Help & advice: How to lay and maintain a lawn
How to lay and maintain a lawn
For a lush and healthy lawn use the Homebase range of lawncare products.
These are all fairly easy jobs that just need a little time and commitment.
- The perfect time to lay a new lawn from scratch is early autumn, when the grass will root easily. Using rolls of turf is the easiest way to get great results fast (fig. 1)
- First prepare your ground (don't order turf for delivery until you've done this):
- Remove existing turf and vegetation from the area. Break up the cleared surface with a garden fork. Next clear the area of any weeds: dig out as many as you can and then treat the area with weed killer. Leave it for a couple of weeks to let the weeds die off. Once the ground is clear, dig over the soil and add in some compost for extra conditioning.
- Next rake the soil. Remove debris, lumps and bumps to create a smooth, level surface. Then firm the ground by gently walking over it. Rake the ground one last time (fig. 2).
- Sprinkle a granular fertiliser over the soil and lightly rake again. The ground must be moist for turf to establish roots, so water the entire area before you lay your turf.
- Lay your first row of turf along a straight edge - a plank will do (fig. 3).
- Butt each piece up closely. Make sure the turf has good contact with the soil by tamping down each piece with the back of your garden rake (fig. 4).
- Lay the next row, making sure the turf pieces are pushed closely to the first row.
- Stagger this and subsequent rows in a brickwork pattern so none of the joins are at the same point.
- Continue this process until the whole lawn area is covered.
- At the edges, lay turf so it runs over the area of the new lawn. Trim the edges with a straight edge board and a sharp cutting tool (fig. 5).
- Soak the lawn thoroughly with a hose, sprinkler or watering can. Keep watering regularly until the turf has taken root (fig. 6). This could take several weeks.
Don't walk on your lawn if it's frosted over - this can damage the grass.
- Late summer to early autumn is the best time to sow grass seed, while the soil is warm and damp.
- Seeding a lawn costs less than turfing. But it takes longer to get results and the process will need more of your care and attention.
- Choose your seed depending on conditions in your garden. You can get seed mixes to suit any space - from shady spots to gardens with low rainfall.
- Prepare the soil by removing large stones and weeds. Fork over the soil and rake it level.
- Firm the soil by walking over it. Place the weight on your heels, then rake it over again.
- Lightly rake in a granular fertiliser two days before you sow the seed.
- Use canes and string to mark out the area you're sowing into a grid of 1m x 1m squares (fig. 7).
- Shake the box to mix up your seed. Weigh out the right amount to cover each square metre into a clear container (a plastic bottle is fine). Mark the level for each square metre on the outside.
- Spread the seed at 50g per square metre or at the rate it says on the packet (fig. 8).
- Split each 50g in half: scatter seed in one direction across the square and spread the rest in the opposite direction.
- After sowing, lightly rake over the area and water. Don't let the soil dry out until the grass is established.
- If birds are eating the seed then spread netting across the site.
- Autumn is the perfect time to revitalise a tired lawn and give it a boost to get through the winter.
- Apply a granular autumn lawn fertiliser that's high in phosphates and potash. This will help strong roots to develop and they'll produce healthy leaves in the spring.
- Don't use a spring fertiliser. These contain high levels of nitrogen, which encourages soft leaf growth that could be damaged by frost.
- If you have a large lawn make your job easier by using a wheeled spreader to apply the autumn lawn fertiliser.
- Stop moss from spreading by creating conditions it won't thrive in. Moss often grows in patches under trees or hedges. Control the moss by removing branches, lowering hedges that cast shade and improving your lawn's drainage.
- Apply a lawn moss killer and within two weeks you'll see the moss blacken and die. At this stage rake out the dead moss to allow the grass to re-establish itself.
- Remove dead moss and let your lawn breathe by vigorously raking it with a spring-tined rake.
- This also gets rid of old grass clippings and other debris that can build up on your lawn and form a layer called thatch.
- Thatch can hinder drainage and encourages weeds and turf diseases.
- If you have a large garden you can hire an electric raking machine to make the job easier.
Got a new lawn? For the first four weeks just water it. After four weeks you can give it a liquid lawn feed. After six weeks use a weed killer to keep any weeds under control.
- Heavily used lawn areas - play areas and paths, for example - often become very compacted. This causes problems with drainage, weeds and moss.
- To improve drainage push a garden fork into the ground as far as possible. Wiggle it backwards and forwards to make air channels.
- Repeat this every 10cm (4in) across the lawn.
- Then brush a sandy top dressing across the surface of the lawn so it fills the holes. This allows air and water into the lawn. You can buy ready-mixed bags of top dressing at Homebase.
- For larger lawns you can hire a powered aerating machine. If the lawn is very dense, use a hollow tining tool to remove plugs of grass. The plugs can then be filled with top dressing.
- You can buy or hire hand-held and powered aerating machines at Homebase.
Cutting your lawn stimulates growth. The more you cut it, the healthier it will be. So mow little and often. This is a good rule to follow: remove no more than a third of the length of the grass blade each time you mow. The exception to this is in early spring: then you don't want to take off more than a quarter of the length.
- As autumn turns to winter, make the most of dry days by raking the lawn regularly to keep it free of leaves.
- A thick layer of leaves will smother a lawn and weaken the grass. It also gives winter shelter to unwelcome garden pests.
- If your lawn is looking thin or you've got bare patches, you can over-seed in the autumn or early spring.
- A lawn repair kit (available from Homebase) is ideal. It contains a mixture of grasses to give you a thicker, greener lawn.