Adapting the Lawn for a Growing Family: Case Study

“I like a challenge,” laughs landscape gardener, Callum Nearson – which is probably just as well given some of the magic he often gets asked to work, particularly when it comes to designing something that will suit all the family.

“Lawns can be a really big problem,” he says, “especially if everyone has a different idea of what they want it to be – you know, a fantastic centre-piece, somewhere to sit and a football pitch, all rolled into one. So you have to listen a lot, be a bit of a diplomat and then try to steer the client into what’s actually possible. That can be quite hard sometimes, but often it just ends up being great fun, and hopefully you can give everybody most of what they want.”

Meeting Everyone’s Needs

He’s particularly proud of the lawn he created for one family, who had recently moved into a new home in the area. With two sons already – aged eight and nearly four – and a new baby on the way, they’d asked for his help to turn the neglected patch of grass they’d just inherited into a lawn that would meet the needs of the whole family over the coming years, but without demanding too much further work to be done on it.

“They were really great people and they pretty much left it open to me to do what I liked – the only thing that ‘dad’ insisted on was no fussy curves to mow! All the same you can’t just decide for other people, so I sat down in the garden with ‘mum’ and the boys and we talked and talked about grass – and drank an awful lot of lemonade.”

Planning the Design

Once he’d got an idea of what was wanted, Callum quickly got started on sketching out a few ideas. The existing garden was a fairly traditional design, with borders surrounding a large and almost square central lawn, and though the grass hadn’t had much attention over recent years, he was confident that it could be brought back into good condition without too many problems.

“I thought we’d start off by breaking it up into zones by extending the beds inwards slightly to provide a hint of a soft divider, so the tidy ‘sitting area’ was slightly shielded from the play area – but without creating any of the annoying curves I wasn’t allowed!” he explains.

Striking a Balance

“It’s one thing if you’re creating a whole new lawn from scratch, but adapting one that’s already there calls for a bit of thought. With this kind of job, you really need to leave lots of open play space, but stop it encroaching on the rest of the garden. It’s a real tricky balance to strike, but it lets the way the kids use ‘their’ bit of the lawn change naturally as they grow up and play different games.”

As he explains, that way you can add age-appropriate features, such as playhouses, sandpits, paddling pools or goal posts on a temporary or semi-permanent basis, but without having to entirely redesign the whole lawn for every latest craze or burst of sporting enthusiasm. It’s also important to get the right sort of grass, and a proper maintenance regime, though as Callum says, that wasn’t a problem in this case, since the existing lawn was a fairly utility type, principally made up of wear-resistant kinds of broad-leafed turf grasses.

“Once it was brought back to life a bit, it was ready to double as Wembley or Wimbledon – or put up with a few tricycle races – without coming to too much harm.” He reckons that it must have been doing exactly that ever since. “Well, put it this way,” says Callum, “they haven’t called me back, which usually means that everything’s worked out pretty much OK!”

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