Gar­den­ing

Bray People - - NEWS - WITH ANDREW COL­LYER Andrew Col­lyer pro­vides a gar­den de­sign, con­sul­tancy and plant­ing ser­vice. He can be con­tacted by email­ing an­drew­col­lyer@eir­com.net

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

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