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Gardening: Making a lawn
For most people, a garden is not complete without an area of grass, or a lawn. Australia's climatic conditions, especially in the hotter areas of South Australia, Western Australia and Queensland, can make growing a nice stretch of lush green grass a challenge to the keenest gardener.
You could opt for an artificial lawn, one made from synthetic or artificial grass or turf. These can look very realistic, and provide a hassle-free and maintenance-free patch of green.
But not everyone wants a synthetic surface, and with the right tools and a consistent approach, most gardeners can create a lawn from scratch or rejuvenate a struggling one.
A good quality lawn can not only add to the appearance of your home, it can also increase its value, prevent soil erosion and help to absorb heat and noise to keep your environment cooler and quieter.
You can take on the challenge of planting a lawn yourself, or you can get turf laid for an almost instant lawn.
Plan the Size and Shape of Your Lawn
The first step is decide where your lawn will fit into your garden - how big you want it and what shape. Plan an expanse of lawn rather than cutting it up with beds which make mowing difficult. Make sure it 's level with paths, gates, fences, pools etc.
Avoid very shaded positions - most grasses do not like the shade under trees or beside buildings and fences.
Decide When to Plant it
The best time to plant a lawn is in the spring or autumn, as summer and winter are usually too extreme for successful germination.
Autumn is probably the safest time, as grass planted in spring requires more water through the summer and the young plants may not be able to survive extreme heat.
Choosing the Right Grass Seeds
It's important to choose a grass variety that is suitable for the climate and your soil type. Also, consider the kind of wear the lawn will get. Will it just be ornamental or will it need to cope with children's play and outdoor living activities?
There's a good variety of grass seed mixtures on the market to suit any situation, from hardy mixes that love direct sunlight to shade loving blinds for under trees and quiet corners. Your garden centre should be able to advise you on the best mix for your needs.
Now the hard work begins! The success of your lawn depends very much on proper preparation. This includes cultivation, drainage, soil improvement and grading or levelling. The objective is to have a firm, granular, well-drained, weed-free soil that is neutral or slightly acid.
Using a mattock, dig up the soil and remove all stones, lumps of clay and other stony rubbish. Get rid of weeds and other plants with a good application of a herbicide like Round Up or Zero.
Continue to cultivate the soil - either by digging with a spade, or with a rotary hoe - to a depth of about 15 cm. if you water the day before you plan to dig, it will make the work easier. Water again after cultivation, and leave the soil to rest for a few weeks.
You may need to check for drainage, and to make sure the site is level before planting the seed. Also before planting, consider installing a pop-up watering system. To make watering more efficient.
Planting your Lawn
Even if your seed mix contains a slow-release fertiliser, you need to give it some start up fertiliser which you rake into the soil surface.
Then make shallow grooves in the soil with your rake and scatter seed evenly over the area.
If you sow half your seed in an east-west direction, and the other half in a north-south direction you'll get a more even coverage.
Lightly cover the seeds with soil by pulling the soil over with the back of the rake and firm down the surface with your rake head.
Water twice a day with the finest, gentlest of sprinklers to mist the soil and keep it moist, without washing the soil or the seeds away.
As the grass begins to grow, you can gradually cut back the watering, until after a month, you need only water twice a week.
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