This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V20", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
It is conceded on all hands that a good lawn, well kept, is one of those adornments which ought to be more frequently seen.
I wish to offer a few remarks, expressing no new ideas, perhaps, probably nothing of merit and certainly no theory, but drawn from the book of experience, the lessons from which are usually well remembered.
It would, of course, be folly to expect a good lasting sod on land which needs draining; equally so from seeding down poor, stiff clay on land with a southern exposure, where the beams, of a tropical sun pour down its fiery rays day after day for two or three months in the year. In preparing ground for a lawn, some prefer to take a crop; but a Summer fallow, with early Fall seeding, is preferable, according to my experience. In the first place, weed seeds can be persuaded into growth more readily by giving the ground a harrowing, as soon as dry enough, after every shower, finishing with a light rolling, which can only be done, of course, when the land is clear of a crop. As to subsoiling, trenching, etc, as a general rule, I care very little to what depth the earth be loosened, provided the rule of keeping the surface soil at the top be rigidly adhered to. The writer has seen land deteriorated as much by subsoiling - that is, by breaking up the subsoil and leaving it in the same place when in improper condition as by bringing it to the surface.
Whenever the subsoil breaks up in lumps it is safe to leave it alone as hard pan, and get six inches of surface-soil in thorough condition.
There is a considerable difference of opinion as to the best kinds of grass, the proportion of each, and quantity to use per acre, etc. I sow grass seed, for all purposes, thicker than is usual, and for lawn sow narrowcast, strictly to a mark, twice in a place, and both ways of the ground, using more white clover than many gardeners think necessary. My reason is, white clover can hold its own against most of the stolonifer-ous grasses as well as against the lawn mower. Panicum sanguineum is a troublesome grass in late Summer and early Autumn, and although an annual, manages to increase yearly in almost every lawn where it once gets foothold. Its seed stems go creeping along so near the ground that the lawn mower fails to take the head off".
When a lawn is mown with a scythe the seeds of this kind of grass is more likely to be cut off, as the raking up of the cut grass pulls up the heads of stoloniferous grasses. As this makes things appear rather rough, the scythe is brushed over the lawn again, taking off what was before missed, and just what our lawn mowers miss also. It is possible that we may find on careful examination that our lawns do not deteriorate under the lawn mowers in consequence of their close cutting propensities, but rather because they give those grasses whose stems creep along the ground and emit roots the advantage over their more upright growing congeners. The Winter care of lawns depends on circumstances. It is better to run the risk of putting a little weed seed on the lawn than to forego the benefit of manuring wherever it is considered necessary. Dandelions and plantains must be cut out whenever they appear. The former is easily eradi cated in early Spring, just when coming into flower. Of course every one admits the necessity of thoroughly rolling lawns when in proper condition, yet this is much oftener preached than practised. The mower should be put to work as early in the Spring as the grass can be cut, setting to cut very low the first time.
If, during the drougth of Summer, it becomes necessary to run the machine oftener than would otherwise be desirable on account of some kinds of grass growing faster than others, set it to cut quite high. This gives the grass a more even appearance without exposing the roots so much. Cut the grass so often at all seasons, if possible, that there may never be necessity for taking off anything which is cut.
I have often heard the remark that our lawns will not bear comparison with English lawns. Admitted; but I have seen in Uncle Sam's garden-patch Indian corn, tomatoes, melons, cantaloupes, etc., growing with a wild luxuriance that our English cousins cannot equal even under glass; and I have also seen lawns and pastures get so badly scorched "over the water" as to show that the usual beauty of their lawns was not entirely owing to the skill of the gardener. What most concerns us is to find out what kind of grasses withstand the drought of our Summers. If they happen to be a little coarse we must endeavor to get accustomed to it. It is far more pleasant to look upon a lawn that is green the whole Summer, besides being more comfortable to walk upon, than one which is brown and burnt a considerable part of the season, even if it is not composed of the finer growing grasses.
Now, a word as to lawn mowers: For simplicity, ease of operation and facility for repairs, I have seen nothing equal to the Philadelphia. There are several machines which do good work, and so far as the horse machines go, ease of draught is, perhaps, of less consequence than with hand mowers. For the accomplishment of the most work in the least time I have found the Philadelphia to excel.