Turning rough grassland into a closely mown turf calls for a good deal more than a little simple lawn care and any gardeners faced with the prospect of converting a mixed bag of field grasses, couches, perennial weeds and moss are going to have their work cut out. However, with a bit of effort it can be done – but it’s likely to take a few years before it approaches anything that you might wish to dignify with the name “lawn.”
The beautifully manicured, closely mown lawn of our dreams is, of course, an essentially artificial creation; its well chosen and healthy grass types are about as far removed from the riot of mixed grasses and broad-leafed weeds that – left to its own devices – nature will produce. In any rough grassland, there is likely to be a fair selection of annual and perennial grasses and weeds – definitely undesirable elements in the perfect lawn!
One of the most useful first steps in taming an area of rough grassland is to cut it with a strimmer, as much as anything to see what you’ve really got to deal with. Extensive overgrowth can often mask the true nature of the underlying plants, so it’s a good idea to get rid of the excess at the outset. Converting rough grassland into a lawn is definitely a long term job, so be aware that it may take several strims before you begin to notice much of a difference.
At this stage, the only real element of actual lawn care will be to identify problem weeds – especially plantains, dandelions and daisies – and attempt to remove them. If they are present in small enough numbers, it may be possible to dig them all out by hand, but realistically, this is seldom a practical solution for anything other than a very small patch of grass. Suitable herbicides or combined “weed and feed” mixtures are often the best solution for larger areas.
Levelling, Filling and Feeding
Once the shape of the underlying ground has become evident, the next stage in the process is to begin levelling and filling any irregularities- sand being the usual choice for the job. Rough grassland is almost invariably full of lumps and bumps, so it can often be a good idea to hire a roller to help smooth things out, since being able to move from strimming to mowing really depends on having the ground smooth and flat enough to move on to the beginnings of proper lawn care. Depending on what equipment you have available to you, if the area is a particularly large one, arranging the loan or hire of a garden tractor can take a lot of the hard work out of this stage, especially if the ground is very uneven.
It can also be helpful to start feeding the developing lawn. Although it may seem counter-intuitive to fuel the growth of weeds and rough grasses, the reality is, that by providing nutrients, you allow the better and more desirable types of grass to compete with their unwelcome relatives. At this point in the process, feeding and cutting are the two most important elements of lawn care.
When you do start mowing, it’s important to remember to use a grass box to collect your clippings – even if at this point the idea of producing neat stripes is furthest from your mind. A surprising number of common grassland weeds can be spread from little pieces of their stems, so it’s worthwhile making sure you don’t undo your own good work inadvertently. From here on, if you’ve eradicated the weeds and rough grasses as best as you can, fed your developing patch and taken care over the mowing, it’s down to the usual routine of lawn care – watering, feeding, mowing and aerating to keep your new lawn on the right track.
Although it’s not a quick job – nor an easy one – the challenge of taming a grassy wilderness offers great personal satisfaction. In the end, converting rough grassland into something approaching a lawn isn’t about special equipment or secret knowledge, it’s about determination and hard work – and it’s definitely something to be proud of when you do eventually pull it off!