Always wanted a lawn, but didn’t know where to start? Navneeth Raghavan offers a few tips

Most of us dream of having our own little patch of green in the front or the back of our homes. The difficulty of making this dream a reality lies in understanding how to lay the grass, and care for your lawn at all times. First get the soil treated well and ready for the grass. This is time-consuming but well worth the effort in the long run. Lawns are not seasonal, so they take more effort than your usual plants. Having said that, a lush lawn is not unachievable - the key ingredient is lots of patience, especially as you begin to lay your lawn. I would even say preparation of the soil is the most important part of laying any lawn, and if one does this well, looking after your lawn in the long term becomes much easier.

MAKING A START

Demarcate the area of your lawn and dig out the soil; about 8 to 10 inches deep. Turn the soil over thoroughly and break all the hard soil. Remove the weeds. Remove all rocks and lumps. To this soil add ready mix garden soil from the nursery or red earth and manure. At least 15 bags for a lawn of about 500 sq. ft. Mix this soil well, breaking any lumps that show up so that the soil is soft on the hands. Water the area thoroughly and leave it to soak.

PREPARING THE SOIL

After a couple of days turn the soil again and remove any weed or growth. This is the best time to add some more compost (three to four bags) and neem cake powder to de-weed the soil and to keep any worms away. Continue to water the area thoroughly for a week. Ensure that the soil is soaked or water penetrates to about three to four inches from the ground level.

After this, you may see some weeds or unwanted growth amongst the soil which can even come from the manure or compost that you use. Stop watering the area now. I recall that in one of my gardens (a very large one) there were almost six tomato plants growing in the soil. The gardeners working on the site had to be persuaded to work on de-weeding it, since tomatoes were more than welcome - and that too for free! However, since we are talking about a lawn rather than a vegetable garden, you will need to remove any such extraneous growth from your green patch. Turn the soil again and water it for three more days well. Continue doing this for three to four weeks, until the new soil has settled and is ready for planting.

LAYING THE LAWN

The grass best suited for a home garden is generally Bermuda grass or Australian grass. If the area has shade with limited sunlight then even a variety of shade grass will do. This grass is easy to maintain and also soft to sit on or exercise. If you are planting the lawn for visibility or on undulated areas, then Korean grass is a good bet - it grows in clumps and the green is a treat to the eyes although these too need moving in the long run.

If you decide to use Bermuda grass, you can get a bag full of it from your nursery for a 1,000 sq. ft area. You may need to buy more if the area is bigger. This grass needs to be spread or strewn on the prepared area evenly and watered. The Bermuda grass takes root easily and quickly and you can see the land turn green in about 15 days.

Keep your lawn green by watering it well. The water should go down a few inches deep and the lawn should be watered every day. However, do not make the area too wet or you will have decaying grass. It will be approximately a month till your lawn has formed well and three months for it to be perfect.

The Korean grass can be placed / planted with pre-grown turf or planted at regular intervals. For home gardens it may be prudent and quicker to buy the turf and plant this straightaway on the prepared soil. Place the turf on the edges first and work your way inwards to finish. You may use a wooden plank to pat the surface and fit the grass in place.

It is best to lay a lawn just before the monsoon and definitely not just before the summer.

Keep your lawn smart, by mowing it. Electric mowers are available in the market although they can be expensive. Hand pushed lawn mowers will do if you are using Bermuda grass. Before you plan to mow the area, make sure the land is dry. It is best not to water the lawn for a couple of days before you mow it. Once the lawn is mowed, it may look totally yellow or dry. Don't fret, just keep watering it heavily and within a week or two you will have a lush green lawn again.

Lawns are a beautiful feature for every garden, and very popular and of course, the good things in life don't come easy! But you will enjoy the labour and the fruits of it, when you are relaxing on your lush green patch on a summer evening.

The writer is an environmentalist who works on landscaping projects in public and private spaces. Mail her at hinduhabitat@gmail.com