AS a lawn is the ground-work of a landscape garden, and as the management of a dressed grass surface is still a somewhat ill-understood subject with us, some of our readers will, perhaps, be glad to receive a very few hints on this subject.
The unrivalled beauty of the "velvet lawns" of England has passed into a proverb. This is undoubtedly owing, in some measure, to their superior care and keeping, but mainly to the highly favorable climate of that moist and sea-girt land. In a very dry climate it is nearly impossible to preserve that emerald freshness in a grass surface, that belongs only to a country of "weeping skies." During all the present season, on the Hudson, where we write, the constant succession of showers has given us, even in the heat of midsummer, a softness and verdure of lawn that can scarcely be surpassed in any climate or country.
Our climate, however, is in the middle states one of too much heat and brilliancy of sun, to allow us to keep our lawns in the best condition without considerable care. Beautifully verdant in spring and autumn, they are often liable to suffer from drought in midsummer. On sandy soils, this is especially the case, while on strong loamy soils, a considerable drought will be endured without injury to the good appearance of the grass. It therefore is a suggestion worthy of the attention of the lover of a fine lawn, who is looking about for a country residence, to carefully avoid one where the soil is sandy. The only remedy in such a soil is a tedious and expensive one, that of constant and plentiful top-dressing with a compost of manure and heavy soil — marsh mud — swamp muck, or the like. Should it fortunately be the case (which is very rare) that the substratum is loamy, deep, ploughing, or trenching, by bringing up and mixing with the light surface soil some of the heavier earth from below, will speedily tend to remedy the evil.
* From the Appendix to " Landscape Gardening".
In almost all cases where the soil is of good strength, a permanent lawn may be secured by preparing the soil deeply before finally laying it down. This may be done readily, at but little outlay, by deep ploughing — a good and cheap substitute for trenching — that is to say making the plough follow three times in the same furrow. This, with manure, if necessary, will secure a depth of soil sufficient to allow the roots of plants to strike below the effects of a surface drought.
In sowing a lawn, the best mixture of grasses that we can recommend for this climate, is a mixture of red-top and white clover — two natural grasses found by almost every roadside — in the proportion of three fourths of the former to one of the latter.
There is a common and very absurd notion current (which we have several times practically disproved), that, in order to lay down a lawn well, it is better to sow the seed along with that of some grain; thus, starving the growth of a small plant by forcing it to grow with a larger and coarser one. A whole year is always lost by this process — indeed more frequently two. Many trials have convinced us that the proper mode is to sow a heavy crop of grass at once, and we advise him who desires to have speedily a handsome turf, to follow the English practice, and sow three to four bushels of seed to the acre. If this is done early in the spring, he will have a lawn-like surface by midsummer, and a fine close turf the next season.
After this, the whole beauty of a lawn depends on frequent mowing. Once a fortnight at the furthest, is the rule for all portions of the lawn in the neighborhood of the house, or near the principal walks. A longer growth than this will leave yellow and coarser stubble after mowing, instead of a soft velvet surface. A broad-bladed scythe, set nearly parallel to the surface, is the instrument for the purpose, and with it a clever mower will be able to shave within half an inch of the ground, without leaving any marks. To free the surface from worm casts, etc., it is a common practice to roll the previous evening as much as may be mown the next day.
As the neatness of a well kept lawn depends mainly upon the manner in which it is mown, and as this again can only be well done where there are no inequalities in the ground, it follows that the surface should be kept as smooth as possible. Before sowing a lawn, too much pains cannot be taken to render its surface smooth and even. After this, in the spring, before the grass starts, it should be examined, and all little holes and irregularities filled up, and the same should be looked over at any annual top-dressing that may take place. The occasional use of a heavy roller, after rain, will also greatly tend to remedy all defects of this nature.
Where a piece of land is long kept in lawn, it must have an occasional top-dressing every two or three years, if the soil is rich, or every season, if it is poor. As early as possible in the spring is the best time to apply such a top-dressing, which may be a compost of any decayed vegetable or animal matter — heavier and more abounding with marsh mud, etc., just in proportion to the natural lightness of the soil. Indeed almost every season the lawn should be looked over, all weeds taken out, and any poor or impoverished spots plentifully top-dressed, and, if necessary, sprinkled with a little fresh seed. Wood ashes, either fresh or leached, is also one of the most efficient fertilizers of a lawn.
We can already, especially in the finer places on the Hudson, and about Boston, boast of many finely kept lawns, and we hope every day, as the better class of country residences increases, to see this indispensable feature in tasteful grounds becoming better understood and more universal.