Hartley Magazine

All the latest news, hints, tips and advice from our experts

Lawns ‘need some work in the fall’

Gardening expert and author of the allotment book One Man and His Plot Michael Leapman has underlined his belief that the lawn represents the central, defining element of the garden.

In an article for the UK national newspaper the Daily Telegraph, he explained that a crisply cut stripe can easily become the calling card of any dedicated green-fingered enthusiast.

He emphasised his belief that the pursuit also represents the intersection of sport, nerdish attention to detail and machinery. A comparison to the world of bullfighting was also drawn, as the simplicity of the outcome completely belies the extent of the artistry, nuance and masculine pride that is hidden underneath.

The expert also elaborated upon the ancient origins of the lawn, citing an early 13th century German monk Albertus Magnus, who wrote that there is nothing quite as refreshing to the sight as very fine and short grass. Around four centuries later, statesman, philosopher and gardener Sir Francis Bacon paraphrased very similar sentiments.

However, the lawns these historical figures admired would not have featured the stripe that they are associated with in modern times. This is because there were only two methods of keeping the grass trim – one was scything and the other was letting sheep graze – and both would have been very slow.

"All that changed after 1830 when Edwin Budding, an engineer from Stroud in Gloucestershire, took out a patent for a mower based on a machine he had seen in a textile factory," the expert explained, adding: "The first hand mower went on the market two years later … Over the century, models were developed powered by horses, steam, petrol and electricity."

Mr Leapman is not the only expert to advocate the maintenance of a healthy garden, as editor of the lawn advice website Grass Clippings Mike Seaton recently told BBC News that it is a very underrated task.

He advised people against getting too worried about the color of the space, as the dried and brown hue that is associated with poor health often belies strong roots.

Mr Leapman said that taking good care of grass should be right at the top of the to-do list for gardening enthusiasts, as it grows much more slowly at this time of year. Less frequent mowing is required as a result, so blades should be raised much higher than they were in the hotter summer season.

"Two important autumn jobs, best carried out this month, are scarifying and spiking," the expert commented, adding: "Some mowers come with a dedicated scarifying cartridge, but those who lack such a refinement can use a garden rake."

"The purpose of scarifying is to remove the thatch, a fibrous layer of dead grass that is formed on the surface of the soil in summer," he explained, going on to suggest that if this is allowed to build up, then the turf's regeneration will be somewhat hampered.

Weeding also becomes much more important, as nutrients in the soil may be more difficult for plants to absorb.