Lawn

March 22, 2018 Best landscape design

For the gardener, who often uses one term in place of the other, there is not a clear difference between turf and lawn: for lawn anyway means a tract of grassy land that evokes wide country spaces, while carpet grassy is the surface treated, irrigated and fertilized by those who aspire to the so-called “lawn”. In our discussion we will use the general term lawn: this can be the dominant component, as a large extension surrounded and bordered by flowering edges, or it can be an accessory component delimiting and enhancing in turn the flower beds and highlighting particularly fine shrubs. In both cases the realization of this green surface is very important: it must show uniform coverage, based on herbaceous plants appropriately chosen according to local needs; it must be free of weeds or stains caused by parasitic diseases or improper or poorly performed maintenance practices; it must consist of fairly resistant plants, which maintain the same color both in summer and in winter, that is, from perennial or perennial plants; color is a primary characteristic of the selected varieties, while its uniformity and intensity are also determined by cultivation practices, such as a correct fertilization and regular irrigation. The soil must be prepared in such a way as to retain the humidity in sufficient quantity, in order to allow the growth of the plants even during the drier periods; however, it should not turn into mud during the winter. When the lawn is mainly intended for children’s play areas, or is subject to continuous foot traffic, it does not require the same refined characteristics of a purely ornamental green surface; this does not mean that this area should be neglected, because this would create a note of disorder even in the most well-kept garden; it is only a question of giving greater weight to certain practices, rather than to others. The final dimensions of a lawn and its contours must be decided from the beginning of the works, trying to find a right agreement between technical needs and environmental availability. Generally, simple contours are preferred, without too many angles, for both aesthetic and practical reasons; in fact, it will be necessary to provide different care even at the edge of the lawn and this will be made easier by linear and regular contours. It is also advisable to choose a flat area or anyway without sudden changes in level; if this is not possible, it can be remedied by making small excavations or by adding land. If a really flat surface is available, it must be imprinted with a minimum, but necessary slope, in order to allow the surface water to flow freely without forming rivulets that would ruin the grassy surface and erode it.

A soft lawn surrounds a villa in Cap D'Antibes
A soft lawn surrounds a villa in Cap D’Antibes

Preliminary works

Cleaning the environment:

the first job to do is to clean as much as possible the plot of land chosen by all the extraneous materials. The small bushes or weeds that are too high must be cut and burned, taking care to eliminate even the largest and most resistant roots: if it is necessary to level, and especially if the chemical composition of the soil is not the most suitable for this plant , it will be better to deal with the problem radically, starting with the removal of the whole crust of superficial vegetation; this will allow to remove all the stones, very harmful for the following works.

Leveling:

in most cases a new turf can be made without having to change the ground level; even if it is true that a lawn surface must be well leveled, it is not absolutely necessary that it be rigorously leveled like a bowling field; in general small adjustments are sufficient to eliminate the depressions in which pools of stagnant water could form, or the small mounds of m 1 or 2 of diameter, on which the mower or the roller would not be able to work uniformly. It must be taken into account that a slight slope, approximately equal to 1-1.5%, is necessary above all on large extensions, to allow rainwater or irrigation to flow slowly. If the lawn is already implanted and you realize late of the flaws of the ground or mistakes made, it is not very easy to fix, but it is not impossible. When the differences in height to be corrected are considerable, it is necessary to remove the turf and intervene on the underlying layer. The clods are detached by practicing, with the cutting part of the spade, the incisions in the turf, square or rectangular, as regular as possible, and gently undermining them with the flat spade; they are piled up on one side, while the area from which they were removed is leveled: once they have completed the work they are put back into place. It is very useful to remember that the wet ground is working badly, and therefore one must be careful to operate in dry weather days.

Drainage:

it is certainly not possible to achieve a good lawn if the ground is impermeable to water. In many cases, especially when the soil is of a heavy, clayey and calcareous nature, the immediately superficial layers, and often also the lower layers, are remarkably compact; if this problem is not remedied, the realization of any culture will be seriously compromised. The state of porosity of the soil can be verified very easily by observing it after a heavy rainfall: if puddles are formed, and their absorption is slow, it means that drainage is minimal and action must be taken. In relatively small areas it is possible to prepare the soil by performing two sprays, one after the other, with which a shredding of the hardened layer is obtained and the simultaneous incorporation of the superficial vegetation to the ground to improve its characteristics. For larger areas the manual spading is replaced by a mechanical means, but it is always advisable to perform the work twice, first in one direction and then in the one perpendicular to it. The peculiar characteristics of the terrain determine whether such an operation is sufficient to restore permeability, or whether more complex drainage systems should be used.

