Grass makes a practical play surface, especially in larger areas. Even a small area of lawn fulfils its function for recreation in a garden that otherwise consists of flower beds, shrubs and trees. Whatever the location of your new lawn, autumn is a good time to sow the grass seed.
Although it is possible to sow grass throughout most of the year, it’s best to do so in the autumn. In those months humidity levels are high, which helps the seeds to germinate. Most grass mixes germinate at 8–10 °C, but there are varieties that can be sown at 4 °C. In autumn, grass seeds also face less competition from weeds, which helps the lawn to thrive.
Groundwork is key if you want to have a dense and even lawn for next season. Start by raking any roots, twigs, stones and weeds from the surface. These are not beneficial to the lawn, nor are they particularly pleasant for those who will be using it.
Work the soil to help the grass seeds take hold and to give the roots room to grow. It’s also a good idea to make sure the soil is well-drained and fertile. Mix in gravel if the soil is rich in clay, use a soil improver if the soil is nutrient-poor, and use a basic fertiliser, such as grass fertiliser or another type of fertiliser.
Finish by levelling the surface thoroughly before scattering the grass seed – because once the lawn has matured, it’s easy to trip over invisible holes.
When the soil is ready, broadcast the grass seed with a seed spreader or by hand. It’s a good idea to sow on a wind-free day – grass seeds are light and fly away easily in the wind.
An easy way to get more even coverage is to divide the lawn into smaller sections and sow each section separately. The packaging states how much surface area the mix is intended to cover. Sow half the seeds lengthwise and half widthwise.
For best results work the seeds into the soil with a rake so that they make contact with the soil. Then water abundantly. When you think you have watered enough, water a little more.
Grass seeds germinate after 2–4 weeks. It is important to keep the surface moist until the grass has grown. Remember that even though the first blades may have emerged, there are other varieties that may take longer to emerge. Keep a cool head and don’t stop watering too early if conditions are dry.
Water your newly seeded lawn little and often. However, once it has matured, it is better to water abundantly and infrequently so that the water reaches all the way down to the roots. Preferably water in the evening. This is because when the sun is out, the water may evaporate before it reaches the roots.
Mow the newly sown lawn for the first time when the grass reaches a height of 7–8 centimetres. It is important not to cut too much off – just trim the blades so that they split. This makes the lawn denser.
Be sure never to mow more than one-third of the length of the grass. For an established lawn, a good guideline is to mow your grass so it’s 4–5 centimetres tall. This is a good height to help the grass withstand drought and wear and tear.
In addition to basic fertilisation when sowing your lawn, it’s a good idea to add nutrients regularly. At least three times a season is a good guideline for a healthy lawn. Apply a lot of fertiliser for the first time when the grass starts to turn green, and then twice more at intervals of about 6–7 weeks.
What you do with your grass clippings also plays a role in how much you need to fertilise – if you leave the clippings on the grass you return some of the nutrients to the soil, whereas if you rake up the clippings to use as mulch and nutrients for other plants, you are taking nutrients from the lawn. You will then need to replenish the soil with new nutrients from elsewhere (fertiliser).
Depending on your choice of grass seed and the climate, you should be able to use your new lawn after about eight weeks. However, it will be some time before the grass can withstand any rough activities.