The grass isn’t always greener

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Britain rarely provides ideal growing conditions, writes David Overend

If you love your lawn you probably love the lottery; both are a gamble and the chances of winning with either are pretty remote.

But that doesn’t stop people from trying – trying to produce the perfect lawn and trying to win a fortune.

So a lot of gardeners spend month after month working away for scant reward. Sometimes it pours and the lawn struggles to survive; sometimes it is so dry that you can almost hear the grass gasping for moisture. Rarely, if ever, are conditions just right.

Surprisingly, it’s a prolonged dry spell which raises the fear factor as those beloved patches of green turn slowly to bedraggled patches of brown.

The only upside to the dilemma is that you won’t have to use the lawnmower quite as often as you would in a normal English summer when it’s usually a case of dodging the showers to get the grass cut.

The best plan of action is to prepare for the worst – if it’s dry, and it’s going to continue to be dry, mow sparingly and raise the height of the cutting blades – the lower the blades, the more chance of scalping the treasured lawn and encouraging invasive (and water-using) weeds and moss to move in. Letting the grass grow a little higher will do it no harm; in fact, it will help it in dry conditions.

And while you’re at it, make sure the mower is in fine fettle – the sharper the blades, the truer the cut and the less damage to the grass.

If you haven’t done so already, feed established lawns before they get too dry, and remove any broad-leaved weeds. If there are bare patches or damaged areas, re-seed them quickly.

The stronger and healthier the lawn, the better it will be able to cope with little or no water until – hopefully – the rains finally arrive later in the year.

And if the lawn is relatively small, use old washing-up water and bath water to help irrigate it, but to cut down on evaporation, always water in the evening.

If you don’t love the lawn that much, consider a prolonged dry spell as the chance to make a change – replace old, tired grass with a gravel garden, a seating area, new beds and borders (perhaps of plants which can survive without a regular drink) or re-seed it with drought-tolerant grasses.

Or pray for rain.