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The ultimate guide to looking after your lawn

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When we bought our first home in winter of 2016, the lawn was not a lawn – instead it was weeds, bare patches and holes dug by the previous hounds.

Dotted sporadically through the desolate mess, we could see healthy patches of kikuyu grass (a common, hardy lawn species) that was eager to grow again if we helped it along. And so it was decided that we would revive the lawn rather than laying new turf.

We hand-weeded, aerated the compacted soil, fertilised and top-dressed the lawn over the coming months, and by December it was lush, green and provided the perfect spot for Christmas lunch and a game of boules.

Of course, brand new turf (or seed) is sometimes your only option. Whatever you choose, here’s some guidance for creating and caring for a boules-worthy lawn.

First, ensure you’ve got a good balance of trees, garden beds, and a sunny area for growing some food. We need to have a diverse range of plants in our urban areas to support biodiversity

Once you’ve got the structure and plants in place, look at what is the minimum-sized lawn you’ll require for kids, pets and parties.

Choosing the correct type 

There are a variety of different grass species – kikuyu, couch, buffalo, etc. – all of which have cultivars that are suited to different climates, garden uses and aspects (sun/shade), so talk to your local nursery or horticulturist. Choosing the most well-suited grass will save water and maintenance costs and it will look and perform better.

Repairing worn lawn

Assuming the grass you have is suited to the climate you live in and is a cultivar that will recover from the odd soccer match and curious puppy, I’d recommend trying to repair it. You’ll need to get out there and hand-weed, so buy a little hand-weeder tool to make it easier. You’ll need to do this every couple of weeks to get on top of the weeds, then just as required.

Be careful not to let weeds go to seed, or you’ll be on the tools forever. Aerate your lawn by using a pitch fork, focusing on compacted areas. To address holes and uneven patches you can top-dress your lawn, just be sure to rake it in so as not to cover the leaves entirely.

Then, it’s time to fertilise the lawn and water in well. Mow regularly to thicken up and trim only one-third of the grass height when you do.

Laying new turf

For new gardens, choose a turf that suits the family’s needs as well as the garden’s aspect. It’s beneficial to have about 200 millimetres of sandy loam soil for grass as this allows for good drainage. Consider irrigation options before laying your new turf, however with our current drought it’s important to know what water restrictions are in place.

You’ll want to level the topsoil, fertilise, add gypsum if required (clay breaker) and amend the pH if necessary. You can have rolls of turf delivered to lay yourself, or go ahead and seek a quote as it’s quite labour intensive for large areas.

Caring for your lawn

  • Know what type of lawn you have and research how to fertilise, water and trim it best.
  • Hydration is key, so either install a good quality irrigation system or committing to hand-watering your lawn according to the species you have.
  • Avoid spraying your lawn with toxic herbicides and it’s OK (and maybe a little good luck) to have some clover in there.