Preparation of the substrate

Whether you intend to get the lawn starting from seeds or already prepared turf. the preparation of the land is similar; the plant must preferably be started in February-March, as soon as the snow cover and the possibility of frosts have disappeared, or in September, after the summer drought; both the frost and the strong drought, in fact, harden the soil too much and prevent it from being processed properly. The soil crust must be broken to a depth of at least 25 cm and one must try to crush the clods well, to facilitate the circulation of air in the underlying layers. After this first intervention, the surface must be adjusted and smoothed with a rake incorporating, if the nature of the soil requires, any modifiers, natural or synthetic. Generally light and slightly acid soils, if they also contain a certain amount of humus, do not have need no correction. while those heavy and calcareous, as well as those light sandy, and therefore rather dry, benefit from the addition of organic materials that improve, among other things, the ability to retain moisture. Grainy peat, vegetable residues or forest land, are the best materials; it is also good to add a fertilizer, preferably a very mature manure, or of synthetic organic fertilizers with a semilent effect. Even the very acid soils will need a correction with lime and the amount needed will be established with a soil analysis. After all these operations, let the soil rest for about a month, so that the undesirable seeds, certainly present in the earth, can germinate; the seedlings will then be easily eradicated with a hoe. Chemical herbicides are of some use, but they do not completely solve the problem; in addition, their use always requires a great deal of attention, both because they are often toxic substances to animals and humans, and because, even if using selective products, they could also interfere on other plants; however, their action does not end immediately and it is necessary to wait often even more than a month before sowing to be sure that the new seedlings are not affected by the harmful effects. More comfortable and quick-acting are the small flame-throwers, generally made of oil, which produce a violent but very direct blaze capable of destroying the grasses and their roots. The English, masters of the art of turf, monitor the land prepared for the lawn, throughout the summer, and weed the weeds as they develop. After about a month of waiting, it is easy that small differences in level have occurred on the surface of the ground, due to settling; it is necessary to balance them with the addition of a good soil made of fibrous and woodland, mixed with a little sand and peat, and well sifted to remove the larger particles. A recommended practice, even if performed infrequently, is that which tends to eliminate any air pockets of the ground; the operation consists in pressing the ground with the heels taking care that it is dry enough not to adhere to the shoes. It is obvious that this type of compression is valid only for small extension students; for the larger ones, a slight rolling can be used. After that we move on to a final and final rake. The purpose of this treatment is to obtain a surface free from any irregularity and a sufficiently compact and at the same time permeable surface layer. All these operations may seem excessive to a novice gardener, but just remember that a lawn is not like a flower bed that is renewed every year; a turf is a permanent creation, and therefore more care is taken in the plant, the longer the duration and the more pleasant the aesthetic effect.

The green of the lawns, with its particular gift of finishing and decorating, offers to any garden an unmistakable relaxing atmosphere
The green of the lawns, with its particular gift of finishing and decorating, offers to any garden an unmistakable relaxing atmosphere

Turf – Lawn

Vegetable species most used:

the grass mats consist of species belonging to the Graminaceous family; however, nature also offers us numerous roses, evergreen grasses with a creeping bearing and large covering leaves, many of which withstand trampling well and are suitable for creating pleasant green carpets. Almost all the meadows consist of a mixture of herbs in which, from time to time, some components predominate, according to the different climatic and environmental needs, so as to be able to compensate the defects of one species with the advantages of another. On the market there are many mixtures opportunely studied and prepared by specialized firms. that leave the gardener alone the embarrassment of choice, according to individual needs.

