How to grow a lawn that improves its surroundings
By the month of May, growth is well into its stride in both lawn and flower beds.
It’s a good time to follow up the early spring clean-up with a good fertilising that includes a weed-killer application should it be needed.
Lawns will still be showing both winter and summer types of grass although summer grasses will start to become dominant. Winter and summer weeds will more than likely also be present, however, hence the need for the herbicide application followed by fertilising to encourage growth.
Lawns containing a lot of thatch should have been verticut in April and, as required, top-dressed with a peat sand mix to cover any depressions and bare spots.
Applications of herbicides should be compatible with a lawn grass type, as not all lawn grasses are tolerant of certain types of chemicals.
Herbicides are found in either liquid or granular forms, the former should be applied via a knapsack sprayer and the latter via a drop or broadcast spreader, which usually has a calibration feature for following makers' instructions.
Liquid application is delivered via the number of ounces of concentrate to a recommended quantity of water; this ratio should be adhered to to facilitate the correct application.
Fertilising can be applied in a liquid form for specific reasons but is generally applied via a spreader for a more equal distribution. Herbicides and fertiliser can be found in one bag as a weed and feed mix. Distribution of this should be applied via a drop spreader, as a broadcast type has less control — especially in tight areas — and the herbicide, if found to have strayed into the flower beds, could have a detrimental effect to foliage.
Uniformity of colour and height creates a lawn worthy of being admired. If weeds are not totally “killed” after herbicide application, they will most likely come back stronger; weeds such as plantain take hold and spread, covering a wide area in time. It is therefore important to achieve good leaf coverage to achieve a good kill.
The height of cut is dictated by grass type. Bermuda is a narrow-leafed grass that can be cut with a reel or rotary mower. Zoysia is also a fine-bladed grass, and I would recommend it be mown with a reel-bladed machine to no more than one inch to achieve a carpet-like finish. St Augustine Floratam is a broad-bladed grass and it’s best cut with a rotary mower to a height of three inches to show it at its best.
Whatever the grass type, the finishing touch should be obtained by using long-armed shears to create a crisp clean line separating it from the flower bed. It is important to note that a lawn usually covers a larger area than the flower beds and generally appears as a large green cover; its impact is one of dominance.
To complement the “carpet of green”, the plant beds should be maintained to a high standard. By that I refer specially to pruning methods. I would suggest there is nothing more “distasteful” than looking at a mass of geometric shapes — regularly known as flowering shrubs — clipped to within an inch of their life, and rather sterile in appearance.
If this is to be the norm, why not simply use one plant type and create a topiary garden? But seriously, flowering plants should be allowed to flower. The “secret” is plant selection; allowing growth association to be as natural looking as possible while the natural flowering habit of the plant is accommodated. Thereafter it should be pruned correctly, creating a natural shape and growth for future development.
When designed correctly, a flower bed should hold interest for a goodly time, the secret being in its placement, pruning and fertilising. The range of flowering plants to fit any garden is only as good as its design, productivity in flowering and general appearance.
• Malcolm Griffiths is a trained horticulturalist and fellow of the Chartered Institute of Horticulture in Britain. He is also past president of the Bermuda Horticultural Society, the Bermuda Orchid Society and the Bermuda Botanical Society
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