After a summer of being dried out by heat and trampled on by outdoor activities, your lawn may be looking a bit tired. If you want to restore any bare patches, or are even thinking of sowing a completely new lawn, early autumn is a good time to do it.
But how do you choose the type of seed for the job from the array of different grass seeds on the market?
Help is at hand from Which? Gardening, the Consumers’ Association magazine, which has just revealed the results of its test on 36 lawn seed mixes and repair kits, assessing both germination and appearance of the grass, and coverage of each plot at monthly intervals.
Best overall lawn seed mix is Asda Multipurpose (£3 for 500g), which the survey says will give you a great looking lawn. In the trial, it established quickly, gave a dense, finer-leaded turf.
The next highest scorer was Mr Fothergill’s Better Lawn (£5.99 for 500g, available from garden centres), which looked good throughout the autumn and following spring, recovered quickly after the wear-and-tear tests and had produced a dense sward by the end of the trial.
For those just repairing their lawn, the researchers recommend Miracle-Gro Patch Magic (£9.99 for 1kg, Tesco), which worked exceptionally well in the trial and established quickly. The plastic shaker contains coir and fertiliser with very little grass seed. The coir shows where you’ve scattered it and indicates where it needs watering. The grass is fine-leaved and green, but didn’t cope as well with wear-and-tear as other recommended lawn seeds.
Other recommended lawn-seed mixes include Wilko Multipurpose with ryegrass (£6 for 750g, Wilkinson), which produced tough grass with a good density throughout the trial, and Verve quick Start (£3.98 for 500g, B&Q) which was one of the first in the test to germinate and completely cover the ground.
If you are sowing a new lawn, you’ll need to dig over the area thoroughly to allow free drainage, removing stones and weeds as you go, then incorporate organic matter such as compost or well-rotted manure. On heavy clay incorporate sharp grit and organic soil conditioner. On light soils just incorporate the organic matter.
Firm the ground by laying a plank of wood on it and walking over it several times. Then move the plank across the site until the whole area is firmed, but not compacted.
Next rake the area to produce a fine ‘tilth’ on which to sow the seed. You may need to rake repeatedly until the ground is level and the surface is crumbly.
Make sure you buy good quality grass seed which is the current season’s stock and choose the type to suit your needs. A lawn for a family-friendly garden may include a mixture of dwarf perennial ryegrasses to withstand heavy use, while a lawn just to look upon might be a mixture of fine tufted grasses. Always follow the instructions on the packet.
To repair your lawn, loosen the soil in the bare patch with a fork, scatter grass seed and fertiliser over the area and rake lightly to work the seed into the soil. Water if it’s dry and cover with netting or fleece to keep off birds.
With a little help from the sunshine-warmed earth and the upcoming autumn rains, you should be able to give any lawn or lawn repair a head-start.
Sign up to Which? for a one-month trial for £1 and get access to all its product reviews, test scores and Best Buy or Don’t Buy ratings. Visit www.which.co.uk/signup.