Soil cover with turf:

 this system is certainly the fastest way to get a good lawn; however, it has the disadvantage of being relatively expensive. Although it may be repeated quite frequently, it should not be thought that such a system simplifies the task of the gardener to the point of making it possible to cover a ground that is not perfectly prepared. In this case the lawn would not last long because the flaws, initially hidden, would sooner or later jump out, forcing a more difficult restoration work than initially avoided; moreover the seedlings, not finding a good soil where to expand their roots, would deteriorate in a short period of time. On the market there are square or rectangular plates of small dimensions, or rolls of several meters long and about 50 cm high; they are generally obtained with Eragrostis or Agrostis stolonifera, but Lippia, Sagina and Dichondra are also quite widespread, provided they are of good quality and free from disease. The best time to set up a turf of this type is the beginning of autumn, because in spring it needs continuous care so as not to suffer the dryness of the seedlings not yet completely set. The turf at the time of purchase, must appear shorn recently, very compact and uniform in color and density; the layer must be composed of a sufficient quantity of fibers to facilitate handling, but it must be kept in mind that an excess of fibrous materials gives unsatisfactory results. The turf is preferable to have a regular shape of 30 X 30 or 30 x 40 cm, or better still 30 x 60, with 4 cm tall grass. Regular contours and small dimensions make it easier to put them in place. with respect to the rolls; a few days before putting the clods into place, you need to incorporate a good fertilizer. The size and shape of the space to be covered will advise from time to time on which side it is more convenient to start; generally it starts along the perimeter and proceeds in such a way as to always have in front of the part not yet covered. It is good to avoid trampling and therefore it is advisable to have wooden walkways. The lines of conjunction between a plate and the other must be arranged staggered, like the bricks of a wall, making them adhere well with the neighbors. If at the time of placing it is noticed that there are differences in thickness in the soil layer of the clods, it can be remedied by thinning the thicker ones or adding a little soil under the thin ones. Once the sods have been put into operation, this lawn must be lightly rolled and then sprinkled with sandy soil in the proportion of about 2 kg per m2, which is then distributed until it fills up any cracks between the clods. The maintenance of the lawn made with this system requires special care: frequent watering, since the roots of the plants are quite short, and prevalently diffused in the surface layer, a very low and regular cut, performed exclusively with mowing cylinder mower, ie blades helical.

Sowing turf:

 sowing is undoubtedly the cheapest and also the best way to create a good lawn, but good results are obtained only by carefully performing all the preliminary operations already mentioned, and following carefully, after sowing, the growth and grass development during the first years. The best time to sow a new lawn in our climate is spring, since for most seeds it is the physiological moment for germination, which takes place within a week or so, and therefore the results can be seen very soon; this relative speed of development does not imply that the lawn is actually ready after a few days: you must wait patiently for at least a month or forty days, before you can step on it. A lawn kept in this way is, after the delicate initial period, quite resistant to trampling and drought, in greater or lesser proportion, according to the chosen species. the seeds to be used, pure or mixed, are closely related to the type of soil chosen, calcareous and heavy, or acid and light, at its exposure, sunny or shady, dry or humid, to the kind of lawn that -tends to achieve and, last but not least, with the expenditure that is intended to be incurred. A concept that is always valid and to be kept in mind is to use pure and selected seeds, resistant to many parasitic diseases, even if a bit expensive. The amount of seeds needed essentially depends on the type of mixture; it is therefore necessary to comply with the recommendations of the supplier company, which are almost always reported on the packaging. But usually the average dose is around 30 grams per m 2: along the entire edge of the lawn it is advisable to slightly increase the quantity to obtain a thicker vegetation since these areas are more prone to foot traffic caused by maintenance work on the paths and of the flowerbeds. In order to be able to perform the sowing correctly, the soil must be dry, with the surface well raked; for the vast extensions it is undoubtedly necessary to have a spreading machine, which guarantees a rapid and regular seed distribution. Instead having to execute the work manually, the sowing is done in two successive times, as already done for other operations; first of all it will be possible to spread half of the available seeds proceeding in a certain direction, and then the operation will be repeated in a direction perpendicular to the previous one; if you want to perform a particularly accurate job, it is better to divide the ground into small parts. Also here, to walk on the sown soil, wooden walkways will be set up. When the sowing is finished, a light raking is carried out, in order to cover the seeds as soon as possible and, although many do, an immediate rolling is inadvisable; this operation will be necessary when the herbs start to appear, so as to compress the earth well around the roots. The rake will be followed by a good watering performed with a very vaporized jet so that the water falls slightly on the ground, in order not to remove or move the seeds; it is possible to find suitably treated seeds on the market that are not attracted by animals in general; these will be removed by means of the characteristic scarecrows or thin wires with strips of foil, which stir at the slightest gust of wind. In the case that instead ants are to bite the lawn immediately after sowing, to fill their underground reserves, it is sufficient to sprinkle the soil with a special product. The new lawn should not be mowed until the grass has reached at least 5-8 cm in height, and with periodic mowing, every 10-15 days, in the first period, it will be done gradually to lower the height of the grasses to the desired one, that is to about 3-4 cm. A few weeks after sowing, patches due to less vegetation will be visible in areas where the seeds have not fallen in the amount due or have not germinated; for this reason it is advisable to conserve a small quantity of seed in order to be able to re-seed it where necessary. From this moment on, the spontaneous and weed grasses must be removed manually.

