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The Essentials of Good Lawn Design

By: Dr Gareth Evans - Updated: 16 Aug 2010 | comments*Discuss
 
Lawn Design Grass Trees Beds Paths

The lawn plays a particularly important role in the garden and is almost unique in the year-round contribution it makes. Other than the evergreens, nothing else shows the same face to the world, from one end of the year to the other; flowers fade, trees and shrubs lose their leaves, pond plants die back – but the lawn remains unchanged.

The bottom line in all of that is, of course, that whether you’re creating a new lawn from scratch or looking to tinker with an established one, getting the design right is vital. In the end, success often comes down to paying attention to just a few essential factors.

Lawn Location

Unfortunately, for most of us, there’s seldom much choice in where our lawns are located, so choosing the “ideal” spot is a luxury that only the fortunate few who own very large gardens can enjoy. Never-the-less, it’s important to minimise the number of non-ideal elements that your lawn contains, wherever you can.

If your site, for instance, contains areas of particularly deep shade, steep inclines or boggy soil, it is worth trying to come up with alternative uses for them, rather than attempting to incorporate them in the lawn and almost certainly storing up problems for the future. Creating beds in these kinds of places and filling them with plants that are appropriate to the conditions is likely to provide a good show in your garden, while ensuring that all of the lawn that you do have looks its best.

Plan Your Paths

As a general rule, access paths should be sited along the edges of the lawn whenever possible, rather than on or across it, to avoid the soil compaction and excessive wear generated by repeated feet travelling over the turf.

Inevitably there are times when it’s impossible to avoid crossing a lawn, and if that’s the case with yours, it’s worth considering stepping stones as a means to avoid the arrival of worn out, well-trodden walkways to cut an unsightly scar on otherwise beautiful grass. In addition to the usual square slabs, there are plenty of interesting and attractive pre-formed shapes available from garden centres to choose from, so however conventional or quirky your overall design, there should be something to suit.

Trees, Bulbs and Island Beds

Trees, especially large and well-established ones, really don’t mix well with lawns. They’ll compete with quality grasses for light, water and nutrients – and nine times out of ten, they’ll win! Rather than struggle to maintain good looking turf beneath them, it’s often a far better idea to under-plant them with some suitable shade-loving perennials. It can also be the ideal place to plant early bulbs – such as daffodils – which, though a very welcome sign of spring in March, complicate mowing operations when their leaves still haven’t entirely died down in May.

Few things polarise opinions so much as island beds. Until quite recently, the very idea had seemed anathema to whole generations of gardeners, but times appear to be changing and the conventional prejudice against them appears to have given way. The question is, like so many things, one of personal taste and if you like the look, then there’s no earthly reason why you shouldn’t incorporate one into your own lawn. That said, unless you’re in charge of planning the design for a stately home, it’s probably a good idea to avoid large and centrally placed beds. Opt instead for one, or at most two, keeping them in scale with the rest of the garden and shaped to complement the overall look – ideally locating them towards an edge or corner, though not so close to create difficulties when it comes to manoeuvring your lawn mower around them.

Make Mowing Easy

It’s not just persistent bulbs and island beds that make for mowing nightmares; a surprising number of otherwise great lawn designs make the simple job of cutting the grass far more difficult than it needs to be. When you consider how often you have to do that even in a single year, it adds up to a lot of unnecessary bother – especially since it’s something which can be avoided with a little bit of forethought.

Just remembering to allow enough space between the lawn and any hedges, fences or walls will make your life so much easier, while cutting a mowing strip – a grass-free boundary to the lawn – can save all the extra work involved in edging and trimming. Make sure too that the verges around and between any beds or other features in the lawn are at least a yard or so wide to make mower access simple.

A well thought out lawn is a joy. Aside of looking good, it positively encourages easy maintenance, making looking after the grass and keeping it in top condition simple to do. No matter what kind of lawn you have – how big or how small – making sure you get the essentials of good lawn design can bring big rewards.

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