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FAQ: Lawn Type and Quality

By: Dr Gareth Evans - Updated: 9 Jun 2010 | comments*Discuss
Lawn Quality Grass Durability Bents

There’s no doubt that when it comes to a beautiful lawn, the much sought-after bowling-green look has a lot going for it, but, attractive though it is, the luxury lawn is not ideal for everyone or every purpose.

Getting the right lawn for you calls for a bit of an understanding of lawn type and quality, the varieties of grasses involved and how to keep them at their best.

What Makes a Top Quality Lawn?

The top quality lawn will look in good condition, be free of weeds, mosses and other similar undesirables and have a uniform, green appearance, without brown patches or signs of scorching. It should also be as near level as possible, drain well and be made up of fine grasses.

What’s the Difference Between Luxury Grade and Utility Grade Lawns in Practical Terms?

There are two main practical distinctions between a true luxury grade lawn and its utility counterpart – the component grasses and durability.

Compact and fine-leaved grasses – the likes of Fescues and Bents – make up luxury lawns and both seed and especially turf of this quality is significantly more expensive to purchase than the varieties sold for utility purposes. They also tend to be slower growing and need more work in terms of maintenance, both of which can make establishing a new luxury grade lawn seem a long process.

In terms of durability, the luxury lawn cannot compete with the utility; utility lawns will stand up to the rigours of family life – with all the footfalls, footballs, tricycles and bicycles that entails. Importantly, it will also suffer a degree of poor maintenance – or even neglect – in a way that a luxury grade lawn never could.

What Grasses Should I Look Out For When Buying Seed?

For a luxury lawn, look for a mix which contains Fescues and Bents, particularly Chewings Fescue (Festuca rubra commutata) and the closely related Creeping Red Fescue (Festuca rubra), Browntop (Agrostis tenuis) and Creeping Bent (Agrostis stolonifera).

When it comes to utility lawns, Meadow Grasses, Ryegrass and Timothy come into their own, especially Smooth-stalked Meadow Grass (Poa pratensis) – arguably the best of its kind for turf production – Annual Meadow Grass (Poa annua), Lesser Timothy (Phleum bertolonii) and the newer strains of Perennial Ryegrass (Lolium perenne).

However, it’s important to bear in mind that the individual varieties of grass do better under different conditions – so what suits a heavy, wet soil may not be right for drier, lighter soils. It’s well worth seeking proper advice from the local seeds-man or garden centre to make sure you end up with the most appropriate grasses for your needs.

How Do I Keep My Lawn Looking at its Best?

If you’ve picked the right kind of grass seed or turf to begin with, then routine maintenance tasks are probably the single biggest influence on keeping your lawn looking good. Of all of these regular jobs, mowing is one of the most important – and certainly the one which will take up most of your time over the year. If you make sure your mower is properly serviced, the blades are sharp and set at the right height you shouldn’t have too many problems.

Bear in mind too that if the summer weather turns particularly dry, you’ll need to water your lawn before the grass suffers too much drought-stress – and long before it’s begun to turn brown! If no rain has fallen for five or six days, be prepared to water, giving the grass a thorough soaking to make sure that at least the top 4 inches (10cm) of soil is well wetted. It’s a common mistake to go in for a more frequent but less intensive watering; simply dampening the surface can encourage the spread of mosses and stops deep root formation, neither of which are desirable in a good quality lawn.

In addition, aeration, regular brushing – especially before mowing – the timely application of top dressing and the use of fertilizers as necessary will all help you maintain and improve the quality of your lawn.

It’s worth remembering that although the types of grass which constitute an individual lawn obviously have a large bearing on its quality and the sort of use it can be put to, good lawn maintenance is every bit as importance. Get it right and you’ll be sure to have a lawn to be proud of – and the quiet satisfaction of knowing you’ve done a really good job!

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