Reclaiming a Long-forgotten Lawn: A Case Study

“Well, I think this was a nice-looking lawn ………. once.” When even the Estate Agent who’s showing you round comes away with a line like that, you just know you’re in for some hard work reclaiming it, but for Lynne George, the rest of the property was saying “buy me” far too loudly to let that worry her. Besides, she knew she could call on the services of a couple of really good gardeners to help her get things sorted out – her parents!

“I mean up until I bought this house,” she explains, “my gardening experience was pretty much growing a few sunflowers as a kid – so I was like, ‘help!’ Mum and Dad were really brilliant.”

Getting Started

The three of them began by giving the whole area a thorough inspection, looking for any particular problems and noting positive features that would be worth retaining at the same time. In the end, it was, as Lynne admits, a bit of a lop-sided list, but even so, although things had obviously been neglected and weeds and coarse grasses had begun to crowd out the better quality turf in places, overall there was still enough good grass to work with. “That was really good news,” Lynne says. “I didn’t want to face all the hassle of re-turfing – or all the cost either.”

Fortunately she had bought her new home early in the year, which meant she could get things underway almost straight away, rather than having to wait for the following spring. Lynne started her reclamation work by strimming the grass down to about an inch long, using the sturdy electric strimmer that her parents had very wisely given her as a house warming present! After a good raking to get up all the cuttings and a thorough sweeping to shift as much thatch and dead material as possible, Lynne got her first proper view of the lawn she’d inherited.

“It wasn’t anywhere as bad as I feared; Dad actually smiled when he saw it, and he’s a bit of an old pessimist when it comes to lawns, so I thought ‘cool’ – because then I really knew things were looking up!”

Mowing and Aerating

The next job was to give the lawn the first real cut it had had in a fair while – and getting it right is one of the single most important factors in a successful reclamation.

“It’s a good job my parents know me. I’m so impatient, but they kept drumming it into me to take it slowly with the mowing and start off with the blades way up so you hardly take anything off. It’s so frustrating, but I’d have to admit they were right.”

Aeration is another thing which plays a major role in returning an abandoned lawn to its former glory. Most of the books will recommend either a rotary aerator or the use of a garden fork to achieve the right result, but a trip to her local garden centre provided Lynne with an altogether more ingenious solution – a set of spike-equipped sandals, purpose built for the job. “It’s a real lazy gardener’s approach, but all I have to do is strap them on and walk about a bit. I mean, how hard is that?”

A Year On

Lynne’s renovation work is now into its second year, but already her lawn is much improved. She’d be the first to admit that the perennial weeds which colonised it during its neglected days are still a major headache, but she has already dug out most of the larger ones and is busily attacking the others with a good quality proprietary weed-and-feed. Although it’s inevitably going to take a while to eradicate them all, she’s overjoyed at the results so far.

“I’m really proud of my lawn,” she says, “and even Dad said I’d done a good job, so it must be alright.” From what she says, that sounds like praise indeed!

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