This section is from the book "The Gardener V1", by William Thomson. Also available from Amazon: The New Organic Grower: A Master's Manual of Tools and Techniques for the Home and Market Gardener.
A good close velvety turf is one of the most ornamental objects dressed ground can boast of, and oftentimes the most difficult to obtain. The following suggestions, based on many years' practical experience, are therefore offered.
In the first place, careful preparation of the ground proposed to be laid down to turf is necessary. This should be commenced in the winter by draining, if found requisite, and digging to the depth of 6 to 12 inches, according to the nature of the soil. When this has been done, the land should be levelled and made firm with a spade, and subsequently raked, to remove stones, etc. Should the natural soil be too stony, it will be advisable to procure a supply of good mould, and spread this over the land to the depth of 2 or 3 inches. If the soil is poor, some well-rotted stable-dung will be very beneficial. Where this cannot be obtained, we would advise, as the best dressing of artificial manure, 2 cwt. of superphosphate of lime and 1 cwt. of Peruvian guano per acre. In March, after the ground has been made thoroughly fine and clean, a heavy iron roller should be used to make it perfectly level; and as the subsequent appearance of the lawn depends in a great measure on this part of the preparation, we cannot too strongly urge the importance of its being well done. The ground should then be evenly raked and the seed sown. April and September are the best months for sowing.
As to the sorts of seeds suitable for garden lawns, etc., we can, after a long course of personal observation of the numerous kinds which have come under our notice, confidently recommend the following varieties as most certain to produce a close velvety turf: -
Cynosurus cristatus, Crested Dogstail.
Festuca ovina, Sheep's Fescue.
Festuca tenuifolia, Fine-leaved Fescue.
Lolium perenne Suttoni, Suttons' Dwarf Perennial Rye-Grass.
Poa pratensis, Smooth-stalked Meadow-Grass.
Poa sempervirens, Evergreen ditto.
Poa nemoralis, Woodside Meadow-Grass.
Medicago lupulina, Yellow Trefoil.
Lotus corniculatus, Birdsfoot Trefoil.
Trifolium repens perenne, Perennial White Clover.
Trifolium minus, Yellow Suckling.
These should be mixed in their proper proportions, and sown at the rate of 3 bushels or 60 lb. per acre (English), or 1 gallon to 6 rods or perches.
After the sowing has been accomplished, the ground should be again rolled, and as soon as the young plants have attained the height of 2 or 3 inches, the whole plot should be carefully gone over with a sharp scythe. Frequent mowing and rolling are indispensable to maintain the turf in good order. By adopting these means, a close greensward will be obtained in nearly as short a time as a lawn produced by turfs, while it will be far more permanent, and at much less expense.
It will sometimes happen that annual weeds indigenous to the soil come up; these can easily be checked, if not destroyed, by mowing them off as soon as they make their appearance. Plantain, Dandelions, and Daisies too, will often appear, and these must be cut up each one singly about an inch below the surface (not deeper), and about a teaspoonful of cut salt dropped over the part. Birds are very fond of grass seeds, and care should be taken to keep them off until the seeds are well up.
For lawns requiring improvement, it is only necessary to sow fresh seed either in the spring or autumn, using a small-tooth rake, and rolling afterwards. Moss in lawns is generally a sign of poorness in the soil, or a want of drainage; to effect its removal, we advise, after raking off as much moss as possible, a top-dressing of quicklime mixed with rich compost, applied in the winter, and a sowing of more seed in the spring; or a top-dressing of soot will, by encouraging the growth of grass, destroy the moss. This should be applied in the spring, at the rate of about 16 bushels per acre.
On croquet or cricket grounds, where the turf has become bare through constant use, we advise a thick sowing of seed on the bare spots in September or early in March, rolling subsequently, and mowing as soon afterwards as practicable. A slight dressing of manure over the whole playing square will often be found beneficial in encouraging the growth of finer kinds of grasses, and help to produce a close-growing turf. We should not omit to mention that here, as in fine garden lawns, mowing alone will not insure a good bottom without that compression which a roller alone can give. - Sutton & Sons' Amateurs' Guide.