Turf from stolons:

 it is a fairly rapid and easy to implement system. The planting of seedlings can be done as for the “other types of lawn, both in spring and in autumn, that is when climate and soil offer the best conditions for engraftment.The typical stolon lawn is that made with Agrostis stolonifera , but you can also use the same procedure with Eragrostis, Lippia and Sagina.The preliminary care to be devoted to the ground are the same as for other types of lawn, at the time of the plant take small tufts of stolons, as regards the first species, or small portions of grassy sod, for the others, and arrange themselves at a distance of 10-15 cm, in small deep grooves cm 2 or 3. The stolons, at the end of the operation, may undergo a slight rolling, while it is advisable to cover the other species with a light and sandy loam sprinkle, followed by an abundant watering, carried out with a very light stream, in the dry climates the watering should be pet every day or every other day, until the rooting and full development of the lawn. If everything has been done with due care and according to the rules, the ground will appear completely covered in grass within 40-50 days. This lawn is initially more expensive than seeded, but has the advantage of resisting for a greater number of years, and constantly maintain the appearance very compact.
Maintenance To maintain an efficient lawn and in good condition, it is necessary to scrupulously and regularly perform some essential operations: shearing, irrigation and fertilizing.

For the laying of the ready effect lawn, supplied by nurserymen, it is necessary to spread the clods on previously well worked soil
For the laying of the ready effect lawn, supplied by nurserymen, it is necessary to spread the clods on previously well worked soil

Shearing:

it must be performed regularly if you want to have a lawn that is always neat; of course it is essential to have a mower, in whose choice enter various factors including personal preferences, performance and price. The types of lawnmowers equipped with the motor, allow to reduce muscular efforts, and are therefore useful in large lawns, while those by hand can be used only for small spaces. The first cut of a recently planted and planted lawn should not be performed too low; it is preferable to reach the recommended limit with two or three successive cuts, reducing the height from time to time; it is also important to never lower the recommended height limit for each type of grass, because the seedlings would not survive such drastic defoliation; generally we can follow the measures indicated in the following table.

Type of lawn Autumn Winter March Summer
seed  4-5  5-6  3-4 3-4 
stolons  2 3-3,5  1,5-2  2-2,5
clods  3-4  4-5 2,5-3,5  2,5-3
Cutting frequency  15 days –   10-15 days  7 days

Indicative heights, in centimeters, to which the grass of a lawn must be cut at different times of the year.

