New Zealand is one of the few places in the world where grass grows all year round and we rightly treasure our green lawns. Lawn is the calm, sunny, central space in most gardens, and it is the most used bit of the garden, be it for flopping or playing.
There are some easy design tricks to create a great lawn. First, make the lawn a good shape.
People usually plan the size and shape of their garden beds and what is left over becomes lawn. Reverse your thinking and design a well-proportioned lawn and turn what is left over into garden beds. Give the lawn a proper edge, maintain it meticulously, and the whole garden will look sharp.
Lawns are best as simple shapes. Long, easy curves look great and straight lines are always good. Never end a lawn in a point. How are you going to mow it? A central feature can look splendid in a big lawn, but most lawns are better left uncluttered.
Avoid planting trees and shrubs in the lawn. They don't grow as well, they look messy, and every one will add five minutes to your mowing time.
In dry weather it helps the lawn survive if you set your mower blades higher and mow less often. If you choose to water the lawn, a generous soak once a week is better than a little sprinkle every night.
There are several selective weedkillers on the market, although it is a little late to spray for prickles now - October or November is the time to do this, when the plants are young and before those pesky prickles develop.
The traditional seed-sown lawn is still popular, and there are seed mixes for special conditions such as sun-and-shade or seaside. Some mixes are tough for playgrounds, others are designed to require relatively little mowing. All must be sown into well-prepared soil and carefully watered and weeded until they establish. The ideal time to sow a lawn is autumn, when the soil is moist but still warm. Spring is also good but a spring-sown lawn will need more water in its first summer.
Readylawn is a popular option. It is best installed by a specialist contractor or landscaper. You will need to water it faithfully and follow all the instructions for its care until the turf has put roots down into the soil beneath and knitted together. Spray-on lawns are becoming increasingly popular and are very good, transforming from that weird turquoise glop into lush grass in about three weeks.
Moss and poor grass growth means that the soil is too wet or the area is too shady. If you cannot fix this consider alternatives to grass. Pratia angulata, Tasmanian Violet and Creeping Jenny are three rampant groundcovers that look effective in difficult spots.
Be careful though. These three are thugs that are best contained where they cannot romp into nearby gardens. Acorus `Ogon' is a short grassy plant for damp spots that stays where you put it.