The Lawn by Wilf Simcox

Despite the increasing popularity of gravel in gardens many people still choose grass, so the subject of Wilf Simcox’s talk “The Lawn” should be of wide interest. Previously a lecturer at Sparsholt College, Wilf still teaches and advises on many matters horticultural. Overall more time is spent by gardeners on lawns than anything else, he suggests. Most lawns are put down quickly by builders, and thereafter need good light, nutrients and water. Fortunately grass is a forgiving plant, and however bad, it can be improved.

The question is – What do you want it for? For children’s play? To sit on? To set off the rest of the garden? Plan for your use: rye grass for children’s activities, finer grasses for display, however the latter need patience, as often most of the seed will not germinate and requires persistent nurturing. Mow once weekly – one and a half inches, perhaps twice after heavy rain. Look at the colour when you mow; it should be the same when you have finished. If you miss a mow, lift the cut; do not overdo, to compensate.

More advice: look at the weed population: clover does not last long, and well fed grass will soon take it over. Plantain likes compacted ground, so aerate. Speedwell develops if the mower box is not emptied enough, and cannot be chemically controlled, so all the contents must be disposed of. Moss develops when the ground is wet, in shade, or infertile. Similarly, wet areas develop black algae. Daisies on the lawn in numbers indicate a wet and shady surface. Put up with worm casts, (they only appear in early Autumn) Moles like grass which is highly managed; they do not like modern machinery. Brush off mushrooms.

Every time we mow we remove some of the nutrients, so feeding the grass in Spring and Autumn is key in order to resist weeds and disease. Aeration (hollow tining or spiking) and scarification make the grass more receptive to treatments, but do not use a roller on a lawn. Dig out rogue grass. Fill in any hollows, gradually building layers of compost, (better than “patching,”) and repair edges by cutting out a square of turf and turning it round. Get rid of corners to make mowing easier, and keep off the grass in icy weather. “It grows by the inch, but dies by the foot.”

Wilf showed us a variety of slides, depicting grass in contrasting situations and garden designs, demonstrating its potential impact and versatility.