***Here is a post I wrote back in the old days when I was the Head Gardener at Trinity college, Cambridge. I have given it a little spruce up and updated some of the photos***
Now there is one part of the garden that has given me more sleepless nights than any other … the lawns!
We at Trinity, are very proud of our lawns, but the last few years with long periods of drought and then this year the highest levels of rain ever recorded; this has meant that keeping to a good lawn management programme has been very challenging to say the least.
The weather, along with many other factors such as events; diseases; the two footed pest (and I will include us gardeners in that); the college calendar and the wildlife; both in the soil and above. All these factors have an effect on the lawns in one way or another. Now I am not going to go into detail on each and everyone of the above mentioned, as I feel you could write a blog on each, it is just to highlight the many issues that we have with our lawns.
There are arguments for and against lawns, some say they may look green (sometimes) but are they green for the environment? Others say you cannot have a garden without a lawn, both sides have a point.
The removal of the lawn areas or any major changes where I work is something I could not answer, but how we manage the lawns in the coming weeks, months and years is something I can … with a lot of help from within the gardens dept.
I care for our lawns but I also care for the environment, so I am always looking at ways of keeping our lawns looking good but also taking on board what our actions may have on the environment.
One thing we consider is the type of mower to use, a cylinder will always give you a finer cut and a better finish than a rotary, but a cylinder also gives a cleaner cut to the blade of grass; which means there is less transpiration than with a rotary. Other things to consider are: use and choice of fetilisers, aeration; we have increased the amount of times we aerate in the last few years; rolling, scarifying and brushing/raking of lawns; again the weather conditions have to be right to get the best results and also top dressing. Chemicals … I can already hear the groans. We have not blanket sprayed the lawns for weeds since I have become Head Gardener … we have only done spot spraying. I will admit some of this has been due to the weather conditions, but if you can create a good healthy lawn, this is the best form of weed control. A yearly scarify to clear out moss/thatch improves air movement around the blades of grass, which helps prevent any disease getting hold within the lawn.
The right type of grass seed. For the first time this year, we over seeded an area of one of our gardens with a grass, that needs over 30% less water than the other grass varieties in the lawn along with a organic fertiliser … so far success! I admit, since we did this it has banged it down with rain, but it has still looked good in parts of the summer where other lawns have tired slightly. This is something I will look into further for the future, I know we have had a wet year this year, but I am pretty sure we have not seen the last of long periods without rain … more extreme weather conditions are on the horizon.
Now, there is one little critter I will mention and this one has given me nightmares … the Chafer Grub!
We are very lucky/unlucky to have the Coockchafer, Welsh Chafer and the Rose Chafer grubs in our lawns. They quietly munch on the grass roots, then along come the crows who rip open the the turf to feed on the grubs. We will never get rid of them completely and in some ways do not want too, as a few of them in the lawns are not a problem; but the numbers we had in previous years had caused massive problems for us.
This year has been so far a lot better. Some of the grubs we have looked at recently have been infected by Nematodes, we have not sprayed the lawns with Nematodes for over eighteen months, so is this natures way of controlling their numbers?