A major difference between American gardeners and English gardeners is that the English refer to all the land outside the house, including the lawn, as Ďthe gardení, whereas when Americans talk about Ďthe gardení, they just mean the garden beds Ė the lawn is a separate entity.
Carrying this idea a step further, English gardeners frequently use grass as an accent to the garden beds, or as a pathway through the beds, rather than as a large expanse.
So if you want an English garden, consider decreasing the size of your lawn so the focus is on the other plants.
That said, hereís how to have a beautiful lawn.
Planting grass seed
Plant grass seed in early spring or early autumn. Most garden centers will sell varieties that do well in your area. Cover the seed lightly with soil. Then cover it with some straw. The key is to water the new seed daily, even twice a day if itís really hot. Donít skip this step.
When you start to see the grass poking above the straw, set your lawn mower on the tallest cutting height and run over the straw, cutting the straw as well as the grass. Leave the cut straw there, and cut once or twice a week. The straw will eventually be shredded into tiny pieces, adding compost to the soil.
Mowing the lawn
Itís best to cut the grass so that you donít cut off more than 1/3 of the grass blades. So cut the grass as often as necessary to accomplish this. At least once a week is usually best.
Donít cut the grass too short Ė taller grass will look lush and shade out weeds, reducing the need for weed-killers.
Avoid mowing when the grass is wet or frozen.
Caring for the lawn
Itís a good idea to do a soil test on your lawn once a year to see if you need to add nutrients or change the ph of your soil. You can usually buy a soil test from your county extension agent or a good garden center.
Follow the instructions on the soil test results as far as the proper type of fertilizer to use and how much to use.
If there are bare patches, over-seed them in the spring by sprinkling some grass seed in the bare spots and cover it lightly with soil. Avoid walking on these spots until the grass is fully grown.
During drought, grass will go dormant so itís not necessary to water the grass. Save your water for shrubs and perennials. They will be more stressed by drought. The grass will come back once the drought is over.
Most home lawns do not need aeration. Lawns need aeration only if thereís extremely heavy traffic, such as in a childrenís play area or a sports area like a grass volleyball court. These activities compact the soil, which decreases the ability of the soil to absorb water. If you notice the soil is very dry and compacted, you can rent an aerifier from a garden center or hardware store. Do not bother with gimmicks like spiked shoes as they really donít work. The best time to aerify is in early fall.
Edging your lawn
Edging the lawn creates a nice sharp contrast to flower beds. Itís best to edge in the spring so it looks good all season. Use a straight-edged shovel or half-moon edging tool.