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Creating and Maintaining a Magnificent Lawn

Creating and Maintaining a Magnificent Lawn

Why have a lawn? 

1.         There are few ground covers that are as visually and sensually pleasing as a well maintained lawn.
2.         Grass is among the cheapest of ground covers.
3.         A lawn is good for the environment, absorbing water and reducing water run-off.
4.         Lawns produce oxygen.
5.         Lawns trap dust and prevent erosion.
6.         It is a soft patch for the children to tumble and fall into when playing.
7.         It is just a plain satisfying thing to have.

How do I prepare the ground for a lawn? 

1.         The key is preparation.  Just like painting your house, or for that matter any gardening task.
2.         Start by deeply tilling the area.  Grass likes a well aerated soil.
3.         A lawn requires 10-20 centimetres of good quality top soil to grow well.  We recommend putting a layer of compost under the top soil to improve available nutrients.  Adding compost is particularly helpful if you’re soil is high in clay.  (See section on soil)
4.         The soil should be slightly acidic, that is below a pH of 7 but above a pH of 6.
5.         Using a spirit level ensures the soil is even and level.
6.         At Ablaze we can help you choose the best products for your particular site.
7.         Do not overwork the soil. It is important to keep a range of particle sizes and working the soil will bring the larger pieces to the top. When using a garden rake keep the tynes up so that you spread the new soil rather that pull up any larger pieces.

What soil does lawn like?

Lawns grow best in loamy soils. We recommend Ablaze Premium Topsoil, a rich peaty loam that offers excellent drainage. Lawn Mix is a premium alternative that spreads more easily than topsoil and generally provides faster results for longer. Ablaze Lawn Mix is made from Compost, Topsoil, Aged Bark Fines, Pumice Sand and contains six months of Slow Release Fertilizer. Be very careful of budget lawn products with a high percentage of sawdust and soft sand (Dune Sand) as these cause more harm than good.

How do I know what sort of soil I have?

1.         The test is simple.  Pick up a handful of your soil.
2.         Squeeze the soil into your hand, trying to make a ball.
3.         Now look at what you have left in your hand. 
            a)         If you have a heap of material that won’t hold it’s shape, your soil is sandy.
            b)         If you have a lump of soil that holds it’s shape and the lump won’t break up easily, then you have a clay soil.
            c)         A loamy soil is between clay and sand.  It will form a lump/ball but will not break easily.

Choosing the seed

1.            Consider how much shade/sunshine your lawn will receive.
2.            Consider how much foot traffic will be walking over your lawn.
3.            Consider how draught resistant does your lawn need to be.

Once you have considered these factors it is possible to decide which seed is best for you.

Sowing the seed

1.         Sow the seed as per the recommendations on the packet.
2.         Seed distributors (scatter boxes)  are available for your use through Ablaze.
3.         After sowing the seed, gently roll or pat down the seed then water. Ablaze has water filled lawn rollers and wheel barrows for hire. Bookings are recommended.
4.         Water the seed frequently and lightly; morning is best.
5.         Avoid creating puddles or walking on your new lawn.
6.         For its first mow the lawn when it reaches higher than the ultimate height that you want it.

What is the best height at which to mow the lawn?

1.         Short is not best.
2.         To some extent this is a matter of personal choice.
3.         A longer length helps prevent:
            a)            roots becoming exposed,
            b)            soil drying out,
            c)            reduces soil erosion.
4.         Towards the upper end of the spectrum reduces the water and fertiliser needs.
5.         A slightly shorter lawn will dry out more quickly out and is thought to reduce the risk of disease as a consequence.
6.         Anything from 2 to 6 cm is a reasonable range of heights.

What if my lawn gets ahead of me? 

1          Cutting a lawn that has become tall creates a problem.
2.         If cut to the ideal height straight away you will expose the delicate new growth which will in all likelihood turn brown and wither.
3.         The best solution is n the first mowing do not cut off more than a third of the lawns height.
4.         After 3 to 7 days, depending on conditions, mow the lawn again, this time  to its desired height.

Maintaining your lawn

1.         Mow your lawn when it reaches the desired height.
2.         Water early in the morning.
3          Deep infrequent watering assists your grass to grow deep root systems. 
4          This will make your lawn healthier and more drought resistant.
5.         Remember over watering will cause more harm than under watering.

How do I know when to water?

1.         If the colour of your lawn dulls, then it is time to water.
2.         If footprints stay compressed in the grass for more than a few seconds, then again you
            need to water.
3.         Grass near trees maybe competing with those trees for water so will need greater quantities. The use of a wetting agent, such as is found in Green and Friendly, will help prevent water loss and run off.

