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How to Make and Care for a Lawn

Date Published: 
September, 1894
Original Author: 
J. O. Thilow
Original Publication: 
AACS Proceedings of the 8th Annual Convention

We always base much importance on preparatory work, especially the lawn, hence the importance of the care taken in starting a new lawn. The formation of the lawn is often hastily and imperfectly done. Mode of preparing is often controlled by the position and location of the ground, also the season. Excellent results are obtained by preparing and seeding in September, south of northern New York, and from September 15th to October 15th south of Maryland; but in the majority of cases this work is done in early spring in every locality as soon as the frost has come out of the ground sufficient to allow working, which should in all events be dry.

Any piece of ground to be put down in lawn, whatever condition it may be in, requires plowing, deep harrowing and equalizing; deep, harrowing is important where the soil should form into hard lumps after plowing. This method lifts out the clods, allows the fine soil to fill in the crevices which would otherwise fill after heavy rains when the seed is sown and lawn finished. The above will apply to any location of a slope, even slight, but should the location be flat and level, draining is a requisite; this can be done even by rubble or tile. An undulation or a gravelly subsoil will alone insure sufficient drainage. The depth of soil is an undecided point. It is believed and wisely too, that on high points and knolls the soil should have a depth of at least 12 to 15 inches to endure drought, whereas on a level it will sustain its requirements at a depth of 8 inches.

During preparation the question of fertilizing is the next consideration.  Should the ground be in a fair condition, through previous fertilizers applied, a coating of pure ground bone (600 pounds per acre) will suffice. We believe pure ground bone to be the best constant feeder-this to be applied at the time of seeding.

The ground having been plowed, harrowed, leveled and raked into a smooth, even surface, is now ready for the seed. The fertilizer having been applied and thoroughly incorporated prior to the finishing, the seed is sown at the rate of 3½ to 4½ bushels per acre; (this means 20 lb. bushels) the sowing to be done by hand, all grasses thoroughly mixed before sowing. Should it be required to sow wheat, oats, or rye with the grass, this should be sown at the rate of one bushel per acre, broadcast, and harrowed in lightly, then the grass seed sown. It is not claimed for the wheat, rye or oats to protect the grass during winter or shade it during summer, but to help in building the sod and keep the surface in a condition to absorb all of the nutriment of the decomposing fertilizer, as well as absorbing the nitrogen from the atmosphere. After the seed is sown, a careful raking with a wooden hand rake lightly drawn over the surface evenly distributes the seed and lightly covers it. Now must be done the most important of all the work and that is the rolling.

The condition of the surface at this time is just what it will be as a finished lawn; all alterations after this are tasks with poor results. If the lawn is sown in the fall, a covering of tobacco stems will prove a great benefit, especially if the soil has not had a coating of hard wood ashes, the tobacco stems will supply the amount of potash and ammonia, which will give the lawn new life. If sown in spring, a covering of well rotted manure finely sprinkled all over about March 15th and allowed to remain a month will give the needed food and shading. In raking off the covering, use a coarse wooden rake thus allowing a fine mulch to remain.

What seed to sow: There are many confusing suggestions regarding this. Some advocate annual types, and seed each year; but it is conceded by all experts and authority that perennials of tried sorts are the best. Avoid all Canadian grasses; they are coarse and not very carefully harvested, but excellent for pasture.

In our Fairmount Park we have some of the finest plateaus of grasses which have endured droughts and have been cut every week. These mixtures contain perennial rye, Kentucky blue, sweet vernal, extra cleaned red top, natural green and white or Dutch clover. Italian rye is also frequently used, being a very free grower, somewhat coarser blade, but constant mowing keeps it in condition to present the appearance of a finer grass.

It is customary to use sad on all borders and on terraces. The sod should be laid at the borders so as to be about half an inch below the surface of the soil; this is to be done before seeding. After a thorough rolling the soil is brought to a level with the sad surface. The manner of laying sod is left to the judgment of the experienced. The bevel system, having been practiced along time is a good one, provided it is laid in the fall or early spring; but after April 1st, it is better to cut it square and thick and lay very closely, fill the remaining crevices with good soil, and give a light sprinkling of grass seed, this will prevent burning the edges. Laying sod on steep terraces is successfully done by using pins eight to ten inches long, (two to each piece of sod.) and driving through, this will necessitate a thorough beating down of the soil before laying the sod hard enough to guard against washing and loosening.

Mowing should be done at least once a week in favorable growing weather, and even in dry, warm weather it should be cut twice a month. If the lawn has been properly made in the first place, and top dressed, the weather will have to be very dry to prevent its growth. The best mode of maintaining is the care given at proper times. In the fall it is necessary to give a good scarifying; this is done with a sharp toothed rake made for that purpose. The operation is called cultivating. If the grass shows thin in some places, another light sowing should be made, then cover with tobacco stems if the space is not very extensive, or give a coat of Kainit; this should be applied in December. The scarifying process may be done again in the spring, but not very heavy, merely enough to give a good combing all over. If top dressing can be done, good rotted manure may be used, allowing to lay from March to May and then raked off with a coarse rake.

Weeds are offensive and unsightly; cutting out of the large ones is sufficient, as the smaller ones are choked out by constant mowing. The means of perpetuating and caring for a lawn is open for improvement, also varies in different localities. Where fertilizers containing pure bone in majority can be secured at small expense it is advisable to use and avoid manure from the stable because of its weed producing.

From the publication:
AACS - Proceedings of the 8th Annual Convention
Philadelphia, PA
September 11, 12 and 13, 1894