Your own patch of green

Last Updated 06 May 2010, 10:44 IST

So, if tall plants or buildings don’t block out light in a patch, it’s ideal for lawn-growing. A status symbol in medieval Europe, lawns, which then demanded much labour for upkeep, are today a common feature of residential and commercial gardens. They provide wonderful recreation space, prevent soil erosion, filter contaminants from rainwater and absorb many airborne pollutants. 

Ornamental & functional

The idea isn’t a time-consuming and wallet-thinning one. Even with a little time and money, you can grow a lawn that’s both ornamental and functional. Tolerating a few weeds and brown patches besides intervals of dormancy (yellowing), using rainfall as the primary water-source, weekly mowing upto a fairly high level and uprooting weeds by hand yields a fairly good-looking lawn.

 Intent upon flaunting a well-manicured lawn? You need to work harder and spend more. First, choose a grass type appropriate for the temperature, light and soil-type available in your garden. Some species sprout as single blades from the soil while others grow into a matting pattern. Lawn grasses usually require a soil pH-level of 6-7. Prepare the soil adequately. Once the lawn thrives, add a quarter-inch layer of organic matter like compost annually to nourish the soil and bolster grass-growth. Each spring, rake away dead grass and prevent thatch (organic debris’ layer) formation. Else, the dead layer prevents water from reaching the roots and causes shallow rooting. Weed and disease problems ensue.

While laying the grass seeds, conceal them from birds with a thin layer of straw, soil or peat moss. Avoid hay. It may contain dried seeds of weeds. Straw’s derived from dried plant-parts of crops and hence doesn’t present this difficulty. Else, spread double the required amount of seeds so that the lawn flourishes despite birds feeding on them. 

Conserve water

Water the lawn deeply and infrequently to help develop deep roots that can sustain themselves better during droughts.

Water it early in the morning so that it dries by dusk. Dampness encourages fungal growth. Conserve water by planting drought-resistant varieties, mowing high and controlling thatch-development.

Brown patches develop owing to either improper draining of water leading to root-rotting or fungal growth. For the former, curb excessive watering, stopping when the water starts running out of your lawn. Space watering intervals more evenly. Usually, if the grass-blade remains green at the base, it’s a fungal attack. Spray a fungicide.
Fertilising the lawn increases grass-density and reduces space for weed-growth.

Grass requires nitrogen for lushness, phosphorous for healthy root-development and potassium for imparting disease-resistance and drought-survival abilities. A slow-release fertiliser is preferable. 

What’s the right height?

The ideal height? Fine-bladed grasses not springing back and remaining flat after being trod upon or matting species’ stems turning pale-green/yellow are sure signs of excessive height. Maintain the former variety at about 3-4 inches height and the latter at 2 inches height.

This makes the grass tall enough to shade the soil, preventing sunlight-seeking weeds from thriving. It also keeps the soil moist and cool, minimising water-requirement. Plus, better sunlight-absorption increases photosynthetic capacity.
Identify areas with dense weed-growth.

Encourage grass-growth here. Use a spade to pull weeds out. Lop off their flowering-tops before they bloom and nip seed-proliferation.
Want an organic lawn that’s safe for kids and pets to loll upon?
Use organic fertilisers and pesticides instead of chemical concoctions.

Grass clippings left on the lawn supply nitrogen. Prepare fertilisers at home with organic elements like worm castings, bone meal and composted shredded leaves. Compost is the best way to enrich the soil. Uproot weeds by hand as they sprout.

(Published 06 May 2010, 10:27 IST)

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