Designing a New Lawn

For most of us, lawns are inherited – along with all the other idiosyncrasies of our house – from the previous owners and often that legacy is an old or neglected patch of grass. The opportunity of designing an entirely new lawn, by contrast, is something which few gardeners ever get – and if you’re lucky enough to be one, make sure you seize it with both hands!

How you intend to use your new lawn inevitably has a major influence on its design, but whatever you’re planning, there are some things which always need to be borne in mind and thinking things through at the outset can certainly save a lot of heartache later on.


The shape of your new lawn is almost entirely up to you – at least within reason. Over the years much has been written about the “perfect” shape for a lawn, but in real terms, provided you bear a few important considerations in mind, such as ease of access and mowing, for instance, you can be largely free to create whatever you wish.

Traditionally, the typical garden plot has tended to feature a square or rectangular patch of grass, but many modern designs concentrate on more fluid curves, even if only for one or two of the edges. However, it’s important not to overdo the effect, since tight curves and awkward corners make life very difficult when it’s time to mow.

The lie of the land may also have an influence on the lawn’s shape; there’s little point trying to grow grass in dense shade, for instance, while a really steep part of the garden is likely to be better used as a planting bed, rather than forming part of the lawn. Even with a free-rein on the design, you still have to work within the constraints of the site! The trick is to aim for a pleasing overall shape that’s easy to look after.

Paths and Access

Good access is vital – you’ll need to be able to get onto the lawn easily, either to enjoy it for its own sake, or for mowing and maintenance – and it’s worth taking the time to plan it carefully from the outset.

One of the most common faults in many gardens is that the path leads straight onto the lawn – making the high traffic area where grass and walk-way meet take a terrific pounding from countless sets of feet over the season. If you can route your paths along the edges of the lawn, the “exit point” won’t be so clearly defined, allowing the inevitable wear to be spread over a larger area, reducing the danger of compaction and damage to the grass which should stop your new lawn starting to look unsightly.

Bulbs and Beds

Including bulbs or beds within a lawn can be a very effective way to add something to the overall character of the garden – despite what the purists may say – but they do need to be used carefully.

It is all too easy to get carried away with the idea of massed ranks of spring daffodils, for instance, forgetting that if you’re going to let their leaves die back properly once they’ve flowered, for a good few weeks you’re going to have a hard time mowing the lawn. Plant your bulbs in the edges and corners where it won’t look so noticeable if you leave cutting the grass for a while as they dry.

In the same way island beds can be a very worthwhile addition to the lawn, but it’s important to ensure that they don’t cause problems. The key is to restrict yourself to one or two beds, place them in one of the corners or along an edge, plant them attractively – and keep them in proportion with the lawn and the rest of the garden.

Making Mowing Easy

Mowing is the single most time-consuming activity required to keep your lawn in good condition, so it clearly makes a lot of sense to design your new lawn with ease of mowing in mind.

Avoiding too many obstacles is one obvious approach, so in addition to locating bulbs and beds sensibly, think carefully about where you position the likes of garden ornaments, specimen trees and furniture too.

Another tip which is guaranteed to save you time and frustration is making sure that you create a good edge to the lawn, so that there is no awkward grass to cut sitting up against a wall or fence, for instance. Although edging is, of course, an extra job to do at the start, in the long run it will more than repay the effort, since it significantly reduces the amount of hand trimming you’ll have to do to keep things looking neat. Paths constructed from bricks or slabs make ideal edges – sink them lower than the lawn itself and you can mow the grass right up to the edge without any danger of damaging your mower blades.

The chance to establish a new lawn to suit your own tastes is an exciting prospect and with a little careful thought, it shouldn’t be too difficult to design one that will meet all your needs.

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