Maintenance work on an established lawn starts roughly in the month of March, but depending on the weather and seasonal trends, this period may vary from region to region. For the first two months the cuts can be made every 10-15 days, while from May onwards until the autumn, when the vegetation grows more rapidly, it is necessary to make weekly cuts for the rustic type lawns, and organic even three times a week for those finer and planted in humid climates. Furthermore, in this period, the average height of the grass must be reduced to a minimum. Only the meadows of Agrostis require, in the period of intense heat, a height of slightly greater so that the roots, rather superficial, can benefit from greater shade. In autumn you will return to mowing the lawn every two weeks, gradually raising the height of the cut to offer the roots more protection from the cold. To perform a perfect mowing, without damaging the lawn or the lawnmower, it is necessary to observe very precise regulations: never start cutting after a rain or immediately after watering the grass, but wait until it is dry; choose the late afternoon hours so that the heat or the sun does not damage the amputated leaves too much; remember not to cut the grass in the same direction, but to alternate the movements from time to time. The contours of the lawn: for a good maintenance of the lawn it is also necessary to keep in mind the care of its margins; for small lawns we sometimes use normal shears, or even the sickle, to adjust the height of the grass on the edges but, especially if the lawn is fairly large, will be more useful than the motorized trimmer that facilitate work and shorten the times. Even when they are treated with particular care the edges always tend to become irregular, if they are not limited by a fence, since the crawling species always tend to spread towards the free space. At least once a year it is necessary to intervene drastically to cut, with a flat blade, the turf that has pushed beyond their limits. The small permanent fences are of great help to keep the outlines well defined: they can be made of metal, wood, brick or stone slabs.

Fertilizing:

a newly implanted lawn does not require any addition of fertilizer, in the first year, if the soil has been conveniently prepared; the old meadows instead almost always require an addition, in variable dose depending on the type of land; if the soil is very poor it will be necessary to administer fertilizer at least twice a year. The uniformity of the distribution, which only a very experienced person manages to obtain by spreading manually, is easily obtained with small mechanical distributors or by adding to the mixture of sandy soil. To spread the fertilizer it is good to take advantage of a rather rainy period that facilitates its absorption; otherwise, after application, the lawn must be thoroughly wet for two or three days, in order to prevent substances, too concentrated in some areas, from damaging the vegetation. The addition of 500 grams of calcined iron sulphate for each 100 m2 ensures that the color of the grass takes on much more vivid tones.

Ventilation:

lawns intended for particular purposes, such as golf, tennis, etc., require a considerable amount of mechanical or manual work so that they are always suitable for their task, but even a common lawn, purely decorative, requires a continuous surveillance. A light raking, more frequent when the green carpet is often trampled, is enough to keep the grasses in good condition and to stimulate their growth, preventing the accumulation of dry leaves that form at the base of each tuft and that would suffocate the normal growth. In the old meadows it is useful to perform a vigorous scarification with a rake with thin and sharp teeth: during this operation it is easy for some tufts of grass to get caught in the rake’s teeth or to be torn: this is done at the end of the summer, when all the herbs are sufficiently developed to better resist the tear. Rolling is useful in the spring to consolidate the loose soil from the winter frost, or on very soft soils, when the lawn is still young, but apart from that, it is a practice that should be reduced to a minimum, because a defect of the surface layer it is very often that of becoming too compact, asphyxiated and therefore difficult to penetrate from the roots; the soil is then aerated, which consists in opening holes in the dense surface layer, with the aim of allowing air, water and possibly manure to penetrate deeply, and to encourage the development of the roots . This work can easily be done with trident tips, but sometimes, when the lawn compression has been excessive, it is advisable to use the appropriate mechanical tools that can perform a more efficient job. If the turf is relatively recent you can limit yourself to this practice only in the fall, otherwise you must repeat the operation also at the beginning of spring. Irrigation: the grass can not grow without the sufficient amount of moisture and therefore in dry periods we must avoid the lack of atmospheric precipitation with irrigation that must be started promptly, without waiting to see the grass turn yellow. It is not possible to give a fixed course for the frequency of waterings: everything depends on the seasonal trend, very variable from the north to the south of our peninsula, from the exposure and the type of terrain. Indicatively, the watering will start in April or May, when more or less frequent atmospheric precipitations will cease, with a rhythm of one or two times a week, to become three weekly, or even every day when the heat becomes torrid. It is vitally important for the lawn grass that the waterings are carried out in the late afternoon hours: the sun, beating on the wet plains, would burn its leaves; moreover, in the hot hours, the water would evaporate immediately, while in the evening and during the nighttime hours it will have time to penetrate into the deeper layers. The humidity limited to the upper layer favors the superficial development of the roots, thus making the lawn more sensitive to the damage caused by drought.

