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A New Lawn from Scratch – Progress with Photos

A Sight to Behold – A Blank Canvas for a Lawn from Scratch!

Beginning a lawn from scratch is exciting but daunting at the same time. When we moved into our current property in London, things weren’t as peachy as we had expected. The previously overgrown garden had been stripped to the bare basics. Trees were chopped or trimmed down and the lawn almost gone. This was probably for the best since the variety of weeds that had taken over was quite impressive. More than a year down the line and we are still digging up weeds!

In my previous post, I gave general tips on how to begin a lawn from scratch and compard turf with lawn seed. I thought I’d do a separate post to share my own experience of creating a lawn from scratch. I have used both turf and grass seed to create my first lawn from scratch.

Here’s what the ‘lawn’ looked like when we moved in:

Photo of a bare garden which used to be a lawn.
Standing at the beginning of the ‘lawn,’ and at the edge of the concrete paving between the two raised bed (see photo below for a better perspective).

If you were to go stand infront of that Cordyline (ie Palm tree lookalike) and turned to look back towards the house, here is what you’d see:

A bare garden with most plants removed, garden photo, garden from scratch
View of the whole ‘garden’ when standing at the end, looking towards the house.

Problems With The Lawn Above:

Lots, ofcourse. As you can probably see, there were patches of dead or almost dead grass. Various weeds and rubbish were scattered throughout the plot. It was easy to see that the grass chosen for this plot wasn’t doing well. Grass is like a weed and usually doesn’t need a lot of care to survive. It may not look its best but if it looks like it does above, there is a problem. This is why it’s so important to get an idea of the general conditions of your garden before planning.

Here is a closer look at some of the pesky corners in the garden (Click each photo for a better view):

Preparing the ground to start our new lawn:

Working full-time and looking after the family didn’t go well with having no money to spare for professional landscaping. Only allowed to work over weekends with reasonable weather, it took us almost 8 weeks to clear up this area. We dug out all the bluebells and weeds and removed the rubble.

The whole area had to be dug upto 2 feet, cleared of rubble, thatch and weeds. The far right corner in the central picture above turned out to have a buried tree stump bigger than my husband and I combined! We had no access into the garden so couldn’t get a digger to get it out. We left this area as it was to try to plan a stumpery or some sort of feature later on.

Marking boundaries/beds:

Next, we added topsoil and compost throughout the area and then marked out flowerbeds in all corners. I’m not a huge fan of flower beds in corners but there were some gorgeous shrubs and flowering perennials. Thus, I decided to work with what I had.

We kept digging and turning over as much soil as possible and removed most of the rubble. I put some temporary plastic edging in the beds which were roughly visible to begin the lawn.

Seed or Turf?

Since I wanted to save money for buying mature plants, I decided initially not to go with Turf. I tried grass seed from a well-known company. Reviews were okay and the description stated it was shade tolerant as well as being bird-resistant. We prepared the soil as well as we could, and scattered the seed as suggested 2-3 weeks after Spring started. I watered the lawn religiously but I saw minimal, patchy growth in some areas over a 4 week period. I wasn’t going to try out another seed – most of the companies had similar reviews. Here’s what the lawn looked like 4 weeks after I applied the grass seed mentioned above:

One could argue that I may have gotten away with over seeding and repairing patches. That, again, was a lot of work and taking more chances. My OCD soon got the best of me and when I spotted turf rolls on sale at the local B&Q, I gave in.

Interestingly, half of the area had become almost covered with grass so we let this be to over-seed later. We re-prepped the remaining soil. Yes, I dug out the small grass patches and re-applied some topsoil (which I bought relatively cheap from the local Wilko. This is seasonal so you may not be able to see it during the winter months. Despair not, there’s various other cheap alternatives available.

Next, we dug out this unsightly Cordyline and put it in a planter near the front house. I’ll do a post about that soon !

Initial state of the 'lawn' when we moved in.

