I HAVE a love/hate relationship with grass. I love the look, I love the smell, I hate the cutting. But grass is synonymous with Ireland and I feel every garden should have a patch no matter how small. We are, after all, the Green Isle.
Grass areas don't have to be flat mown lawn spaces, however. Mounds, undulating ridges, long grass and varying your cutting heights can create wonderful forms, shadows and textures. If you're clever it can even become a work of art. Look up The Garden of Cosmic Speculation in Scotland and see what I mean.
In my own garden I created three large cone mounds from the spoil of our house excavations. These have been a great source of entertainment for children and adults alike. Few adults let alone children can resist walking to the top of these mounds. There are areas of naturalised grass with wildflowers and a high cut rough grass as a border to lawns. In small gardens you can play around by creating undulating grass areas with winding gravel paths.
Plant a few bulbs and a couple of Japanese maples and you have your very own mini landscape. Leave a small corner of rough grass and create a little wildlife sanctuary. Despite this most of us will still have an area of lawn to cut.
There are a couple of reasons I don't enjoy cutting grass, one is that I always feel I should be doing something more constructive secondly, when I'm cutting the grass I see all the things that need doing that are more constructive. This frustrates me. In fact grass is quite frustrating most of the time, although there are few nicer sights or smells than a freshly mown lawn.
From the armchair, most lawns tend to look pretty good after cutting but venturing closer could give you a nasty shock. You're 'grass' may well be growing between weeds and moss rather than the other way around. But don't beat yourself up over it , keeping lawns is hard work and actually quite difficult. You can work all summer at it, get it into really great shape, only to walk out the following spring and be back to square one. I've learnt this from personal experience.
Our winters are tough on lawns. They are mild enough for grass and weeds to keep growing, often requiring a winter cut. This causes soil compaction and affects drainage which is the last thing we need with the wet winters we have. This compaction then in turn creates great conditions for weeds and moss to take hold.
So what to do? I know there are those out there whose lawn is their garden. Feeding, aerating, scarifying, watering. Weeds are not allowed! On a small scale that's great. But for large lawns without
“Our winnters are tough on lawns. Your ‘grass’ may well be growing between weeds and moss rather than the other way around”
machinery it's not so easy so we need to find a happy medium.
Firstly, you must feed your lawn once a year. You can use the pre-bagged weed feed and moss killer mixes available in garden centres. These are great and seem to work just fine. This can however be quite expensive for large gardens so I use an agricultural fertiliser 7/6/17 at 30 grams per metre and have found this to be quite adequate. It is fast release so doesn't give long term feeding through the year and I have found one application is fine.
Whenever you are using fertilisers and chemicals always read the instructions regarding application and safety and stick to them. On moss I have been using Sulphate of iron which is fantastic and can also be used on your acid loving plants. For weeds I spot spray with a selective broadleaf herbicide, I do this at intervals throughout the summer.
Next I would recommend regular cutting during the growing season, at least once a week. Also drop your mower blade a notch lower than you would normally cut at. Both of these actions will encourage better quality grass growth, discourage weeds and coarse grasses, and allow lawns to dry more quickly. Everyone in this Green Isle no doubt has their own methods I'm sure, but this works for me and looks great from the armchair.
Keeping lawns is hard work and actually quite difficult