Reclaiming a Garden ‘Football Pitch’: Case Study

As the parents of every budding Beckham or Rooney know only too well, without Wembley’s army of ground-staff to keep the turf in tip-top condition, hosting an unofficial football pitch in your back-garden does terrible things to a lawn. While grass is a wonderfully resilient plant, and can recover from most things, this kind of constant battering leaves its mark, but as John and Madge Gatt found out, with a bit of effort, even the worst legacy of wear can be repaired.

“The kids had gone off to college, so we thought – right, now’s the time to reclaim our garden! It took a bit of doing, ” says John, “but it was worth it in the end.”

Tackling the Problem Areas

There were three main problem areas to deal with; what had been the goal mouth, a spot about thirty feet in front of it and along one of the lawn edges, which had been the place from which innumerable ‘corners’ had been taken over the years. “Other than that, the grass wasn’t actually too bad,” he admits.

The goal mouth itself had suffered the worst of the damage, and after a quick bit of deliberation, they both agreed that the only real remedy was going to be to replace the whole of the damaged grass. Fortunately it was near to the edge of their property, almost backing onto the boundary fence, so they didn’t feel that it would show too badly, and Madge had already identified a suitable region of the lawn to be a turf donor. “I’d had my eye on extending one of my borders for a while,” she confesses, “so this gave me the perfect excuse!”

Having dug out the damage and replaced it with transplanted turf, John spread a soil top dressing to fill in the edges, sprinkling on a little new grass seed to help mask the join and thoroughly watered the whole area to help things settle down and begin repairing.

They used a similar technique to deal with the worn edge too, cutting a rectangular slice from the site and turning it around, so that the newly formed straight edge that was on the inside, now formed the outside edge of the lawn, and carefully adding a strip of turf taken from Madge’s newly enlarged bed to make up the gap.

“It was a bit of a fiddle to make sure the levels were right,” recalls John, ” but we left it alone and kept off it and after a few weeks you could really begin to see the difference.”

Renovating the Rest

Most of the rest of the pitch didn’t seem to have suffered too badly, although having seen how rainwater pooled in various places before draining away, they suspected that the underlying soil had become a little compacted.

“Out came our spiky sandals and our forks,” says Madge, ” and we gave the whole area a thorough going over every three or four weeks to open it up.” Where the grass itself had become thin, particularly in the spot in front of the old goal, as well as aerating it, they also sowed a little grass seed at the same time. Finally, they gradually added a small amount of top dressing to even out the small hollows and bumps that remained. “We were lucky,” says John, “the dips were only a quarter of an inch or so – enough to show, but nothing too serious.”

Reclamation Complete

Two years on, and the project has been a complete success. “You can’t even see where the goal used to be, it’s a proper lawn again,” says a delighted Madge. “Mind you,” adds John, “we dread the kids coming back for a visit and asking if they can have a kick-about!”

After all the work these two have put in, the answer to that would surely have to be a “no”.

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