground. In consequence, unless the lawn site has been well fallowed to get rid of weeds, there is a danger that these will get the upper hand. Perennial rye grass grows quickly at the outset and smothers weeds well but tends to die out after a few years of close mowing. A mixture of several fine grasses but without rye grass is best for most purposes. The wood meadowgrass (Poa nemoralis) may be used in shady places.
Aftercare of Seedling Lawns. Seedling grass should be cut for the first time when 3 in. high. Cut with a sharp scythe or a sharp mower, with blades set high at first but gradually lowered at each subsequent cutting. Roll lightly before the first cutting, but never use the roller when the surface of the ground is very wet.
Turfing. Turves may be laid at any time from October to April, when the ground is not frozen or waterlogged. Turves are cut in two sizes, 3 ft. by 1 ft. (supplied rolled up), and 1 ft. square (supplied flat). The latter make a more even lawn, but are usually more expensive and take longer to lay. Plantains, dandelions, etc., should first be cut out with a knife. Lay lengthwise in straight rows but stagger joints in alternate rows like bricks in a wall. Bed turves evenly and beat them down gently with the back of a spade or a wooden turf beater. Scatter fine soil lightly on the surface and brush into crevices with a stiff besom.
Never lay small portions of turf at the edge of a lawn either when making new lawns or repairing old ones. If pieces are required to complete a row, lay a whole turf on the edge and use the pieces inside. When repairing worn patches, first remove a rectangle of old turf to the thickness of new turf, then rake bottom level and lay turves in the ordinary way.
Cultural Routine. Established lawns, whether formed from seed or turf, require the same treatment. Mow regularly throughout the year, but at less frequent intervals during autumn and winter than in spring and summer and with blades set higher. Very close mowing and heavy rolling are undesirable except for lawns used for sport. For ordinary purposes, set the cutting edge about in. off the ground. Use the roller only when the surface is moist, not when sodden or quite dry. Lawns which get heavy wear may be aerated each autumn by pricking all over with a fork, special perforating tool or spiked roller. Brush in sharp sand or flint grit to improve drainage.
In spring and early summer give occasional top dressings of peat or leaf-mould mixed with equal parts of well-decayed manure and loam, all passed through a 1/4-in. mesh sieve. No top dressing must exceed i in. in depth. Lawn fertilizer is best used in April or May. Weeds can be killed either by watering with selective lawn weed-killer or by dusting with lawn sand. Both treatments are most effective in spring or when growth is strong.
Moss on lawns can be dragged out with a springttoothed rake or killed with calomel. The growth of moss is usually an indication of bad drainage or poor soil, which should be rectified.
Cumberland Turf, This is obtained from coastal regions and is actually washed by sea water at high tide. It is exceptionally fine and valued for bowling greens, etc., but is not recommended for lawns generally as it is difficult to maintain in inland gardens. An early spring application of agricultural salt, 9 oz. per square yard, is beneficial, otherwise treatment is as for ordinary lawns.