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Easy CareEasy-care plants : Lawns

Size | Obstacles | Mowing

Size

Despite the seeming ease of maintaining a lawn, there is no more time-consuming garden feature. It may only take half an hour to an hour to mow the grass, and that does not seem long. However, when the accumulated hours of a whole season’s mowing are added together, it becomes obvious that no other garden feature takes as much time.

It is estimated that 1 square metre of lawn takes three minutes to mow each season. One thousand square metres takes about fifty hours in a season. The amount of time depends on the frequency of cutting, the lawn layout and the mower used.

Lawns

Lawns

But there are ways to reduce the burden of lawn-mowing. The first solution to consider is to reduce the area of lawn. Every reduction in the space given to the lawn means an equivalent reduction in time spent mowing every week, and every season!

A reduction in lawn area is easily achieved by widening existing borders, or creating borders where there are none. It is quite amazing how much space can be taken out of a lawn by adding even quite a narrow border.

Although reduced in area, the impression of size will be little affected. In fact, a small lawn backed by an ornamental border can look much bigger than a larger lawn that is not well bounded. This occurs because the space is defined by the new boundary.

Obstacles

A lawn with sharp corners and awkward angles takes much longer to mow. Little strips of grass between flower beds or shrubs present further difficulty. Flower beds, shrubs and trees dotted about the lawn turn it into an obstacle course for mowing. Each one has to be circled, pushing the mower under the low-hanging branches.

Lawns

Lawns

The removal of some, or all, of these obstacles by lifting and relocating shrubs or young trees, or removing a flower bed or two, makes mowing much easier.

Mowing

The most important aspect of achieving a good lawn is regular, correct mowing. Although this sounds like more effort, it is in fact compatible with reduced work. Mowing frequently – at least every fortnight in the spring and every week during good growing weather – is easier because there is a smaller amount of grass to remove each time. Irregular, infrequent mowing makes the job much slower and more difficult when it is finally tackled.

Mow to a height of 2 to 5 centimetres, no tighter. Grass at this height retains enough foliage to be able to compete; mowing too tightly encourages weeds and moss. Over-close mowing tends to shave little humps, making the job more difficult and the result less satisfactory.

Lawns

Lawns

The kind of mower used, and its size, make a big difference. Rotary mowers with a single blade are more robust. They are better at mowing grass when it is slightly damp. They are also faster than cylinder mowers although the latter give a more even cut and a better finish.

The bigger the mower, the less time spent mowing. A 53 cm wide mower will cut a given area in thirty per cent less time that the 40 cm mower. There are other advantages to using a large mower. The chances are that, because it takes less time to mow, the mowing will be done more regularly. The work is easier and the lawn will be of better quality as a result.

A powerful mower is less likely to break down than a small mower which is forced to struggle. Although the initial cost is higher, a large powerful mower can cost less per year of mowing, apart at all from the mowing time saved.

Lawn edges can be very time-consuming to keep neat but there are ways to reduce the effort. Usually lawns are delimited by beds, borders, walls, paths and driveways. In each case, there is a low maintenance way to fit the lawn to its boundary.

Lawns

Lawns

Where beds and borders join a lawn area, the usual thing is to have an edge cut down into the soil of the border. The lawn is trimmed to where it protrudes over the edge. Usually these edges are made too deep, making it difficult to run the mower over them. It is best to have edges no more than 5 centimetres deep. The wheels on one side of the mower can be let down into the bed or border, cutting the edge easily.

A mowing strip of bricks or paving slabs can be set down in the soil of the bed or border to make a level run for the mower’s wheels. The mowing strip should be set about 2 centimetres below the level of the soil. A rotary mower has advantages when it comes to cutting lawn edges. The spinning blade creates a suction effect which lifts the grass into the path of the blade. Cylinder mowers have no lifting effect.

Mowers can only cut horizontally and even with the lifting effect of a rotary mower, the grass still grows out horizontally over the edges. Edges still have to be trimmed occasionally – less frequently if the rotary mower is used. Mowing strips facilitate the lifting/cutting action of rotary mowers and they also make it easier to trim the grass that the mower does not reach.

Where the lawn meets a wall, the narrow strip of grass next to the wall is impossible to mow because the wheels of the mower are in the way. The solution to this problem is to remove the sod and lay a mowing strip along the wall base, or to spray a very narrow strip with Roundup, twice each year.

Where the lawn meets a path or driveway, the level of the lawn should be slightly higher than the path or drive. If the path has a kerb, it will be higher than the path but just below the level of the soil of the lawn. In this way, the path or driveway acts as a mowing strip along its length.

Lawns

Lawns

Where the lawn level is below that of the path or drive, the situation is the same as that beside a wall. The solution can be adopted, if it is not possible to simply bring the level of the lawn up to the herb height.

Reducing the number of lawn edges is the best way to reduce the work of edging. Beds can be filled in. Borders can butt onto paths, rather than have a strip of lawn between a border and a path making two extra lawn edges to trim. Edging can be greatly speeded up by using a power edger or strimmer. The latter is fast but not as neat.

Like to learn more? Go to Garden.ie's Know-How section >

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