Lawn is an essential and basic architectural feature of the modern garden. It has been observed that a well-planned lawn with its relationship to other furnishing of surrounding planting such as shrubberies, flower beds and specimen trees contribute greatly to the intrinsic value of the garden. It is a source of pride, everlasting pleasure, distinct charm, restful effect, and provides a great relaxation to the body and mind particularly after the hard labour of the day. Lawn also provides meeting place for social parties, marriage ceremonies, festival celebration and other gathering. As a matter of fact, no garden is complete and beautiful without having a good lawn, because the beauty of a garden largely depends on the condition of the lawn. Lawn is an inevitable must because it serves as an important aid to beauty.
Lawns are always related to the design of the garden confirmating of mansion and houses in order to have perfect harmony with other garden features. For the excellent and brilliant growth of the turf, proper and thorough preparation of the soil is very essential. The subsoil should be retentive of moisture but must provide adequate drainage. The surface soil should be fertile loam at least 20 cm thick. Where the soil is very poor or gravelly the turf is liable to become patchy in dry weather, hence the topsoil of good texture should be of at least 20 cm thickness.
Selection of Site
The selected site for a lawn should get full sun and the best situation is the southern side of the house and the sites in south-east or south-west directions will serve the purpose. Grasses do not grow under the shade of tree.
Doob grass (Cynodon dactylon) can be grown on any type of soil. But for the establishment of a good lawn, fertile loamy soil rich in humus with good moisture holding capacity is most suitable. A slightly acid soil having pH between 5.5 and 6.0 is suitable for good growth of grass. Where the pH of the soil is lower than 5.5, 300 gm of chalk or ground limestone per sq metre on sandy or a similar amount of slaked lime (calcium hydrate) on clay loam should be applied.
Preparation of the Ground
Thorough preparation of the ground is very essential, as the ground is the foundation on which lawn is established. A badly prepared lawn cannot be easily rectified afterwards. In the hot weather, before the monsoon sets in, i.e. in April/May the ground should be dug up to a depth of 30 to 45 cm. The soil thus dug out and left in clods is subjected to the scorching rays of the sun for killing the weeds, insects, etc., and sterilising the soil. After few days when clods are partially dried, they are broken with the help of a bamboo or wooden rod. And thus the soil should be spaded 3 to 4 times at weekly intervals and each time the remaining clods are to be broken till the entire soil is brought to a fine tilth. The weeds including the roots and other foreign materials like rubbish, stones, etc. should thoroughly be picked up and removed.
Manuring and Consolidation of the Surface
If the soil is originally fertile it is better not to apply bulky organic manure into the lawn, because cow dung and farmyard manure contain weed seeds and its becomes very difficult to make the lawn weed free. But where the soil is infertile, well-decomposed cow dung or farmyard manure should be applied to the ground at 100 kg per 100sq metre and thoroughly mixed with the top soil up to a depth of 10-15 cm.
Once the soil has been disturbed it takes enough time to settle (consolidate) again. To ensure consolidation of soil the ground should be heavily watered 2 to 3 times at intervals. During this period weed seeds will germinate and nuts of Cyperus (motha) will sprout their sharp sword-like leaves. The weeds are removed before the next watering.
Levelling and Drainage of the Ground
Proper levelling of the ground is essential for a good lawn. After settling of soil, the surface should be levelled by filling depression and by repeated rolling. A gradual slope from the centre to the edges is always preferred as it facilitates drainage of excess water during the heavy rains and irrigation. For perfect levelling spirit level can be used with advantage.
Good drainage is also essential for maintaining a lawn in good condition. In small lawns where the soil is not so sticky, special arrangement of drainage may not be necessary. But for the bigger lawns, it is always advisable to have surface drains at the ends or sides of he lawns with a proper outlet for the excess water.
Selection and Planting of Grass
In most part of India, doob grass (Cynodon dactylon) is successfully grown in lawn. The planting material, either seed or grass should be free from weeds. Lawn can be made at any time of the year provided irrigation facilities exist. In the tropical parts of the country it is better to sow the seeds after one or two showers in the beginning of the monsoon or after the close of the rainy season. But the grass runner should be planted in the beginning of the monsoon to get quick growth. Grasses are usually planted by dibbling, turfing or pasting of grass is also done.
(1) From Seeds: To ensure even sowing it is better to divide the entire ground by string into equal plots of 200 to 300 sq.metre. Prior to sowing, the rolled surface is scarified with a rake to a depth of 2.5 cm. The seed lot is divided for each small plots, i.e. at 500 gm/200 sq. metre and mixed with double their bulk of fine sifted soil and broadcasted carefully by hand. Then the soil is raked over into two directions so as to mix the seeds with the soil. If the ground is dry, it should be thoroughly rolled with a light roller. Then water gently with a water can having a fine rose to keep the soil moist. The seeds will germinate within 3 to 5 weeks.
