A neatly trimmed green lawn, that you can walk barefoot on and children can play and roll on, is something that brings most people great pleasure. But it doesn’t come without some thought and planning, and a bit of work.
Your first step will be to select the right grass for your garden. Then you will need to find out which is the best time to plant your new lawn, and decide on the planting method. Once you are done, you’re then going to have to take care of your new lawn to make certain it not only establishes itself, but also continues to thrive and grow.
Selecting the right grass
There are not many grass types, but there are hundreds of different varieties to choose from. So the first step is going to be to decide which the best grass is for your garden lawn. These are the things you need to consider when deciding which grass to plant for your lawn:
- Climatic conditions.
- How much space you have.
- Cost and maintenance factors.
Different grasses thrive in different climatic conditions which may be dry, wet, cold or hot. Furthermore, some grasses do better in mountainous areas while others do better at the coast, in sandy soil. Temperature is closely connected to climate, and some grasses are more tolerant to heat and cold. Some are drought resistant while others aren’t, and only a few varieties will do really well in the shade, out of the sun.
The space you have for a lawn is also paramount. If you have a tiny backyard then you need to decide what function it needs to fulfill. You may even ultimately decide that you don’t need a lawn at all. But if you have children who are going to play outside, you won’t want to be without it. Apart from usefulness for children, lawns will also add a glorious green color to the landscape and tie other plants together with all those hardscape structures and surfaces in your garden.
When you assess the cost of laying or planting a lawn, you should also take maintenance costs into account. It isn’t just the money to lay a lawn, but you are going to have to water it and feed it, and most types will also have to be regularly mown.
Ways to start a new lawn
There are various ways that you can start a new lawn including planting seeds, laying sods and planting runners or sprigs.
Grass seed is not a difficult way to start a lawn, but it does usually take quite a lot longer than other methods to establish the lawn. You will need to allow time for the seeds to sprout, grow and then cover the bare ground. With an easy-to-grow variety, you might achieve this in as little as six to eight weeks. However, if you have children and animals, dogs in particular, you are going to have to take steps to make sure that they don’t walk or run over the newly laid grass otherwise it may not grow at all.
Hydro-seeding is another option, and one which will speed up the germination time of the grass seeds dramatically. In normal circumstances, with hydro-seeding, the grass will start to push its way out of the soil within a week. But you will need a hydro-seeding contractor to help you establish a lawn this way. What these experts do is to spray on your lawn using a special blend of seeds together with water sprayed on at pressure. It works a treat.
Plugs are very small seedlings that you buy in a seed tray. They are a lot more labor intensive than seeds because you have to plant each one individually, just as you would if you were planting any other sort of seedling. But because they have germinated already, they should grow more quickly than normal sown seeds will grow.
Sprigs or runners require a similar process to plugs, because you need to plant individual bits. The disadvantage is that you don’t have roots established in a plug of soil.
Sods are pieces or rolls of earth with grass already established – or, expressed differently, a layer of earth with grass and roots growing in it. While you can dig out existing lawn when you are changing a garden – building a swimming pool or pond for instance – and move them. But commercial sods, that you buy, are more like a kind of ‘roll-on lawn’ that you literally roll onto a prepared surface.
If you use sods to create a lawn, you need to be sure that they are the same thickness, with more or less the same amount of soil under the grass itself. If some sods are thicker than others, you won’t be able to create a good, even lawn surface.
When to plant a new lawn
The decision of when to plant or when to start to establish grass for a new lawn in your garden will depend on the method you are going to use.
Generally it is best to sow a lawn from seed in the early fall. But it is also possible to sow a seed lawn very successfully in spring, but then you need to be forewarned that you may get lots of weeds springing up with the grass. This obviously increases maintenance.
If you are going to be planting a sod lawn, you can normally do this in fall or in spring, even in summer if it isn’t too hot. But early fall is the best time if you are planting lawn from seed – depending of course when ‘early fall’ happens in your part of the country. For instance it will probably be from late August if you live in Montana, but if you are in Nashville, it is more likely to be in late September.
How to plant a new lawn
Whichever method you decide on for your new lawn, you need to be sure that your soil is right. Make sure that you get rid of rocks, roots and other debris before you bring on the seed, sods, sprigs or plugs. Aerate the soil and fertilize it using a good quality fertilizer for your type of soil. You might have to do a soil test to be sure. You may also have to bring in some extra topsoil.
Lawns from sod need to be laid after the soil has been prepared and before the sod starts to dry out. This means you are going to have to work fast. Once the sods are in place, roll them, or at very least walk over them to make sure that the roots make close contact with the soil below. Water the newly laid lawn frequently in hot weather so that the soil under the grass stays moist.
Lawns from seed are, quite simply, sown. But unlike sods, you can’t see any immediate effect. Once the ground has been well prepared, scatter seeds all over the area in a circular motion. There are machines you can use, but if you are doing it yourself it probably isn’t worth bothering with this extra expense. If you aren’t confident doing it yourself, rather call in the experts.
Taking care of a new lawn
All new lawns need to be watered regularly so that the water soaks into the soil to ensure that the seed germinates or the new grass continues to grow. You will also need to remove weeds, and once the grass starts to really thrive, you will need to mow it.