Lawns are an important component of any landscape as they provide a great green backdrop and usable space to utilise. It is common to want a nice lawn for children to play sport on, or dogs to run around on, or just having the feel of green cool grass underfoot.
As with any component in your landscape, you need to think what you want to use your outdoor spaces for. If you want more all- weather outdoor entertainment spaces and don’t want high maintenance, then a deck area or paved area might be more suitable than a lawn.
Real lawns need lots of maintenance, otherwise they can be weedy and unsightly. For this reason more people are using artificial lawns as they look just like real lawns but don’t have the same maintenance issues.
If you want a real lawn, then you need to have some basic conditions:
- Good light
- Good drainage
- Adequate moisture over drier periods.
- Good nutrition especially extra nitrogen and iron.
If it is in a shady spot you will tend to get a mossy sparse lawn. Poorly drained soils result in poor growth and weeds like buttercup. Drier periods can see weeds like dandelion cropping up. Poor nutrition can result in a yellow lawn with lots of weeds.
One of the commonest faults with caring for lawns is to mow too low. This stresses the lawn and encourages weeds.
You need to remember real grass is a plant that can stressed if cut back too hard. Ideally just remove 1/3 of the grass at any time when mowing on a regular basis to thicken up the lawn but not stress it as the leaves are needed to produce food for the plant.
If you have a weedy, mossy lawn you can apply a lawn weedkiller for the weeds and iron sulphate for moss, but it is better in the long run to provide the ideal conditions and maintenance so that the lawn grows well and weeds are discouraged.
If you are using a lawn fertiliser, use a slow release lawn fertiliser and apply with water, as you can burn the lawn if applied dry. Lawn fertilisers will make the lawn soil more acid as lawns prefer acid soils, and contain extra iron which grass needs to maintain a green sward. Applying iron sulphate by itself will get rid of any moss and also make the lawn dark green.
If you want to establish a new lawn there are five options:
- Sow grass seed directly onto the prepared soil, eg rye/fescue. This is the cheapest option as seed can simply be sown and raked over. Allow a budget of $3/m2 to apply
- Spray on hydroseed ie grass seed in an ecomulch which helps to conserve moisture and stop the seed being blown away in windy areas. You may have seen this method as a green material sprayed on banks or lawns. Allow $5/m2 to apply.
- Roll out real turf to create an instant lawn. The rolls are butted up against each other to get an instant effect. Allow $35/m2 to supply and lay.
- No mow lawns using flat growing plants eg selliera, thyme, chamomile. The plants are planted close together and allowed to join up to form a mat, which doesn’t need mowing. Allow $15-20/m2 to supply and lay.
- Apply artificial lawns: if you want an alternative to real lawns, you could use artificial lawns. They used to look artificial but now they look very real. The “turf” is laid like carpet over fine sand and compacted basecourse, and fixed to timber edges. Allow $180/m2 to supply and lay.
Note preparation is crucial for all the above lawns. For the first 4 lawns, you need to prepare the area by first controlling any persistent weeds, then adding a good lawn mix, ideally with some sand in it to aid with spreading. The lawn needs to be contoured so that the water flows in the right direction, and the soil needs to be compact. For the artificial turf a compact surface that is contoured well is also critical but by using basecourse instead. You need to budget in the cost of preparation and adding lawn mix as well as the application costs. This can vary from site to site depending on access and site conditions initially.
If you want a good looking “real” lawn, then you will need to put the effort into its establishment and subsequent maintenance. A well looked after lawn is a pleasure to use and look at, but the reverse ie a weedy, poor lawn is an eyesore.
Enjoy your lawns!