After few weeks when the grass will be 4 cm high, the first cutting should be done with a pair of sharp garden shears and the surface is rolled so that when the mower is used, it will go over a more or less even and low growth. Thereafter, no hand cutting will be required, as rolling and mowing at regular intervals will gradually improve the condition of the lawn.
(2) Dibbling: After thorough preparation of the ground small selected grass roots, free from weeds, obtained from either nursery or lawn scraping should be dibbled 7-9 cm apart preferably when the soil is slightly moist. Then the dibbled area should be lightly rolled and thoroughly watered so as to keep the soil moist till the grasses are established. After few week the grasses will be ready for cutting and in course of 4 to 5 months it will be a fairly compact lawn by frequent rolling, mowing and watering.
(3) Turfing: Turfing is the quickest method of forming a lawn. Turf or small pieces of grass should be cut uniformly thick from a place where the doob grass is free from weeds. They should be spread on the prepared ground side-by-side closely and slightly beaten down flat into position. Any cavity or interspaces should be filled with fine soil and entire turfed area then thoroughly rolled and watered liberally till the turf is established.
Another easy and successful method is to cut the off-shoots into small pieces and scatter them evenly over the prepared ground followed by a top dressing of fine soil and sand about 1 cm thick. Then light rolling is advisable if the ground is dry, followed by watering to keep the soil moist till the grass develops roots and new shoots come out. This method should be specially adopted in the rainy season and one is sure to have a brilliant and compact lawn during the next winter.
Once the lawn is properly established, it needs maintenance. To retain the verdure of the turf and its uniform colour, the lawn is raked, aerated, and topdressed with fertiliser and kept free from weeds.
Rolling and Mowing
The purpose of rolling is to bring the grass in contact with the soil and also to keep the ground level. After the first shower of rain, roll thoroughly with a medium roller both ways to make the level correct. Avoid rolling when the soil is too wet. Normally after every weeding or at weekly interval the lawn should be rolled to get an even surface.
Regular mowing of lawn is also as essential as watering. Never allow the grass to grow more than 6 cm high. During the winter season most of the lawns require mowing once a week and some time twice when the growth is rapid after the application of fertiliser.
Watering must be thorough and as frequent as the weather condition requires. Frequent watering rather than heavy watering at long interval is beneficial for lawn. Sprinkler irrigation is the best method for watering lawn as it distributes water evenly over a good area and also saves much of the Malis time. Fresh water should be used and brackish or saline water burns the grass especially during the summer.
In winter, dew is a great help to growing grasses and it is always advisable to take the full benefit by brushing the dew into the lawn with a light bamboo stick or a piece of rubber hose every morning.
Both in old and new lawns weeds are found to grow along with the doob grass and if left uncared, in no time weeds will cover the entire lawn supressing the growth of doob grass and spoil the beauty. So just after the establishment of lawn one should be very careful about the removal of weeds at regular intervals or when required. Take out all plants that are growing on the lawn except doob grass. More frequent weeding is necessary during the rainy season than in the winter months. While weeding, care should be taken to remove the weeds including the roots, and never allow the weeds to produce seed.
Scraping and Raking
Due to constant rolling and mowing hard crust forms on the surface and the lower part of the grass becomes matted and woody. Therefore, scraping and raking are always beneficial and hence considered essential for the maintenance of lawn. In such cases the entire lawn should be scraped with Khurpi followed by May or early June. But in other cases where the condition of the lawn is good, only through raking in both ways will be sufficient to take out the old runners and loosen the soil. Then mow the grass throughly until the old stump of the doob is well-trimmed and the surface of the lawn cleaned and exposed to the sun. A top dressing of garden soil, coarse sand and leafmould in the proportion of 1:2:1 is beneficial. Hundred kgs of the mixture is sufficient to cover an area of 100 sq m to a depth of 2 cm. Bonemeal @ 1 kg per 10 sq m should also be applied.
Top Dressing and Manuring
Again in the month of August/September before the beginning of the cold season, a top dressing of garden soil, coarse sand and screened leafmould with the addition of bonemeal in the proportion mentioned above should be applied in the lawn followed by rolling. Ammonium sulphate at 1 kg per 50 sq m should be applied once every month from October/November to February/March or a fertilizer mixture containing nitrogen and phosphorus may be used.