IN PREPARING the part of the site which it has been decided shall be laid out in Lawn, it is of great importance, and will prove to be true economy, to see that the preliminary work is done with the utmost carefulness, for if proper care is taken at this stage, there will not be the annoyance, the loss of time and the expense of having to dig up the lawn and practically do the work over again, which so often has been experienced by owners of homes where the lawns were made by men who either were careless or did not thoroughly understand what was necessary to be done.
As this preliminary work varies to a certain extent according to the class of soil, it will be well in this chapter on Lawn-making to refer to the four most usual classes of soil met with, namely, clay, brown loam, black dobe and light sandy soil.
When the soil is clay, it is necessary that it be trenched at least two feet deep. If the work is done in the Summer season, the soil should be turned up and left in rough condition as long as possible - say about six weeks - until it gets thoroughly dry and warmed by the sun. It then must be generously manured (the best for this purpose being light stable-manure well-rotted), this manure to be spaded in one spade deep, care being taken that the soil is thoroughly pulverized and broken as the work goes along. It should then be shaped and graded and raked smooth, rolled with a light roller and then raked again, the lawn being now ready for the seed, but it is strongly advised that, before the grass seed is sown, the first crop of weeds should be allowed to germinate, and that then the ground be gone over with a light scuffle hoe which will kill all the weeds if the hoeing is done in dry weather. Taking this extra precaution will save the grass from afterwards having to struggle for existence with the weeds. This hoeing will leave the ground too rough for seed, so it must be raked again before sowing.
The grass which makes the best lawn, and the lawn most easily kept in satisfactory condition, is Kentucky Blue Grass. The mixing of clover or any other grass seed with Kentucky Blue Grass seed is not recommended. When purchasing the seed, see that it is perfectly clean and fresh, the quantity required being about half a pound of seed to one hundred and fifty square feet of lawn. It must be sown as evenly as possible, a time for sowing being selected when there is absolutely no wind; as the seed is very light too much stress cannot be laid upon this point. Immediately after sowing, the ground must be raked very lightly with an iron rake. The raking must be done lightly, as none of the seed must be moved or dragged into bunches, the object of this raking being to cover the seed not more than a quarter of an inch, and to have it as evenly distributed as can be managed. When doing this, the one who rakes must have two wide boards to stand upon and walk over, so that his feet will not mark or indent the surface of the soil, as such indentations, of course, would make an uneven lawn. If this Kentucky Blue Grass seed can be successfully sown, it makes the best lawn, the closest turf, and the most velvety surface, and is well worth the extra preliminary trouble. The other strong grass seeds, as the English Rye and the Orchard, are apt to run into bunches and tufts.
It is well to remember that the results from the Kentucky Blue Grass seed are considerably slower than from the coarser grasses. With this grass it takes about three months to form a turf when the seed is sown in the best season, which, in the middle and northern counties of California, is during April and May, or immediately after the cold rains are past. In the Southern and frostless regions this grass may be sown earlier in the year.
No water should be applied to the lawn until the seed has been in the ground at least two days. Then the ground should be given a thorough soaking and should be kept continually moist (by watering once daily during dry weather, the evening being the best time for this watering) until the young growth is at least one inch high when three waterings per week should be enough.
When the young grass is about one inch high, the lawn should be gone over again with a light roller, the one who does the rolling being careful to use two boards similarly to when raking as suggested above, these two boards being necessary for the same reason, namely, to avoid indenting the lawn by boot marks. After this, all that is required is to water when dry, and mow as often as is necessary, which in ordinary circumstances is about once a week, Should a rougher lawn than this be required, or, in the Winter months should a lawn effect be desired more quickly than can be secured from Kentucky Blue Grass, English or Australian Rye Grass will give a good lawn effect during that part of the year. Treat the ground as recommended above for Kentucky Blue Grass. Sow the Rye Grass seed (not mixed with any other seed) thickly, and rake in a little deeper than the other, say from three-eighths to one-half an inch in depth, otherwise carefully keeping in view the same suggestions regarding sowing, watering, etc., as for Kentucky Blue Grass.
Lawn with Tree Groups.
In some instances Bermuda Grass has been used for lawns, but on account of its dry, dead effect during Winter, and the fact that it is difficult to eradicate, it is not considered suitable for a good lawn, and is certainly not to be compared with the others in any way.
With reference to what is said in this chapter as to the in-advisability of mixing Clover or anything else with Blue or Rye Grass, and as to the results obtained from these grasses, it should be mentioned that experiments have been made with Lippia reptans, which is a dwarf creeping-plant with a small oval leaf and a purple flower. This has been tried and even recommended as a substitute for grass. These experiments have not been successful, and, as the prevailing color effect is a purplish gray, it lacks the refreshing green effect of a good grass lawn.
With regard to Clover, which is of a strong growth, it requires more water than grass and spreads so as to kill the grass. One great objection to Clover is the stubby effect when newly cut, and as a good lawn should be cut about once a week, this is of great importance. There are many other grasses which might be sown, but they are either too fine or too coarse for practical lawn purposes.
In young lawns, notwithstanding the killing of the first crop of weeds, as explained in the early part of this chapter, it is to be expected that many weeds will germinate and grow with the grass, but these must be weeded out as soon as they are large enough to be pulled up, especially those weeds which have perennial roots such as the Thistle, the Dock and the Dandelion. On no account should the Dandelion be allowed to seed. It must be eradicated at once, because if only one flower-stalk or head is allowed to ripen its seeds, it will completely ruin a lawn in a short period. There are myriads of seeds in one of these flower-tops, and when they are allowed to spread they spring up in a few days and do an immense amount of damage.
When the soil is of brown loam or black dobe, the treatment above suggested applies equally well, but it must be kept in view that should the soil be brown friable loam naturally well drained, all that is necessary at the beginning is to grade the ground in the shape desired, and, instead of, as in the case of clay soil, trenching two feet deep, digging one foot or one spade in depth will be enough. The applying of manure and the rest of the work should be done as advised in the case of clay soil.
If the natural soil of the site, where the lawn is to be, is poor sand, this sand must be removed to the depth of at least one foot and replaced with good loam. The loam should then be manured and the rest of the work done exactly in the same way as recommended for the other soils.