The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Lawns

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LAWNS: Their Preparation and Care, a closely-mown turf maintained for ornament in parks and private grounds. It may or may not be dotted with trees, shrubs or other specimen plants, or even with flower beds. These are, however, mere incidents, and since they usually detract from the natural beauties of an open sward, should usually be confined to the borders in irregular, rather than formal, order. The lawn thus becomes the canvas and the side-planting the frame for a natural picture in which the dwelling or other prominent feature is placed.

Whether the contour of the surface be level, convex or concave, it should always be graded so as to avoid even slight irregularities, and where the land is rolling all three contours should be harmoniously blended so as to avoid breaks such as terraces, and so as to ensure the repose that comes from such blending. Except on sand and clay, lawns do well on practically all soils if properly prepared and maintained. After the grading the land should be plowed, dug, or forked, as deeply as the soil will permit, even to the depth of two feet, then harrowed thoroughly, removing all stones and burning all rubbish, weeds, etc. A liberal dressing of complete fertilizer containing potash, phosphoric acid and nitrogen in readily available forms should be given, and where possible a covering of an inch or more of rich soil is often of decided advantage. Except for their containing seeds of weeds, animal manures are especially valuable, that of sheep and cattle being usually better than ordinary stable-manure; when the latter is applied it should always be after thorough composting and rotting to destroy weed-seeds. The surface being very smooth, the fertilizer well harrowed in and the wind asleep, seeding may be performed, preferably just before rain. The seed should be the purest that can be obtained, and may or may not be raked in, but the land should always be heavily rolled. In the Northern States the popular grasses for lawns are Kentucky bluegrass, which is especially valuable for soils rich in lime, red-top and Rhode Island bent-grass. (See Grasses). Mixtures of several grasses are valuable because the grasses that start first choke out weeds and are later themselves choked out by the slower-growing blue-grass.

When the grass is three inches tall it should be cut with a scythe, and afterward with a lawn-mower as occasion may require. In the autumn a dressing of well-composted manure should be given, and in the spring the strawy useless parts should be raked off before growth starts. After the frost is out of the ground the lawn should be rolled to compact the turf, which usually heaves more or less during the winter. It is further essential that weeding be performed every year, but especially during the first, second and third. If desired, a sprinkling of white clover (Trifolium repens) may be given by sowing the seed after or before the grass seed; being of different weights, they cannot be sown together. White clover may also be sown upon heavy and poor soils, where it will often make a good stand and a good precursor for grass. In the South the grasses mentioned usually fail, and should be replaced by species that can withstand the climatic conditions. The most satisfactory and popular are Bermuda grass, joint grass and Saint Augustine grass. The first is usually propagated by passing the roots, freed from soil, through a feed cutter, sowing and harrowing the pieces.

Small lawns are frequently made by transplanting sod from old pastures, in which cases the turf is cut in long strips about 15 inches wide, rolled up and laid down like carpet, and then pounded or heavily rolled to press the roots firmly against the soil. The subsequent management should be that given seed-sown lawns. Owing to the dryness of the summers in many parts of the United States lawns are often considered failures. Too frequently, however, these results follow imperfect preparation and improper management. As a rule lawns should not be watered while they are young or in the early part of the season, because this tends to keep the roots near the surface and to make the grasses less able to withstand dry weather. Water should therefore be withheld until the plants seem to be in dire need, and then it should be applied in what may seem excessive quantities. Consult Barron, Leonard, ‘Lawns and How to Make Them’ (New York 1906); Corbett, L. C., ‘The Lawn’ (in ‘Farmers' Bulletin No. 248’ Washington 1906); Doogue, L. J., ‘Making a Lawn’ (New York 1912); Kelligan, C. P., ‘Starting a Lawn’ (in ‘Circular No. 20,’ of the Michigan Experiment Station Lansing 1913); Schreiner and Skinner, ‘Lawn Soils’ (in ‘Farmers' Bulletin No. 494’ Washington 1912).