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Designing a spectacular backyard lawn space isn’t rocket science, but there are a bunch of ways you can really mess up this kind of project. Here’s a few things to consider when doing a lawn landscape design for your yard.
Maintaining a lawn under a tree which bears a dense canopy of leaves is extremely difficult. Shade, food shortage and water shortage exhaust the grasses and the drip from the edge of the leaf canopy is damaging. The usual result is sparse grass and abundant moss, which may call for re-seeding every year. Tackle the problem by removing the lower branches, watering at the first sign of drought and cutting the grass less frequently than for the rest of the lawn. In autumn spike the turf and re-seed with a proprietary mixture designed for shady sites. If the tree is an oak or beech the best plan may be to give up the struggle. Remove the turf from around the trunk and create a large bed in which bulbs and shade-loving shrubs or perennials can be grown. If you want to plant a tree in or next to the lawn. choose a small- leaved type such as birch or laburnum.
Lightweight electric mowers are capable of cutting sloping turf quite easily, so extending the lawn over a bank is practical these days. There are still two rules — the depth of topsoil on the bank must be no less than occurs over the rest of the lawn and the slope must not exceed 30ฐ. If the slope is more than 30ฐ. plant it instead with ground cover plants or transform the bank into a terrace by building a retaining wall.
Daffodils heralding in the spring are a welcome sight, but they are a problem in the lawn. The leaves must be left to die down naturally if next year’s display is to be satisfactory, but that means leaving the area uncut for several weeks. Obviously bulbs have no place in the first rate lawn as any prolonged period without mowing can lead to turf deterioration. An answer is to plant the daffodils in rough turf, but this is not practical in a small garden. A good alternative is to plant them in the grass under trees — in this situation a delay in mowing will not have a serious effect.
4. SHAPE & SITE
The shape should be one which appeals to you — do not design a lawn you don’t like just because the ‘experts’ say it is the right thing to do. Good design is a marriage of an attractive shape with an easy-to-care-for shape; an eye- catching lawn which is a nightmare to mow is a bad design. A square or rectangle is the traditional and most labour-saving shape. but garden designers feel that a simple irregular outline is more attractive. Avoid small and fussy curves or awkward corners at all costs. The lawn need not be horizontal; a gentle slope of about 1 in 80 is quite satisfactory. All parts should receive at least some direct sunlight — dense shade is bound to lead to problems. If one corner of the site is very badly drained, use it as a bed for moisture-loving plants rather than as part of the lawn.
5. POTS & FURNITURE
Heavy seats and large flower pots have no place as permanent features on the lawn. Mowing around them each time you cut the grass is an extra chore. and temporarily moving them while you mow is equally time-consuming. It is much better to site flower tubs and permanent garden furniture elsewhere.
Avoid a restricted access to the lawn as shown in the illustration. Excessive wear and compaction are bound to occur at the entry point and bare patches are inevitable. Screening with walls and fences should be kept to a minimum, but it will be necessary to hide from view unsightly objects such as compost heaps.
Paths should not lead directly on to the lawn. The regular traffic on to and off the grass will cause excessive wear and compaction at the point where the turf and path meet. Try to run the path along one side of the lawn, as shown in the illustration. The level of the path should be below the lawn and a grass-free mowing edge should be maintained between them to make mowing and edging easier. There is a wide range of materials available for path- making and the choice is up to you, but do avoid loose chippings. These can easily be kicked on to the lawn and the mower blades may be damaged.
Stepping stones set in the lawn will prevent excessive wear along well-trodden routes. Make sure at all costs that the top of each stone is below the level of the soil surface.
8. MOWING EDGE
A clear grass-free strip or mowing edge should be maintained all round the lawn — this means that the grass must not extend right up to the base of walls, fences, trees or raised paths. This gap between the lawn and a fence or wall must be wide enough to avoid skinned knuckles when mowing. Preparing a mowing edge is an extra job to do, but the alternative makes lawn upkeep much more difficult. Trimming grass growing right up against walls or trees is laborious, and long grass left to grow amidst the flowers and shrubs at the edge of the lawn is an eyesore.
9. OVERHANGING BRANCHES
In many gardens low-growing branches of trees and shrubs transgress on to the lawn area, and it is no use ignoring the problem by pushing them out of the way each time you mow. You can either trim back the branches or cut back the lawn edge at the base of the tree or shrub.
10. ISLAND BEDS
The purists feel that flower beds should be kept out of the lawn. It is true that beds in a small lawn will make it look even smaller, and there is no doubt that islands of brightly-colored flowers breaking up the green surface can look extremely fussy. What the purists forget is that some people like their gardens to look fussy and crowded. and so it really is up to you. lf, however, you want to follow the rules of good design then keep the following points in mind. Restrict the number of beds to one or two and keep them in proportion to the size of the lawn. Place the bed in a corner rather than in the center of the lawn and consider planting a stately conifer or other specimen bush or tree rather than a mass of bedding plants. At the time of preparation. seed the whole of the area and cut the beds out after the grass is established.