Occasional gardener: Seeds or grass? time versus money

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Your options for creating a new lawn are dictated by time and cost…

THIS column has been almost evangelical in its efforts to banish the traditional manicured lawn from history. Weekly mowing, chemical weeding and feeding applications and the annual scarification and aeration regime make the lawn a high-maintenance part of the garden that many of us can do very well without. However, despite the diminishing environmental qualities of lawns, a soft carpet of well-maintained grass remains a popular choice for many gardeners – or at least garden owners – especially those just starting out.

A lawn is the perfect complement to colorful shrubs or rich, bold borders. Its green uniformity is the ideal contrast with a sudden burst of foliage and flowers; it helps guide the eye, enhancing the impact of the plants around its edges.

September, like spring, is the perfect time to create a new lawn or repair an existing lawn area. Early fall is better than summer because it’s warm enough for grass to grow, but the sun is usually not strong enough to scorch young blades of grass and there’s always plenty of moisture in the soil to stimulate growth.

The big question when it comes to laying a lawn is “seed or turf?” – and each has its respective merits and drawbacks. The downsides with turf are its expense, with 30 square meters costing up to £200. Rollers can also be quite heavy and difficult to move, which should be kept in mind if access to your garden is restricted. Sod is more labor intensive than sowing seeds and takes more effort to lay correctly. However, the advantage is that when it is laid down and the edges are cut, it is immediately beautiful. The joints fit together and you can sit on them after a week.

Sowing grass seeds is by far the cheapest option, being about a fraction of the cost of sod. A 2kg box or bag of good grass seed should be enough to cover an area of ​​30m², with a little left over to fill in the gaps a few weeks later. Once your soil is prepared, sowing is easy and straight forward, taking just over 10 minutes to complete the task before finishing with a rake.

The downside of seeds is that they take a long time to sprout. It may be next spring that a lawn sown in the coming weeks will look like one created using peat. It may also be necessary to net the area or set up a few noisy plastic bags on canes to deter hungry birds. Uneven growth is also a disadvantage, while the approaching winter means that the young lawn is difficult to mow, making it more difficult to control any weeds that may appear. That said, seeding creates a greater sense of self-satisfaction because you can claim the finished product as your own work.

Initial site preparation is the same for both methods and it is important to spend time getting it right. To start, roughly dig the area to loosen it and remove any existing plants, especially tough perennial weeds such as dandelions and dockens. Rake the area to create a fine surface and remove large stones, roots or other debris as you go. After this initial raking, tread the ground hard, stepping back and putting the weight on your heels to firm the ground and eliminate soft spots. Rake again to level the surface and repeat the process.

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