Regular mowing is by far the best route to keep a lawn looking good – cutting little and often is the mantra. Try to avoid the temptation to leave it for a fortnight because it hasn't grown much and then find that you're chopping lots off the top. If you're not careful the lawn will go yellow, patchy and bald in places. It's much better to just remove a boxful and regard the mowing as a bit of a weekly workout.
In hot conditions, set the mower level slightly higher than normal and reduce the frequency of cut to help the grass preserve moisture. Also, lawn growth slows down in late summer, so raising the cutting height slightly will help the grass cope with the inevitable wear and tear.
To Water or not to Water
It's a tough call – whether to water the lawn or not. I must confess that at home I rarely bother about brown patches developing on the lawn as I know it will recover quickly when the autumn rains arrive. At The Bath Priory it's a different matter as no one wants to look out on a brown, dry lawn if they treat themselves to a stay in a nice hotel. If the weather looks hot I slow right down on the mowing and start watering the main lawn before it becomes a problem. A good check to know when you've watered enough is to place a jam jar on the lawn and leave the sprinkler running for sufficient time for 13mm (1/2in) of water to collect in the bottom of the jar. This is the optimum amount to avoid wasting water, while still wetting the roots thoroughly. Don't forget that new areas of grass, whether sown or turfed in the spring, will need extra watering to keep them going through their first summer.
Make Your Own Meadow
Starting your own wildlife meadow in a rough patch of the garden is easy enough. Managing and improving it is where the skill lies and it takes several years before the meadow settles in. According to experts, to create a meadow properly you're supposed to scrape off the nutrient rich topsoil and sow a meadow mixture into the tilled subsoil. But who's got the space or inclination to deal with mounds of topsoil? Instead I just stopped weed killing and treating one of our lawns, instead allowing it to grow long, letting the grasses and the lawn ‘weeds' like Clover, Selfheal and Stitchwort develop and flower. I also added small plants and plug plants of wild flowers common to this area such as Wild Cranesbill, Knapweed, Scabious and Cowslips but kept the planting confined to one corner so it could be watered with a sprinkler if the weather turned hot. Now those plants have seeded themselves throughout the meadow creating a haven for wildlife and a valuable food source for bees and butterflies. Come the end of the summer when the seeds have scattered, which is usually around August bank holiday, I start to mow the meadow down with a strimmer, raking up the hay and adding it in layers to the compost heap.
The Mulch Mower
For a beautifully lush and vibrantly green lawn, mulching is your best bet. Mulching is when you use the grass clippings from mowing as a natural fertiliser. The cuttings must be very small and spread to allow the nitrogen content to be mineralised which promotes growth and a green colour. The potassium within cuttings will also make your lawn more resistant against dryness, cold and diseases.
Choosing a Mower
Buying a new mower is a bit of a minefield – there are so many choices and variations it’s hard to define what you need. Here’s my quick guide:
Great for smaller gardens as they tend to be light, efficient and store compactly but they require a handy power source.
Perfect for those with a small to midsized lawn, cordless mowers are lightweight and compact. Simple to use, they require no fuel or trailing cables.
Heavier duty and suitable for larger gardens but also more robust. In some, the engine only powers the blade and you have to push the machine, which is too much like hard work in a larger garden; so make sure you buy one with self-propulsion to give it some ‘drive'.
These are the mowers that most of us have. A single rotating blade snips off everything in its path, even coarse grasses and flower stalks. The finish is neat and tidy or you can select a roller version which will give you that sought after striping.
Brilliant fun and many will work as mini tractors so you can pull a small trailer too. They are more expensive and require regular servicing like any other vehicle, but are invaluable for the larger garden.
Gives you the perfect finish with little or no effort. They mow the lawn for you which leaves you more time to spend enjoying your garden.