It’s grass roots time! Give your lawn a makeover and prepare for the rewards in spring

It’s grass roots time! Give your lawn a makeover and prepare for the rewards in spring

  • British gardening expert Nigel Colborn shared advice for making a new lawn
  • He advised using a grass seed including ryegrass for hard-wearing family lawns
  • Whether laying turf or growing seed Nigel offers advice for preparing the soil 

This is the season for making a new lawn. Soils are still warm and autumn weather is usually perfect for speedy germination.

The seedlings have plenty of time to develop a green cover before winter. Turf laid now will also settle down quickly.

So if you fancy a new lawn, or would like more grass in your garden, this is the moment. It’s a simple procedure and results are rapid.

But before you start, a few simple checks are necessary. First, check for drainage. You can make the finest seed bed on earth with the top few centimetres of soil.

But if water can’t drain away easily, permanently damp areas could make your lawn look patchy. Grass isn’t just grass.

Thriving: Bordering a lawn with taller plants can make a charming backdrop

With more than 12,000 different species, it’s a huge plant family. Lawn grass varieties are fewer, but it’s still important to select the seed mix or turf variety which suits your needs. For a faultless outdoor carpet, choose a fine seed mix or lay premium turf. For hard-wearing play areas, sow a heavy-duty seed mix.

If you want to join the trend for nature-friendly lawns, there are mixes for those, too.


Your first major decision is whether to sow seed or lay turf. Whichever you choose, the first task is to prepare the ground. The whole area needs digging or cultivating with a powered tiller.

The dug soil must then be broken down to a crumbly tilth and raked level. Light soils, may benefit from being rolled after tilling, or gently firmed down with your feet. 

Heavy soils need similar treatment for breaking down clods. But don’t compact your soil too much. Sowing rates are given on the seed container. You can buy seed broadcasters for under £40.

But sowing by hand is easy and almost as accurate. Choose a calm day and broadcast your seed as evenly as you can. Rake the area gently after sowing. If no rain falls for four or five days, irrigate the area.

The grass may take several weeks to appear, so be patient. Laying turf is like fitting carpet tiles, but far easier. If gaps appear, fill those with loose soil. They will green over in weeks.


For hard-wearing family lawns, choose a seed mix which includes ryegrass. That develops a durable sward that can take plenty of punishment.

After accidents or serious lawn damage, recovery is rapid. Keep a little spare grass seed in the shed for patching up or healing badly worn areas.

For highly refined lawns, there are more expensive seed mixtures. These exclude ryegrass, but contain finer grasses for a beautiful silky turf with uniform colour. There are also seed mixes for shade.

For hard-wearing family lawns choose a hardy seed such as ryegrass to ensure it survives

For hard-wearing family lawns choose a hardy seed such as ryegrass to ensure it survives

Those work to an extent, but no lawn thrives in dense shade. Future maintenance brings a dilemma. Until recently, it was usual to apply nitrogen-rich fertiliser each spring. This was often blended with selective herbicide, resulting in a weedfree, vivid green carpet.

Happily, such nature-hostile regimes are slipping out of fashion. Lawns with daisies and other bee-friendly flowers in the grass cost little to maintain and are beautiful. You can buy wildflower seed mixes and even flowery meadow turf, but beware.

A lawn is not a meadow and flowering plants must thrive in close-mown grass. Lawn daisies are the best known, but speedwells, white clover and dwarf hawkweeds also live happily with regularly mown grass.

Better still, why not border your lawn with a strip of taller meadow plants. That could make a charming backdrop.


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