Re-defining the ‘perfect lawn’

There is a lingering obsession in the gardening and lifestyle media with the idea of ‘the perfect lawn’, yet there’s often little useful definition beyond some cliched imagery.

David Hedges-Gower - image: Copyright Modern Lawn Care

The immaculate stripes of pre-season Wimbledon, the smooth finish of the bowling green, the contented old gent astride his racing-green painted cylinder mower as it purrs up and down the lawns of a country house - none of these tell us what a ‘perfect lawn’ really is, let alone how to achieve one.

I travel the country inspecting and advising on lawns, usually ones with problems. So, you might be surprised that I often come across what I consider to be ‘perfect lawns’. However, they’re often very different to each other; they don’t conform to a single concept of perfection. And to explain this I am going to share with you the true definition of ‘the perfect lawn’.

My explanation starts at Plas Newydd, one of the National Trust sites I advised on recently. You might already be envisaging a striped oasis, devoid of weeds, worms and interfering wildlife, and displaying edges trimmed with military precision. And indeed, some NT sites feature such lawns. But do those characteristics make them ‘perfect’? And should we all be
aspiring to that genre of lawn?

Above all, since the lawn in question had none of those characteristics I’ve just mentioned, why was the Head Gardener of Plas Newydd so surprised when I congratulated him on his perfect lawn?

This lawn is on a banked area, an integral part of the beautiful landscape created many years ago. There are no smart stripes and the grass is cut at a generous height of 50mm. So, why is it ‘perfect’? The answer lies in its condition and, from this, its undeniable success in fulfilling its intended role. There is no thatch, there are no bare spots and no weeds – just heathy grass. It is mown regularly but never has to be scarified. It doesn’t even need
aeration; there is minimal footfall causing compaction, and in any case the overall condition means that water and oxygen can percolate into the soil naturally.

From a botanical perspective, this is a perfect lawn. And this is why I can recommend it as a model for perfect lawns anywhere. The soils are of amazing quality, full of bacteria and microbes. This means that the soil itself
is controlling (digesting) the thatch produced by the native grasses (hence little need for scarification). And those grasses – a mix of native bents and fescues – are lush, green and healthy. And what does that mean? Quite simply that weeds have no chance of becoming a problem – there just isn’t room for them.

So, think about this: when a lawn is in such a high state of natural self-management, maintenance is easy! No fancy mowers are needed for unnecessary stripes, less pruning is required, almost no aeration and certainly no drainage, special filters or other soil interventions. And in modern lawn care, our aim is always to emulate the natural balances and processes that help to create this perfect type of lawn. We do this by creating healthy
soils sustained by rainfall and supporting rich microbial life, and by choosing native grasses that will thrive.

Of course, some people might want the stripes or need the finer, shorter sward for croquet or tennis. That’s fine; it just involves a lot more work. But the perfect lawn of any variety is surely the one that, by itself or with a little expert preparatory help and sensible modern lawn care, maintains the correct ecological and botanical balance – the balance that nature intended and designed for it.

Work with Mother Nature and your lawn care will become much easier – and you may well discover that you finally have what you always wanted, your perfect lawn.

David Hedges-Gower is a leading lawn-care expert - see

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