Digging up the small patches of new grass took less than 4 hours (since it was just half of the previous area) and we began placing our newly purchased turf. It cost about £30 to cover this area of about 40 square meters. The magic of sales! However, inspect the turf you buy carefully before buying it. Better still, we found someone who was giving away spare slate tiles for free. I brought these in to make borders. Before laying the turf, I applied B&Q’s recommended pre-turf fertiliser from Verve. We finally began laying the turf at the end of Spring. Here’s the process, halfway through the laying of turf:

Turf, sod, lawn from sod, lawn from turf, lawn from scratch.
After the Turf was laid out in half of the garden. As you can see the unsightly Cordyline (Palm tree look-alike) is gone, the far corner which was a dump yard is now a stumpery and the borders are almost defined.

This was the extent of the turf. We applied lawn feed to the rest of the area and applied the lawn seed. This time, I used Wilko’s own lawn seed which had slightly better reviews and was better for the pocket. Then, I watered the jumbled up looking lawn – almost half turf, one quarter grass seed and one quarter establishing new grass patches ! Here’s what it looked like:

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Watering the new lawn – turf and seed boundaries painfully visible!

Maintaining the New Lawn made from both turf and seed!

4 week of religious, twice a day 45 minute sprinkling was a must:

sprinkler, lawn, lawn from seed, lawn from scratch, lawn from turf, new lawn
The boundaries of seed and turf are again visible as the sprinkler gives the establishing grass a good drink.

However, this time I had slightly more faith in the grass seed. It was just a gut feeling, no science whatsoever. Here’s what we saw after 1 week:

grass seedling, seedling, lawn from seed, lawn from scratch
New seedlings in just 1 week! There are still some seeds visible here but I wasn’t giving up hope just yet!

2 weeks since sowing the seed and here’s what we saw:

Within 2 weeks of sowing the grass seed (sown towards the end of spring), almost the whole area was covered in 3 cm long seedlings.

Finally, 4 weeks down the line and we saw the turf had taken well:

8 weeks down the line, after 2 doses of general purpose lawn feed and 1 very superficial trim with the mower and the final result was this:

Before and After Photos of our lawn from scratch:

I don’t think a good gardening post can do without these. The first photo is to scale as much as I could manage. The rest are not exactly to scale or taken not at the 8 week mark from the date of sowing the seed/laying the turf. A lot has changed, and continues to change, in this garden which is why taking the photos of only the lawn has been somewhat difficult due to the myriad of plants and decor I have added. Without further ado, here are the before and after shots:

before and after turf and lawn seed.
Before and after the turf and seed!
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Taken immediately after laying turf and sowing the new grass seed. A lot has already changed!
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Here’s how one of the corners was transformed into a bed with turf and lawn seed application in the remainder.

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I hope you enjoyed that story. Here’s the summary with the main products I used:

  1. Know your Garden

    Decide what soil you have and what kind of grass you need.

  2. Know your Budget and Time

    This helps decide whether you want turf or lawn seed

  3. Prepare your soil

    Dig up rubble and clear the soil, enriching it with compost/topsoil/manure. I used topsoil and pre-turf fertiliser. Topsoil was bought from Wilko and the fertiliser was bought from B&Q (from Verve). Both very reasonable prices and worked wonders. Excellent for those on a budget.

  4. Lay the Turf/Sow the seed

    This post gives more details on each. I started with lawn seed which gave reasonable results for half the lawn so I covered the rest with turf and over-seeded the lawn. The initial lawn seed I used (from Westland) wasn’t that great. The second one (from Wilko), as you saw from the post above, worked wonders. I then continued to feed the lawn with Miracle-Gro’s Lawn feed every 4 weeks until the grass was well-established (in my case, this was 3 months).

  5. Water and watch it grow!

    Sounds pretty easy but if you’ve read my post above, it’s anything but – more so for amateurs like me of course. More details here.

Take-home message : It’s always possible , albeit somewhat difficult, to start your own lawn. It doesn’t have to be super expensive so long as you follow the above principles and keep an eye out for sales (in addition to Wilko’s amazing products!). NB: I’m not paid by anyone to review them. These reviews are coming straight from my heart (and experience!).

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