Lawn, a word derived from the old English laund or lawnd, land, especially applied to untilled land left between woods, now used for any extent of grass land kept especially for ornamental purposes. When of small extent such land is often called a grass plot; but in gardening, any piece of ornamental grass, large or small, is a lawn. The thick-turfed, close-shaven, dark-green lawns which form so important a feature in English scenery, are seldom seen in this country for two reasons: the intensity of our summer sun is such that the finer lawn grasses cannot withstand it, and those who lay out grounds have not learned the necessity for a thorough preparation of the land. A turf which is expected to last for an indefinite number of years is generally no better provided for than an annual crop. In making a lawn, expense should not be spared at the outset; the land must be drained if need be, and well and deeply worked, with a good supply of manure. The time for this work is in the autumn, and the sowing may be done then or in spring.
In Europe a mixture of grass seeds, sometimes containing a dozen or more kinds, is sown, and the composition varied to suit different lands; each planter has his preferences as to the kinds and proportionate quantity of each, and uses grasses that are scarcely known here even by name. These mixtures have been frequently tried in this country, at a great expense, with the result of showing their unfitness for our climate. With us but three plants can be relied upon to form a good turf, viz.: June or Kentucky blue grass, redtop or bent, and white clover; timothy should always be avoided on account of its tendency to form tussocks or clumps, and orchard grass is still worse in this respect. Some use June grass or redtop alone, others mix either with white clover, and again both grasses are sown together with the addition of clover. A lawn mixture much used consists of Rhode Island bent 8 quarts, creeping bent 3 quarts, redtop 10 quarts, Kentucky blue grass 10 quarts, white clover 1 quart, making a bushel. The Rhode Island bent is a local variety of redtop, and the creeping bent is a closely related grass.
Whichever seed or mixture of seeds is fixed upon, a sufficient quantity should be used; on very rich land three bushels to the acre may be enough, but upon ordinary soil at least five bushels are required. If the sowing is done late in the spring, it is customary to sow oats with the grass seed, in order that the growing oats may afford shade to the young grass; the oats should be cut at or before flowering time. The after care of the lawn consists in frequent mowing to cause the grass to spread, rolling to compact the earth about the roots, and the removal by hand of any coarse weeds that may appear. Annual weeds will soon succumb to the frequent mowing. The fertility of the soil must be maintained by annual top-dressings, in which stable manure, unless so well decomposed as to bring in no weed seeds, is to be avoided, but ashes, ground bones, and similar fertilizers employed. The lawn was formerly mown by a scythe, but this process is much simplified by the introduction of lawn mowing machines, moved by hand for small surfaces, and by horse power for large lawns. The present custom is to cut the grass frequently, and leave the clippings to serve as a mulch to the grass, and ultimately to decay and enrich the soil.
There can be no greater ornament to a place than a well kept lawn, and it should not be cut up by useless paths or numerous flower beds. Masses of flowers nowhere appear to such advantage as in a setting of turf, but these should be so judiciously introduced as not to break up the expanse of grass. - Several years ago it was proposed to use spergula pilifera, a relative of the common duckweed, as a substitute for grass in lawn making, but it had only a limited application. For covering soils so poor that grass will not grow upon them, the French horticulturists give high praise to a composite, which is said to afford a dense and lasting verdure, pyre-thrum Tchihatcheffi, from Asia Minor.