Preparation is key to a lovely lawn

You could have a lawn like this
You could have a lawn like this
Dahlias - one of the boldest plants you can grow .

GARDENING: Brian Kidd is planning for summer with dahlias

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September is the best month of the year to lay a new lawn, or to prepare the ground to grow a decent lawn from seed.

Try to decide on the design of the garden. Forget all about silly, skinny straight borders and a daft flower bed in the middle. Instead, have a look at the library under Architecture and the sub-heading landscape design, then find a decent garden design book with plans and good ideas which appeal to you.

To make maintenance easier, remember flower beds are a bit of a nuisance whereas lovely curved borders add space, even in small gardens.

The lawn can then be cut without having to trim the edges of lots of little flower beds.

Once the area for the lawn has been decided, we can now begin the preparation of the soil for turfing or seeding.

Is the surface rock hard, dry, wet or full of ruts? Poor drainage can be caused by compaction of the soil surface, a hard pan underneath or by a high water table.

Compaction is often due to a builder stacking bricks or continually going up and down with wheelbarrows or dumper trucks.

All areas of compaction must be broken up so that the water can drain through the soil.

Water which lies on top of the soil for long periods is, of course, due to compaction and this is often the case in new gardens where construction work has taken place.

Simple digging ensures the water can work its way through cultivated soil.

If you have ordinary soil, digging to the depth of a garden fork is quite sufficient. Incorporating compost or manure is certainly not required. In fact it will ruin the levels as ruts will appear all over the lawn consistent with the rotting down of the organic material.

When digging, if it is still dry, it will be essential to break down the newly-dug soil as digging proceeds, otherwise once completely dry it will be difficult to get a good tilth by raking.

If the soil is wet when you do the digging, leave it in large clods because the air will allow the soil to dry out a bit. A couple of days later, the surface can be raked to the levels you decide.

If the soil is really heavy clay, then leave the digging until there’s been a lot of rain. Then dig it over roughly, spread about 7lbs of sharp sand over each square yard and allow the frosts to break it down ready for raking and turfing next spring.

When turfing or seeding a seed bed, fertiliser is applied according to the directions 7-10 days in advance. It is then raked in.

All this raking ensures excellent lawns. Most people are in a rush to get the lawn laid, but take your time.

When choosing turf, let price be your guide. If it’s expensive, it will be better.