[Infographic] How to create your urban garden?
I’m going to share a secret: we take grass for granted. There you go….I said it! And do you know why? It’s simple – it’s because it is one of the world’s most valuable plants and successful plant families. But we tend to forget this – we just take this Super Plant for granted.
And that’s exactly why it’s so important to give your lawn its own summer vacation. It deserves it!
The lawn itself may not be thousands of years old, but our use of grass certainly is. Centuries before we began to cultivate grass in the form of a lawn, we encouraged grass to grow outside our homes to feed the livestock we tethered there.
And grass has always adapted to whatever nature or man has thrown at it. Weather events of biblical proportion (something we’re beginning to see once again as our climate changes) were just blips for the grass; through drought, flood, freeze or hurricane, grasses always adapted to these challenges and survived.
Today is no different; domestic lawns have challenges – and one is the strength of the summer sun. We want the grass to stay green and lush – what’s the point of a lawn otherwise? But the heat and lack of rain turns our lawns brown. Yet we don’t panic.
Observation and experience have shown us that when the rain does reappear, the grass simply turns green again and everything goes back to normal. And that’s because the grass in your lawn knows how to cope and survive…
… your grass is taking a summer siesta. And very wise too!
In excessive heat, your lawn grass simply shuts down. It’s too hot to photosynthesize and there’s no water to drink. So it adapts by going to sleep. The evidence above ground is the brown grass; but down below, if your soil is healthy, the roots are just fine, warm and a little dry but alive.
And when the weather changes, the temperature drops and the clouds burst once more, your lawn begins to wake up and sort itself out. Yes, some of the older individual plants will have died and need replacing. That’s the cycle of life. But by looking after your grass properly, it will fill in quite happily – and you can lend a hand with some reseeding where necessary.
But that soil I mentioned – it definitely suffers during hot dry periods. We’ve all seen dry earth cracking up, out in the fields or in our own vegetable and flower plots. And although the grass is concealing the soil, we can still see the evidence in the changing contours of our lawns as the soils shrink and swell in response to drought and rehydration.
So in the autumn you may well notice a few more bumps in your lawn. Or maybe the old dips and rises are just that little bit bigger. A very old technique is to level out small areas, peeling the turf back carefully, rearranging the soil and carefully repositioning the turf. But even better is to do your routine aeration once or twice during the year; this will help keep more oxygen and water in the soil, allowing the soil to breathe. And this of course, helps the delicate root systems of the grass plants too. And those aeration cores? Well, the high spots will drop and those low spots can be filled with surplus cores, already filled with grass, so it’ll soon fill back in.
In all aspects of gardening and horticulture, the best methods are those that reflect what nature itself is doing. So in the summer, if your lawn needs to take a vacation, let it. Don’t panic, don’t rush to apply remedial interventions; just let it take a break and look forward to it coming back when the hot summer recedes.
David Hedges-Gower is the UK’s leading lawn expert and has more than 36 years of lawn and turf experience. Professional grounds people, landscape specialists, commercial property developers and leisure gardeners – have benefited from David’s enthusiasm and knowledge.
David is a National Trust advisor and was formerly advisor to Homebase, he is a regular on BBC Radio and a favourite on the national horticultural lecture circuit.
David’s fantastic new book on Modern Lawn Care extends his love for and knowledge of the topic. This is the first comprehensive and authoritative guide to lawn care for over 40 years!
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