The worn out lawn is an easy thing to recognise, and examples are, sadly, seldom hard to find. Although as a general rule, this is something which more frequently seems to affect parks, paths and other public areas than household lawns, our own gardens are certainly not immune, and in that setting particularly, there are few things more instantly unsightly.
Recognising the Signs
In some cases, the signs are immediately clear. Lawns with extensive patches of bare soil, or thin, impoverished growth are, for example, pretty obvious to everyone, but it would be a mistake to assume that all is well, just because a lawn is still green. The principal distinguishing feature of a worn out lawn is its lack of good quality and desirable turf grasses – the Bents, Fescues, Meadow Grasses and Timothies. Depending on the severity of the trouble, while their absence may extend across the whole area to produce noticeably bare patches, in can also be much more localised. Often the true nature of the problem can be disguised by the arrival of other plants on the ground, such as poor quality grasses, mosses and broad leaved weeds , which keep the area looking lush, but actually signal the ongoing demise of the lawn itself.
Keeping yourself aware of the general state and composition of your lawn as part of your routine maintenance regime can be a very big help in making sure that you spot the early signs that your lawn could be becoming worn out.
Fixing the Problem
Fortunately, in most cases it is only a part of the grass which is affected, and often what you might describe as relatively ‘high traffic’ spots (such as natural paths and access ways) or play areas, where rather too many ball games or bicycle races have worn away the quality grass.
When it is only a fairly little area which is affected, the simplest – and undoubtedly the cheapest – way to revive the lawn is simply to ‘patch’ it either by re-seeding it, or laying a small section of new turf, matching the grass mix as closely as possible to the existing cover.
Patching the Lawn
Careful preparation is essential for either approach, and the first step is to remove any remaining and obviously damaged quality grass, along with any moss, poor grasses or invasive weeds that have become established. If you intend to lay new turves, you will now need to ‘square up’ the affected area, so that you can fit them neatly into the gap left behind. Once that has been done the soil needs to be broken up and pricked over slightly with a fork to help the turf make good contact, or open up the underlying ground to aid the root growth of the developing seedlings.
For a turf approach, next loosen the soil on the bottom of the new turves a little to help it take, and place them carefully in position, firming them down and filling in the cracks with good quality, sieved topsoil.
If you’re using seed, after pricking the soil over, rake it thoroughly and remove any stones, organic matter or other unwanted material to make a fine, level seed bed, and then sow the seed in accordance with the instructions, making sure you get as even a coverage as possible. Then cover it with a thin layer of sieved topsoil, and protect the area with netting or horticultural fleece to avoid the unwanted attentions of birds and cats, which may otherwise disturb your efforts at repair.
For larger scale problems, especially if most or all of the grass is involved, there is often no alternative than to clear the site completely, and start again from scratch with a new lawn.
Lawns do not become worn out for no reason, however, so before starting out on any programme of re-laying or repair, it is essential to find out the underlying cause, and work out how to remedy it first, or the problem is very likely to recur, given time.
The appropriate solution obviously depends on the root cause; wear due to a high density of foot-falls, for example, can often be solved by altering the layout of features in the garden, or even just changing the shape of beds or edges. Moving the position of goal-mouths or swings can likewise help reduce much of the potential for damage. Issues of soil compaction, or poor drainage will require more extensive correction, while simply adjusting the blades on your lawnmower may be all that is needed to avoid the harm done by ‘scalping’. Whatever the reason behind the problem, solve that first, and you should be well on the way to success.
The spectre of the worn out lawn is, understandably, widely seen as a bit of a gardener’s nightmare.. While it is never a trivial thing – particularly if it’s your lawn that’s been blighted – with prompt and careful action, even the most distressing mess can usually be made good, though there’s no denying that on occasion it can take a bit of time and effort to achieve!