Also for this reason the water supply must be abundant, on the contrary it is calculated that the irrigator must remain in place at least a couple of hours before being moved to another area. The water jet must be vaporized so as to fall lightly to the ground and penetrate slowly; if it were too violent, the water would flow away into rivulets without being absorbed, even ruining the surface. For very large lawns, even if it is a little expensive initially, during the preliminary works, a fixed irrigation system can be arranged, with buried pipes of at least 10 cm, carrying to the surface a series of sprinklers protruding from the ground at least 5 or 10 cm and spaced 3-4 m. This system also requires a lot of attention during the shearing of the grass and any other operation involving the use of machines. The perforated pipe is simpler and cheaper, a simple soft rubber tube and provided with a series of holes every 15-20 cm; this system is advisable only for limited extensions and requires careful control both because it has to be moved very frequently, and because the water comes out of the holes, but does not vaporize, so it is easy to form pools of water in the ground. A middle way between these two systems is that of the pipe at the end of which a sprayer is placed; the market offers a wide range of oscillating or rotating types, or in a compulsory direction, with the possibility of determining the sector in which the jet of water must fall, with a timed adjustment, or even of self-propelled types, ie moving for effect of the water pressure following and rewinding the tube that is previously laid out to determine its path. Obviously, in any case, the pipe must be long enough to be able to reach every corner of the lawn. Weed control: if the lawn is well looked after the presence of weeds is naturally reduced to a minimum; however some weeds will always try to invade it, and we will have to resort to their eradication. Currently the problem is almost completely solved with the use of selective herbicides, even if, due to the more resistant weeds, repeated applications may be necessary. It is important to ensure that the herbicide is indeed selective, and does not damage the cultivated herbaceous plants. The best way to use a herbicide is to dilute it in water and then apply it with a sprayer such as copper water pumps, or with a very thin onion spray watering can; this is particularly useful in small gardens where there is the danger of spraying other plants sensitive to the action of the herbicide. The distribution will be uniform so that all weeds are interested in the treatment, without however exceeding the administration that would cause damage to the surrounding vegetation. However, it is essential to strictly follow the instructions that always accompany the product packaging, since these are highly toxic substances, so that all the used containers must be carefully rinsed before being used for other purposes. On the other hand, when we are dealing with a few weeds, the best way to eliminate them is manual eradication, with special rooting machines, small tools that, penetrating the ground, rip the roots deep. Moss can also appear in a meadow: this usually occurs when the soil is too impoverished, or there is bad drainage, or when the grass is mowed too drastically, or if the turf is too shady. The first thing to do to eliminate the moss is of course to eliminate the cause that has favored its development; if this is not sufficient or impossible, you can fight with chemical preparations based on mercury or iron sulphate.

Insects and harmful animals:

there are some animals, such as the very common cricket-mole, or certain larvae of insects, which feed on the roots and therefore put the existence of a turf in serious danger. Even moles are extremely harmful, since in a single night they can put a whole lawn into turmoil, digging meters and meters of tunnels. The fight against larvae and insects is based on the administration of insecticides in powder or liquid that are generally administered by diluting them with the water of the waterings. Even worms are a danger to the lawn and therefore must be avoided all those situations that favor a habitat favorable to them: among these it is good to avoid the excessive use of lime and organic substances. If it is essential to eliminate worms with the use of chemicals, the best time to intervene is autumn, when the earthworms are found in the most superficial layer of the ground: then a lead arsenate solution is used, which, despite being very effective, not very in use as it is highly toxic and therefore not recommended if the lawn is accessible to children and pets. Alternatively it is possible to resort to a solution of potassium permanganate which is not toxic even for earthworms, but forces them to rise to the surface.

Most used plant species for turfgrass Agrostis – Graminaceae Agrostis stolonifera Agrostis tenuis Cynodon dactylon – Graminaceae Cynosurus cristatus – Graminaceae Dichondra repens – Convolvulaceae * Eragrostis – Graminaceae Eragrostis capillaris Eragrostis cylindrica Festuca – Graminaceae Festuca ovina var. glauca Festuca pratensis Festuca repens Festuca rubra Lippia repens – Verbenaceae * Lolium perennial – Graminaceae Phleum – Graminaceae Phleum nodosum Phleum pratense Phoa – Graminaceae Poa compressed Poa pratensis Poa trivialis Sagina subulata – Caryophyllaceae * Species with an asterisk do not need shearing.