A new lawn can add a great deal of kerb appeal to a new home landscaped garden, as well as providing a recreation area for kids and dogs.
It is often a dream of home owners to have a beautiful patch of bright green lawn in their backyard. There is a lot that can be learned from professional landscapers and professional turf managers that can help make this dream a reality.
In some cases you can apply professional landscaping techniques to your backyard lawn, but there are important differences.
New Lawn in Public Spaces.
In commercial landscaping, lawns in public spaces are often subject to heavy pedestrian traffic. For this reason there is a lot of effort put in to make the lawn area free draining. Usually public spaces like sporting grounds will have the benefit of full sun, whereas you backyard might not. Also resources like plentiful supplies of recycled water and a large maintenance budget might not apply to your backyard lawn. There are still some techniques the home gardener can apply which will result in a great looking lawn.
Planning a New Lawn
The first step with any garden project is the planning. Sketch your garden on a piece of paper include any large trees and shrubs. Plan out where the drainage and irrigation will be installed as this will be the first step in the construction of your garden lawn. Check the area after rain to ensure the water drains away freely.
Plan the level you want the finished lawn to be and any lawn edging to be used. Decide the direction where you want the surface water to drain towards. New lawns will require regular watering, so if possible avoid planting in summer. It is also important to plan the irrigation system at this early stage.
Take note of any areas of the lawn that have only a few hours of sunlight. These areas may require a shade tolerant grass or may be unsuitable for lawn. If you have high traffic areas which will result in wear patches in the lawn, use some pavers. Permeable concrete pavers are good for this application.
Should you consider the alternatives to lawn?
If your yard is steep or very shady, consider using a non mowing solution instead. This might mean using mulch, pebbles or gravel.
Another solution is to use low growing ground covers or succulents.
Two native Australian sustainable alternatives to lawn grasses are Dichondra repens and the Native Violet, Viola hederacea.
Some exotic herbs can also be used such as mint, thyme or chamomile. If the area is difficult to access with a mower, or if it is too steep for even the Honda self propelled mower, then the alternatives should be considered.
Topsoil for your new lawn
Sporting grounds will normally have a thick layer of friable topsoil with a thick drainage layer underneath.
The grounds are usually quite flat so sub soil drainage is very important. For your backyard or frontward lawn, the ground can be sloped a bit more to aid with drainage. Depending on how well you can cultivate your subsoil, you might be able to get away with as little as 100mm of friable topsoil.
Cultivating the subsoil
Depending on the usage and the makeup of the layers below, you could probably get away with as little as 100 to 150mm of topsoil for your garden lawn. For example green couch, Cynodon dactylon, the roots will penetrate the ground up to 1.5 metres deep with much of the root mass at around 600mm deep. For this reason the layer below the top soil needs to be suitable for root growth if you want your lawn to be drought tolerant. This can be achieved by cultivating organic matter into the subsoil and, in some cases, adding gypsum.
Organic Matter for the subsoil
It doesn’t matter whether your soil is acid or alkaline or if it is a sandy soil or a clay soil, organic matter will help. If you are digging in organic matter for a lawn, make sure it is really well spread. We have done this in the past with a rotary hoe. If your organic matter is in pockets in your soil, it will rot down over time and leave dips in your lawn. Try to keep the extra organic to less than 20% for this reason. Some sources of organic matter would be mixed animal manures, cane mulch, a manure crop or stable manure. You can even use potting mixes. Ideally the organic materials will be well composted before applying. Applying organic matter will help to reduce water usage and feed your lawn grasses. You will not see much use of organic matter on sporting fields as the priority is to create a safe even surface.
Levelling the topsoil
If the lawn is not reasonably flat, mowing will create bald patches on your lawn. Once a friable sandy loam topsoil has been laid, it can be levelled out using a pine retaining wall sleeper with a rope attached with screws.
Aim to level the topsoil around 12 millimetres below the edging to allow for the height of the grass. The actual allowance will depend upon the variety of grass and whether it you are using a roll out grass or growing lawn from seed.
Sowing the new lawn
Lawn-grass from seed.
Following the aeration, lawn seeds can be spread over the parts of the lawn requiring repair. Look for grass seeds species suitable for your location. In South east Queensland like Green couch or Bermuda grass Cynodon dactylon or Queensland blue couch Digitaria didactyla. These varieties will take about a month to grow.
In Melbourne look for a selection of grass seeds that includes couch grass. Fast growing Rye grasses can be used if you are planting in shady areas in the cooler months, but generally cool season grasses will not be a long term drought tolerant sustainable solution.
Top dress the lawn with a sandy loam. For smaller areas, a fine potting mix makes a good lawn top dress. The lawn can then be fertilised with chook pellets like Neutrog Rooster Booster or with Neutrog Seamungus soil and plant conditioner. Is necessary, top dress with some gypsum. Water with a fine mist using a soil wetter or a soil conditioner like Neutrog GOGO Juice.
Roll out Lawn
For instant effect, a roll out lawn can be used. This should be rolled out on even topsoil as soon as it is delivered. Start with laying the lawn along any straight lawn edges you might have in your garden design. Take care not to stretch the lawn rolls and push each roll firmly together without gaps.
Top dress after rolling with a sandy loam or sand. A lawn roller will help to even the surface and keep the lawn roots in good contact with the soil. Another advantage of the roll out lawn is that you can use drought resistant hybrid varieties that cannot be grown from seed.
For large commercial landscaping projects, or large residential landscaping, hydroseeding is often used. Hydroseeding is a method wher a mixture of water, fertilizer and grass seeds are sprayed over the area. Some local councils have seen problems with grass taking off with this method, so it is probably best to do this in Autumn.
Your new or repaired lawn will need watering every day for a month. To save water use a soil wetter to minimise run off. Water in the evening to reduce losses due to evaporation. A liquid fertiliser high in nitrogen and iron will keep your lawn looking green.
5 steps to creating the perfect new lawn
- Plan the area and note the drainage, irrigation and shade.
- Cultivate the subsoil with organic matter. If it is reactive clay soil, use gypsum.
- Use at least 100mm of friable topsoil for the lawn. Flatten with a wooden sleeper or large rake.
- Use grass varieties suitable for your area and the amount of shade.
- Maintain the lawn with frequent top dressing, wetting agents and liquid fertilisers.
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Alternatives to lawn