 When should I water?

1.       The best time to water is early in the morning, before the sun is on the lawn, to avoid water loss by evaporation.
2.       It is not ideal to water at night as this increases the risk of disease.
3.       Night time watering assists the insects, grubs and fungi that are at their most active during the night hours.
4.       Ideally your lawn should get about 2.5cm of water at each watering.  You can test this by putting a measuring cup on the lawn and stopping the watering once it fills up to a marked 2.5cm level.

Should I leave or not leave the lawn clippings?

1.         If you have a mulching lawnmower and do not let the lawn grow too high, then it is best to leave the clippings on the lawn as the clippings will compost down and provide nutrition.
2.         This method will reduce the amount of fertiliser you need to apply to your lawn.

Is leaving leaves on the lawn good for the grass?

1.         No.
2.         Lawns should be scarified, that is hand-raked with a light wooden rake, to remove leaves.
3.         If left, they will form a thatch that will stop light and air getting to your grass, causing patches of the lawn to die.


1.         If you have provided a good nutritional base for your soil, then fertiliser should not be necessary for the first few years.
2.       Mostly, lawns should be fertilised twice a year in early spring and early autumn.
3.       Lawns should not generally be fertilised in winter or late autumn as this is a semi-dormant time. If fertiliser needs to be applied during this period then a top quality product such as Green And Friendly should be used.
4.       Similarly, lawns should not generally be fertilised during the height of summer, as again this is a semi-dormant time. The same rules apply with Green And Friendly being one of the few solutions.
5.       Nitrogen rich compost, such as Ablaze's TLC, or blood and bone are the acceptable alternatives for those of us who prefer to avoid chemicals.
6.       Most Wellington soils will also benefit from the addition of Gypsum Lime once or twice a year.

What should I look for in a fertiliser?

1.            Choose a slow-release fertiliser that is water soluble such as Green And Friendly.
2          There are specially prepared lawn fertilisers on the market
3            Compost is an excellent source of nutrients do not be afraid to ask your merchant for an analysis of compost to compare nutrient levels. Ablaze TLC is an ideal feeding compost.
4.            Overfeeding can be harmful to your lawn, in the worst case a chemical fertilises over applied can cause burning, over zealousness can cause fast growth that looks good temporarily but is prone to disease, and is achieved at the expense of a robust root system


1.         Weeds should be removed.  The following techniques are the most commonly used.
            a)          Removing by hand using a knife or half moon tool,
            b)            Removing by killing by the use of steam or flame
            c)            Chemical weed killer.

What weeds tell you

1.       If you have dandelions on your lawn, this tells you that you have a pH level that is above the optimum level, that is 7.5. To address apply lime
2.       Clover is nitrogen fixing, that is a nitrogen using weed.  It may be a sign though that you are short of nitrogen in your soil, and you should apply a fine layer of TLC compost or lawn fertiliser.
3.       Moss likes poor drainage and shade, it also indicates low fertility and a soil that is more acid than ideal. To address aerate the lawn, cut back plants that are causing shade, improve the Ph that is level of acidity with lime and fertilise. If you can’t remove the causes of shade re-sow with a grass that can tolerate shady conditions such as Boston Green or Wear Well.

Why consider alternatives to weed killer

1.          Pesticides kill soil organisms that help and maintain your healthy lawn.
2.         They leave you with bare patches that have to be filled in any event, so why not get   rid of the weeds in a way that provides long term benefit.

How do I avoid bare patches caused by pets?

1          Apart from no letting pets urinate on your lawn avoiding bare patches is problematic.
2          The damage is caused by the burning effects of uric acid.
3.         Immediately watering the area to dilute the urine will stop the acid burn.

What to do with those bare patches, or when weeds are removed by hand

1.         There are two alternatives.
            a)         Apply top soil to the area and sow with seed,
            b)         Take a plugs of grass from another area that can be placed directly into the soil, creating an instant “mend” for the hole. 

The choice is yours.

How do I use plugs 

1          With a spade cut a square hole to remove or around the outside of the bare patch.
2          It should be wide enough to remove all the dead grass, trim your plug to fit the hole. Make the hole deep enough to accommodate the plug, leaving it initially slightly proud. A 5 cm depth is generally about right.
3.         If you have a drainage problem put a handful of sand in the bottom of the hole followed by compost then topsoil press down until you bring the level to approximately 5cm.
4.         Take the plug and place into the hole pressing down until it is level with your lawn water well and frequently for the first week to help it become established.


With minimal effort you can have a lawn that others will admire and envy.
Enjoy your garden.